The Link at Playa Vista was recognized this year at NAHB’s The Nationals Gold Award for Best Landscape Design – Master Planned Community
By Paul Haden
Decades in the making, Playa Vista has gained an enviable position as one of the hottest tech-driven real estate markets in the country. One of Los Angeles’s largest urban infill communities to date, Playa Vista has recently completed its second phase of development, and with it, not just another collection of residences, but a fully integrated urban village. This socially driven place, where people and their pets can live, work and play within the same community, is just minutes away from one of the country’s busiest airports and the heart of the film and entertainment industry.
The C2 Collaborative team has been involved with Playa Vista for over 20 years, working with Randy Johnson and Playa Capital through mitigation and entitlement planning, wetland restoration, marsh rehabilitation, and a variety of the neighborhoods developed in the early 2000’s. In 2010, our team was again contacted to help Johnson and later, Brookfield Residential, envision the next phase. Working as a cohesive team with the developers, architects (including the late Barry Berkus), guest builders, and engineers, we took on the role to design a collective open space of equal importance to the surrounding architecture, a forward thinking connected environment befitting the address of “Silicon Beach.”
From its inception the plan faced the challenge of connecting existing coastal neighborhoods with the burgeoning creative offices and the retail district, also in the planning stages. It also had the luxury of a place rich with local history; innovators from the aerospace industry and creative giants like Howard Hughes who designed and built his “Hercules”, also known as the “Spruce Goose” in the place that is slated as the next home to Google (other Playa Vista notable locals include IMAX, Yahoo, YouTube and USC’s institute of Creative Technologies). We were faced with creating the front yard, the first impression to a community of 6,000 people within a high density creatively-wired village. The developer was challenged with meeting open space park requirements and the need for effectively connecting decades of development into a logical framework. What started as a traditional urban parkway became what is known today as “The Link” at Playa Vista, a 27 foot wide and 3,500 foot long linear park physically connecting the residences along Millennium Drive to The Campus.
With borrowed space from the original parkway, The Link became an artful connection to a collection of social places, play spaces, community gardens, communal kitchen and pool club. And space that may have become a large community park was instead distributed throughout the village, providing views of the inspired greenway to hundreds of homes; with contemporary elliptical planters of shading palms and water elements reminiscent of aircraft shapes and forms. This extensive open space and the positioning of the surrounding residences became a value driver for the entire community. And invaluable curb appeal to potential residents.
Each park was inspired with its own exclusive character and function; The Lawn: centerpiece of The Link and set adjacent to shops and restaurants, is defined by heroic, playful shade structures inspired by local flora and populated by young professionals on their lunch breaks; The Lounge: an animated resort-style gathering area where evening conversations can be had fireside; Common Grounds: The Link’s bypass lane where urban huts are suspended over a stream bed providing an opportunity for a street side escape; and Corner Greens: where residents grow their own and then share at the adjoining state-of-the-art kitchen. All places that create a uniquely memorable front yard, an exceptionally well-appointed back yard and places where all backgrounds, ages and breeds can come together as a community and interact socially. A local piazza in a city of millions.
Paul Haden is President of C2 Collaborative with over 35 years of experience as a landscape architect and planner for a variety of public and private sector projects. He may be reached at www.c2collaborative.com.