There Is A There There

Photos: Courtesy of Land Images

Photos: Courtesy of Land Images

One thing visitors immediately perceive when arriving at the newly completed Sepulveda Basin Park and Sports Complex in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley is, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, “There is a there there.”

What creates this immediate impact at the 65-acre, $9 million public facility, where half the space is dedicated to athletic activities, is a two-building complex highlighted by waving rows of utility poles flanking the entry point between the two buildings.

“Working with Land Images, the master planner of the park, our vision was to configure a small, utilitarian building to serve as a ceremonial entry portal, and create a sense of arrival,” notes Wade Killefer, design principal of Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA).

“In numerous cases, parks just occupy large parcels of land and don’t really exhibit a clear sense of place,” explains Killefer, whose firm has designed numerous recreational projects, including Santa Monica Airport Park, Woodley Lakes Golf Clubhouse, Santa Monica Swim Center, Challenger Boys and Girls Club, and JAMS Boys and Girls Club.

Innovative Design

The two small Sepulveda buildings are constructed of glazed concrete block with steel-channel roof-framing elements that connect with the 40-foot long poles extending from the roof. Interestingly, the innovative poles also serve as a branding device, and are used throughout the park to provide lighting. The field house contains office space, restrooms, and storage areas.

“Our design concept,” Killefer says, “was inspired by famed sculptor Richard Serra, a master in employing massive forms to signify a procession through space. The ‘procession’ in the park pursues a course starting at an urban locale and continues through the lush tree-filled parkland, with the gentle undulation of the poles enhancing the sylvan experience for visitors.”

Initial Planning

“Initial planning of the sprawling project started in 2006,” recalls Tom Lockett, principal of Land Images.

The Department of Recreation and Parks first conducted public meetings to determine what should be done with the site, leased by the City of Los Angeles from the Army Corps of Engineers.

“In the wake of those meetings,” Lockett says, “it was determined that besides the park, the athletic facilities should include four softball fields, a soccer field, miscellaneous ‘passive’ park amenities, and a parking lot.” The natural grass and lighted softball fields are built to tournament standards, while the competitive soccer field, also lighted, is surfaced with artificial turf for economical maintenance.

The design was accomplished in two phases: the first, including the formal sports components, the building, and parking; the second, encompassing more passive park functions, such as picnicking and informal sports.

“One of the key planning elements called for locating the amenities close to the project’s North/South and East/West axes,” explains Lockett.

The site is bordered on the south by the Los Angeles River, the Metrolink Line on the north and west, and Balboa Boulevard on the east.

“The design objective, established by the City of Los Angeles and Land Images at the outset, was to specify the various components in a very legible order, utilizing crossing axes as an organizing system,” Lockett says.

The East/West axis terminates in the ceremonial pedestrian entrance at Balboa Boulevard, which is the main street carrying traffic to the park. The North/South axis serves as the primary entrance from the parking lot, thereby accommodating a large majority of park users.

To implement this strategy, Land Images organized the fields along the crossing axes, which were generously sized to accommodate grand allees of trees, beneath which seating,

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