The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a 57-acre urban state park located 500 feet above the city in the heart of Los Angeles. The park includes a new 10,000 square foot visitor center, observation deck and viewing areas, hiking trails, picnic areas and restored natural landscape. The turbulent history of the Baldwin Hills site, from oil wells to plans for massive residential development, stripped this mountain of most of its natural past. A critical part of the design process was to define the period that represented the site in its natural state and to create a suitable approach to the restoration of the site. It was also important to understand the history of land development in Los Angeles in order to better understand the symbolic value of this verdant mountain in the midst of a dense city.
Architects: Safdie Rabines Architects
Location: Los Angeles, California, USA
Structural Engineer: Nabih Youssef & Associates
Civil Engineer: Fuscoe Engineering
Landscape Architect: Wallace Roberts & Todd
MEP Engineer: Integrated Engineering
Habitat Restoration: NewFields Agricultural & Environmental Resources
General Contractor: Metro Builders and Engineers Group, Ltd.
Project Area: 57 Acres
Project Year: 2009
Photographs: Undine Prohl
The principal goal of the Master Plan has been to preserve and enhance the unique qualities of this expansive site through the restoration of its natural ecosystems, creating a harmonious balance between community recreational activities and the natural systems within the site. The interpretive message of the Visitor Center is to foster environmental awareness by understanding the impact development has had on our land.
The Visitor center is tucked unobtrusively into a hollow near the summit of the park, its curving forms emulating the sculptural landforms of the site. Large polished concrete walls retain the hillside while floor to ceiling windows open the visitor center towards the landscape and expansive views of the city beyond. The center is comprised of three buildings; the first houses the exhibit space, a small theater, and meeting rooms; the second contains support spaces, bathrooms and a catering kitchen, and the third is an outdoor pavilion for special events that spills out onto an outdoor amphitheater formed from recycled concrete surrounded by landscape exhibits of native plants.
A gently climbing walkway leads visitors from the parking lot towards the Visitor Center and through the interior and exterior exhibit spaces. The path then leads past the outdoor amphitheater and through a series of engineered mounds at the top of the hill towards the overlook. The mounds have been formed to suspend the views of downtown Los Angeles until arrival at the overlook where they are dramatically revealed.