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Baseball veterans, including a participant from the final game played, were on hand to throw out a ceremonial first pitch for the recent grand opening of San Diego’s Lane Field Park, created by urban design and landscape architecture firm Civitas. The park was placed on the former site of Lane Field baseball stadium, home to the then-Pacific Coast League San Diego Padres from 1936-1957 – history that played an integral role in the design. At the same time, this new park is visually tied to the Port of San Diego’s massive North Embarcadero Visionary Plan, which includes the Civitas-designed grand esplanade that opened in November 2014 just across Harbor Drive.
“Design ideas for Lane Field Park were immersed in the site’s history,” explains Scott Jordan, Civitas designer for the new park. “Inspiration came from the original base paths, pitcher’s mound and home plate. Where home plate once existed, a granite marker was placed with the silhouette and a quote from Ted Williams, who began his Hall of Fame career on this field, while the base paths are lit up with in-ground LEDs.” Those baseball references are historically accurate right down to commemorating a mistake, Jordan adds: “The original stadium had first base in the wrong location – we designed it to capture this inaccuracy as a way to encapsulate the unique spirit of the historical park.”
Hailed as a “home run” in San Diego media coverage of the grand opening, the new park is part of a private hotel and mixed-use development that represents a 150’-wide setback of open space required by the California Coastal Commission for approval of the North Embarcadero Vision Plan, which also specified that it carry over some of the design intent and materiality of the North Embarcadero project across the street.
“We had to balance Lane Field as its own park space with making it feel like an extension of the larger North Embarcadero vision,” says Jordan. Visual links to the water’s-edge esplanade include the palm trees, planting and paving patterns and site furnishings. But to fit the new park’s more relaxed vibe, Civitas also created custom designed “chaise lounge” benches made of Ipe wood and stainless steel.
“The port’s North Embarcadero design evolved as a series of smaller garden rooms and plazas in a more urban condition with a lot of hardscape to accommodate the large number of people using the adjacent water taxis and cruise ships docking there,” says Jordan. In contrast, the separately funded Lane Field Park creates flexible lawn space for the area that can be used in very different ways. “You can throw a Frisbee, play catch, or sit back and relax on the open lawn or on one of the benches and watch the sun set over the bay.”
With a core purpose of creating healthier cities, Civitas is an idea-based practice of urban designers, architects and landscape architects engaged in strategic planning for urban change and project design for built works. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2014, the consultancy and design studio advises on a wide range of strategies for re-imagining urban life and places.