Project Brief

Transform the vacant South LA Wetland Park Facility from a closed-off building to a space for its community.


Pia Habostad
Jacob Waas


2nd place, 2015 Julius Schulman Emerging Talent Design Charette




the South los angeles wetland park, with its building facility to the right

blank facade closed off to the street

site plan - the park in its context

the street as a front porch

South LA Wetland Park Facility

The South LA Wetland Park Facility is a former bus and rail yard that was transformed into a man-made wetland in 2012. An 80,000 sq ft building sits vacant on the site, closed off to both the park and the neighborhood around it.

Various informal activities take place in the streets and front yards of the neighborhood - working on cars, soccer games, make-shift churches, among others. It is also adjacent to the Dr. Maya Angelou Community High School.

If the wetland is to be the backyard of the neighborhood, the 80,000 sq ft facility building its house - could the street be its front yard?

lifting up the building facade

Unveiling the Wetlands

The brief called for the historic building facade of the wetland facility be respected. Preserving it wholesale would severely limit interventions on the building, while keeping the building closed off. Is there an alternative approach we could take?

Our proposal breaks up the blank and abstract street-side facade of the building into seven chunks. Elements like pilasters and windows on the original facade are playfully warped and re-positioned onto the seven chunks. This radically changes how the park and building are accessed.

The entire side of the building is turned into an urbanistic gesture of welcome.

opening up the park to the community around it

street facade as a grand urban entrance

creating a piazza on the street

entrance into the wetlands

A Front Porch for the City

Spatially, the front building is conceived as a piazza space that can be traversed and inhabited. This is constructed with a series of spatial maneuvers to "slow down" and change the linearity of the road: manipulating the position of parking spaces, surface graphics on the sidewalk and road.

The lifting of the building creates different-sized spaces that direct visitors into the interior. Porch-like observation points are populated with benches and other urban furniture. 

plan - activity spaces in the chunks

section - space of the chunk and flexible space of the original building

A Building with Two Faces

While the street-side facade of the building is broken into smaller chunks to the scale of the street, its back face is preserved as a long facade punctured by open bays. This speaks to the long and narrow scale of the wetlands.

Thus the building becomes a transition between the street and park. The ground floor space can be used as flexible event space, hosting parties, exhibitions, and other community activities.


dance floor

event space