These newly-awarded parks unite communities with thoughtful common ground. 

San Francisco, CA (November 11, 2021) –  Eleven award-winning projects from SWA Group show how landscape and the creation of a thoughtful “common ground” can contribute to urban resilience and vitality. Two of SWA’s projects – the design of Ricardo Lara Park in Lynwood, California and a master plan for Atlanta’s Freedom Park – were singled out with high honors by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) national jury. The annual program recognizes excellence in the practice of landscape architecture and the winning entries are selected based on quality of design and execution, innovation, and impact on community and the profession.Both projects, Ricardo Lara Park and Freedom Park, are vibrant public spaces that enrich their surroundings well beyond trees and plantings. They reinforce landscape’s potential to enhance and unify communities.

Ricardo Lara Park in Lynwood, California demonstrates how a small investment and creative thinking about landscape can transform the very infrastructure that has long divided and isolated a community into an amenity that unites it, offering much-needed environmental and recreational benefits.

More than five acres of vacant lots along an I-105 freeway embankment were transformed into a mile-long park that filters stormwater runoff (equivalent to six swimming pools per year), improves air quality, and provides multiple outdoor gathering spaces. Cross streets divide the park into five blocks, and each block accommodates a different program: dog park, fitness stations, play structures, community gardening and education, and passive recreation with artwork and storm water detention. Advancing Lynwood’s “Healthy City Initiative,” the park connects with the LARIO Bike Trail and promotes healthy lifestyles in what has been a community long under-served by parks and open space.

Freedom Park image courtesy SWA

Freedom Park in Atlanta, Georgia was born out of a struggle to stop the expansion of a planned state highway in the late 1970s and 80s. Slated to tear through a historic urban community, the roadway established its footprint but was stopped through the grassroots efforts of neighbors, advocates and civic leaders. Freedom Park’s unique outline, crisscrossing through seven Atlanta neighborhoods, bears the scar of that struggle. The resulting open space, still divided by local parkways, established a park, 130-acres in size and stretching over 2.5 miles in length, with a perimeter that extends over 8 miles in the heart of Eastside Atlanta. In the spring of 2020, the Freedom Park Conservancy, founded in the early 1990’s, began a masterplan process to help define the future development of Freedom Park with the goal of establishing a long-range roadmap.

The master plan for the park’s future was informed by intense community involvement, developing Signature Projects with the ambition of repositioning the park from its presence as a proud scar into a more potent connective tissue—one that offers an equitable, culturally rich and civic-minded common ground for Atlanta and the nation. The spirit of Freedom Park is personified as a place where the public can participate in an open dialogue to find common ground and engage in civic discourse for the betterment of our communities.

In addition to the two projects above, SWA was acknowledged with nine regional ASLA awards including recognition for Nantong Riverfront (Nantong, China), Nelson Mandela Park (Rotterdam, Netherlands), Markham Square (Conway, Arkansas), as well as for the Ping Yuen Public Housing Redevelopment (San Francisco, California), among others.

A selection of photos and renderings can be found here.

About SWA Group

SWA is a world-renowned landscape architecture, planning, and urban design firm celebrated for its creativity, responsiveness, and design excellence. Our work gives new life to outdoor spaces at multiple scales – from public plazas to waterfronts to entire city districts – harnessing natural systems while enhancing the unique characteristics of each setting. SWA has studios in Dallas, Houston, Laguna Beach, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Sausalito and Shanghai.  For more information, please visit www.swagroup.com.

Media contacts
Michelle DiLello
Blue Medium, Inc.

Fran Hegeler
SWA Group