Carthay Circle Park, a trianglar pocket park located at a busy intersection in the heart of Los Angeles, is a monument to the 49ers of the California Gold Rush. It opened in 1925 adjacent to the Carthay Circle Theatre, a legendary movie palace of Hollywood's Golden Age that premiered legendary films, such as Gone With the Wind. Far from being designed for sustainability, the park originally included a large pond with aquatic plantings that was complemented by a statue of a miner panning for gold.
In the decades since, it evolved into a thirsty patch of neglected turf that required constant irrigation - often amid ongoing long-term periods of drought. In 2014 it was selected as a site for a DWP water conservation project and part of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2014 Hire L.A. program, which provided valuable hands-on job training to young adults. The goal of this demonstration project was to transform this underutilized public space into one that better serves Angelenos, while ensuring strong urban aesthetic appeal and considerable water conservation.
Along with the replacing the turf with water-wise planting, numerous landscape features were integrated in the park's redesign. These features included a state-of-the-art smart irrigation system, meandering decomposed granite pathways, and a permanent bench. In order to produce the dramatic nighttime views of the park, selective energy-saving, efficient LED lighting was included to illuminate a majestic 90 year-old Italian Stone Pine tree, as well as the statue of 'Dan the Miner'.
An abundance California native plants are featured in the park's plant palette, such as Iris Douglasiana (Douglas Iris), Carex tumulicola (Berkeley Sedge), and Heuchera 'Wendy' (Wendy Coral Bells). Other drought tolerant and low maintenance California Friendly plant material includes water-wise ornamental grasses and shrubs, such as Anigozanthos 'Harmony' (Red-Yellow Kangaroo Paw) and Pennisetum 'Fireworks' (Red Fountain Grass).
Although InSite Landscape Design was not affiliated with this project, the company's owner and principal designer, Jonathan Harnish, was tasked with redesigning the park while interning at the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks as a Cal Poly Pomona Master of Landscape Architecture graduate student in the summer of 2014. Soon after his complete design was finalized and approved, the construction of the park commenced. Carthay Circle Park was then transformed and re-opened in February, 2015.