Totems

Chess Park
Glendale, California

The Chess Park is a 4,500 square foot multi-purpose urban pocket park accommodating Glendale’s sizable chess playing constituency which also acknowledged its context through the creation of spaces catering to local theatre and literary groups and to the community at large. Five large ‘Chess Towers’ dot the park, providing an iconic presence along busy Brand Boulevard, enticing pedestrians and passing drivers to discover the park.

Located along the Brand Boulevard corridor in the heart of the downtown Glendale business district, the Chess Park connects itself to a series of civic, cultural and business related programs throughout the area. The site’s specific location makes it an important link between the Orange Street Garage and shopping and entertainment venues located along Brand Boulevard. The design of the Chess Park incorporates the input of various members of the Glendale community. Working with multiple City agencies and departments and incorporating the thoughts, needs and concerns of the Glendale Chess Club, the design reflects the various goals and agendas of all parties involved. A series of meetings with the Glendale Chess Club generated discussions about the layout of the tables and the various needs of those both playing and watching. Sun protection, seating comfort and iconography became the essential needs of Chess Club to attain their goal of educating the public about Chess.

Aside from providing a pleasant public space for the enjoyment of the Glendale community, the Chess Park provides a story of the game itself - its lore, lexicon and formal language. Working as Rios Clementi Hale Studios, the design process began with extensive research into the game of chess, its history and multicultural roots, its connections to art and literature, as well as the specific rules and strategies of the game itself. Ideas about form, function and meaning became tools in the making of the park elements that would best describe the game as an instrument of culture.

The five abstracted chess piece light towers are a sculptural presence which establishes a signature vision for the space and house the park’s various functional needs. The function and location for each of the towers is derived from both the conceptual nature of the piece and the anticipated programs of the Chess Park. Each of the towers is constructed of a steel frame supported by a central steel column. The base of each tower is clad in recycled wood polymer siding and incorporates graphics related to the piece. The upper portion of each tower is clad with durable white canvas that allows these sculptural towers to glow like a series of Noguchi lamps.

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