Inspiration Park


Client: Gonzalez Goodale Architects

Public Artists: May Sun and Richard Wyatt 


AHBE has worked extensively in the Koreatown community of Los Angeles.  The densely populated multi-cultural urban area features several major thoroughfares and many architectural and cultural landmarks, but few parks and open spaces.  AHBE designed the high-profile Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park on Wilshire Boulevard, the main east-west corridor that bisects Koreatown.  Located where the historic Ambassador Hotel once stood, the park is part of a new 24-acre academic campus that is known to be one of the largest school construction projects in the U.S. to date.  The design for the one-third acre park was guided by the idea of a spiritual journey honoring the site’s history and its urban context while commemorating Robert F. Kennedy and other Americans who paved the way for democracy and human rights.  AHBE created a sequence of experiential spaces that took advantage of the topography and provides visitors with multiple views of the city and, at its highest points, the new school campus.    

The park is organized into three main spaces.  
Inspiration Courtyard
Located at the park’s eastern edge, Inspiration Courtyard is a sunken courtyard which features the park’s centerpiece, a stainless steel art panel inspired by the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy. Visitors step down into the courtyard to discover Senator Kennedy’s “Ripples of Hope” message which is engraved onto the art panel.  The courtyard’s grade change physically separates visitors from a busy city street and allows them to experience the space like an outdoor gallery.  It is also designed to be a place for contemplation.  The courtyard’s pavement is made with recycled cobalt blue glass, interspersed with a pattern of LED lights, depicting the constellation on the night of Kennedy’s birth.  Taking further advantage of the topography, AHBE designed an amphitheater space adjacent to the gallery space.  Students have used the amphitheater for impromptu classes, poetry readings, plays and other performances. 

"The artwork at Robert F. Kennedy Inspiration Park consists of a 6 foot by 24 foot wide stainless steel, free standing gateway. This piece features cut-outs in the form of a ripple in the water and text taken from the Day of Affirmation address RFK gave in South Africa.Through the cut-out openings in the stainless steel, one can see a black granite photo-etched portrait, approved by Ethel Kennedy, of Robert F. Kennedy on the back wall. The portrait is flanked by etched quotations in the stone. Kennedy's speeches, some of which pertain to education, are interspersed by quotes from people who he inspired and by people who were inspired by him. The RFK Inspiration Park has a day time presence and a night time presence.   The golden yellow stone wall symbolizes the warmth of daylight when one is bathed by the rays of the sun.  The dark blue floor with the small inset lights represents a starlit sky. The implication of passivity and a sense of loss are inherent in the perception of a memorial. Inspiration, however, carries the infusion of ideas and dreams that stimulate creativity in thought and action.  The students at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools and the public will find relevance in the wall quotations that pertain to their own lives.  The park celebrates the life of Robert Kennedy, transforming it from a place of tragedy into a place of hope, honoring the timeless truth and courage of Robert Kennedy's ideals." - May Sun, Richard Wyatt

Terrace Gardens 
The Terrace Gardens are two linear garden rooms that connect Inspiration Courtyard to its east and the Palm Grove at the park’s western edge. Separated by stairs due to the park’s topography, each garden is characterized by a central rectangle of lawn, planted with double rows of white-flowering crape myrtle trees, and framed by decomposed granite paths.  Like a porch, the gardens are designed to be visually open as a pedestrian is looking down upon the street. Visitors can view the garden’s formal geometry while sitting on benches, which are placed against the north-facing, vine-covered walls.  

Palm Grove
The Palm Grove is a sheltered, meditative space surrounded by remnants of the Ambassador Hotel’s former gateway. The space is intended to showcase a restored historic pylon which was built in 1938 and was once a visual landmark for the automobile entrance to the Ambassador Hotel. A fountain and statue, located at the base of the pylon, were reconstructed in the original basin to resemble the hotel’s first water feature. 

During this project, the AHBE design team held a series of extensive, multi-lingual community workshops with the City staff and local residents.  The collaborative design exercise empowered community members to play a proactive role in shaping their environment.  The community process also offered insight on the needs of modern urban denizens and offered them an opportunity to re-imagine their city with more open spaces.