Vibrant community gathering space expresses cultural character through art and design


LocationSan Juan Capistrano, California United States
ClientFrontier Real Estate Investments
Size9.5 acres

SWA was tasked with creating a neighborhood gathering space and exterior dining hall that is an exercise in contradictions — open and welcoming, while able to be walled off. By blending urban planning, landscape architecture, interior design, and architecture with an understanding of retail real estate, the team was able to quickly establish development yields and comprehensive visions for the site. This method can help clients establish land value and facilitate real estate transactions, as occurred in this instance after an intensive retail placemaking workshop. Taking plans a step further, SWA created a comprehensive vision for the landscape that was used by developers to help gain the support of residents and businesses.

To embrace the neighborhood’s signifiers without using symbols, the answer was art: in the forms of security, cultural identity features, and welcoming gathering spaces. In addition to custom fencing depicting the native plants and weeds that existed across the site pre-development, the act of opening the gates is a play on lifting back the weeds that represent the neglect this underserved neighborhood once experienced. Despite a series of construction challenges, the result is a vibrant outdoor space rooted in the local Long Beach community’s cultural character.

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