Pleasurable Gatherings in a Community Park
Monkeys play near branching peach trees and tigers stalk along a mountain slope. They’re the new metal fabrications in Hing Hay Park. Everything old is new again in this award-winning park that now bursts with new life and is the community’s place for “hing hay”: pleasurable gatherings.
A social and cultural gathering place in the Chinatown International District since the 1970s, the park suffered the ravages of time, physical isolation and disuse as development pressures caused young people to leave the neighborhood. But the Asian community advocated for expanding the site to reconnect it to the downtown and make it more accessible and relevant. The park’s new design reflects its various user groups, defined through a series of community workshops: contemporary yet traditional, new but timeless, expansive yet inclusive, American and Asian.
The red iconic gateway, inspired by Asian paper folding, is faceted in varying shapes and angles and glows from within. The Asian tradition of terraced rice farming gives form to the site and helps users navigate the site’s topographic change. Sinuous seat walls delineate skillfully designed ADA compliant pathways, while providing intimate gathering spaces.
The gateway also acts as a backdrop for cultural activities, framing and complementing performances of lion and Thai dancing, Taiko drumming and martial arts. Bright red bleacher-like platforms mimic the gateway, creating seating and performance areas, with risers that showcase the monkeys, tigers and other lively Asian animal/landscape pairs. Exercise equipment augments sessions of tai chi and qigong. And moveable seating makes the entire park flexible for varied daily uses, including ping pong, chess, badminton, card playing, riding scooters along the paths, clambering among the stepped seating, night markets and special events like Lunar New Year. Hing Hay is now a bright, eye-catching centerpiece of the neighborhood.