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Delight.

Chess, that most ancient and cerebral of games, has proved an unlikely catalyst for a new urban park in that most modern and uncerebral of places, California. Designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios and inspired by the history, lore, evolutions and rituals of chess and its pieces, the Chess Park transforms an unremarkable downtown pedestrian precinct in the city of Glendale into a place of social (and cerebral) interaction. The plan of the park is based on the strategic movements made in chess, with 16 inlaid chess tables provided for al fresco games in the balmy Californian climate (Glendale Chess Club was part of the client group). Five giant light towers animate and mark the length of the park, their abstract profiles based on the form of chess pieces (king, queen, rook, knight and pawn), but tempered by other influences such as the delicate paper lanterns of Isamu Noguchi and Brancusi's powerful sculptures. Each 28ft high tower has a hollow base that can be used for storage, signage or seating and each is topped with synthetic canvas that gently palpitates with light, bathing the park in a warm glow after dark.

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Different pieces demarcate different functions. The King Tower, for instance, acts as a giant story-telling throne for performances and book readings, while the Rook Tower provides storage and technical support for events. The Queen Tower presides over the chessboard zone, with its ranks of concrete tables inlaid with black and white tiles, and also acts as sentinel and symbol for the Glendale Chess Club. Concrete benches provide seating for local workers to enjoy lunches and coffee breaks, while cypress trees form a buffer to the park precinct. Lush, low maintenance shrubbery and white-flowering perennials add flashes of texture and greenery, softening the manmade elements. Both imaginative and inviting, this thoughtful transformation adds to the social and intellectual life of the city. C.S.

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Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:318
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