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Chess Park
Glendale, CA


Mark Rios
Frank Clementi
Tony Paradowski
Samantha Harris
Ola May


The Los Angeles suburb of Glendale is home to large communities of Russians, Armenians, and Latinos, many of whom share a love of chess that borders on the fanatical. So when the city asked us to create a new public park peeking out on busy Brand Boulevard, our gambit was clear. Every detail of this 4,500-square foot space is derived from the traditions, movements, and lexicon of chess.

The most transparent allusions are five light towers fashioned after the shapes of different game pieces. The king perches atop a throne, gazing across at a stage where musicians and artists showcase their talents. The rook, with its crenellated top, waits patiently nearby, ever ready to lend technical support and storage for program events. The bishop casts diagonal glances down Glendale’s main drag. The knight stands sentry at the opposite entrance,
protected by the queen, who presides over the park’s central attraction: 16 concrete tables with inlaid tile chessboards.

In creating these abstract forms, we found inspiration in Isamu Noguchi’s Akari lamps and the sculptures of his mentor, Constantin Brancusi. Synthetic white canvas shades atop each base emit a warm, glowing light, enticing pedestrians and passing drivers to discover the park.

Since its completion, the park has welcomed a variety of events we never imagined, like domino games, outdoor movie screenings, and Filipino krump dancing competitions. Ironically, there hasn’t been as much chess-playing as the city expected. But like all good public landscapes, Chess Park fulfills the unique needs of its own community.