Village Entrance concept chosen

Barbara Diamond

A natural look was awarded the first prize Wednesday in the

Village Entrance Design Contest, but that may not be exactly what

gets built there.


The City Council unanimously selected the entry by StudiOneEleven

as the winner. However, the city now has the rights to the proposals

by all four finalists.

“We can pull from each entry what we want to be integrated,” said


Councilman Steven Dicterow.

Finalists included three other teams: Carter & Burgess Inc. and

FORMA, Blair Ballard Architects and Thirthieth Street Architects Inc.

“There was not a single proposal that didn’t have important

elements,” Mayor Wayne Baglin said.

Each finalist was awarded $20,000 and the winner an additional


“We got more than we deserved,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman.


“I want to thank all the presenters for the work they have done.”

StudiONEleven’s proposal was designed primarily with locals in


“We believe we have created a master plan for the Village Entrance

that all Lagunans can support,” said landscape architect Robert

Borthwick, a StudiONEleven team member.

The proposal included 550 new parking spaces and structures

designed to blend with City Hall architecture. Corporation yard


functions would be accommodated in a ground-level facility under

public parking decks.

“The history of Laguna will be preserved by the refurbishment of

the old sewage treatment building that we have utilized as the focal

point of our transportation plaza,” Borthwick said. “We look forward

to the dedication day for this structure, similar to the recent

ceremony for the refurbished lifeguard tower. It may yet become the

second most photographed building in town.”

Councilwoman Toni Iseman has publicly campaigned for the

restoration and preservation of the treatment plant.

It was a factor in her vote in favor of StudiONEleven’s proposal,

but not the major consideration.

“I spoke with two architects who were not involved with the

competition,” she said. “They told me, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm

the site, make sure it is something almost invisible -- the beauty of

the canyon speaks for itself. Less is more.”

The StudiONEleven proposal emphasizes the natural features leading

into town.

“Laguna Creek, even in its channelized form, can again become the

sycamore-lined visual element that links the canyon to Downtown, in a

manner consistent with the historic roots of Laguna,” Borthwick said.

Elements from other proposals that found favor with council

members included the traditional feel and philosphy that Ballard’s

team gave to its design.

“Our concept is rooted in the civic language of our general plan,

the inspirational language of the Vision Laguna Strategy Team

reports, our natural resources and the heritage of our arts,” said

Ballard, who already has been selected as the architect for the

Festival of Arts.

Every team proposed water features, but Carter & Burgess suggested

covering the Laguna Creek flood control channel to gain more space on

the site artists’ lofts and senior housing in an arboretum and

parking for up to 873 vehicles, as well as the existing corporation


“I think Carter & Burgess FORMA’s proposal was the most

misunderstood,” Councilwoman Kinsman said. “It offered a series of

options, which made the drawings unusual -- here’s the layout, choose

a facade.

Thirtieth Street’s is certainly the most ambitious. It is a

knock-out design, but we probably couldn’t afford it in our


The Thirtieth Street proposal included moving Laguna Canyon Road

50 feet to the south, creating pedestrian gathering places and

construction of a bridge meant to be a focal point of the Civic Arts


Mayor Baglin had a problem with the bridge.

“I am only comfortable with the bridge if it improves the traffic

flow and pedestrian safety,” Baglin said.

He held up Main Beach as the model for the project, but opined

that refurbishing the corporation yard would impact the project.

“The corporation yard is not satisfactory,” he said. “It has to be

consolidated, relocated or eliminated. “It is not something I am

willing to live with and work around.”

StudiONEleven’s design rehabilitated the corporation yard, tucking

it under public parking.

“I like combining the corporation yard,” said Councilman Paul

Freeman. “I like the simplicity of StudiONEleven’s overall design. It

is in keeping with our understated style in Laguna Beach, but it is

simple enough to cut and paste from the other proposals. “

The selection of StudiONEleven’s proposal does not necessarily

mean the team would be awarded the contract to build the Village

Entrance project. However, the council did ask staff to prepare a

consultant’s contract for the team to come up with a timeline for

groundbreaking and the steps council would need to take to make it


* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.