Park Central Square, Springfield, MO

Park Central Square Designated One of Four “Great Places in Missouri”

Perspective of Park Central Square
Perspective of Park Central Square - Photo courtesy The Offices of Lawrence Halprin

Park Central Square has been designated one of four “Great Places in Missouri” by the Missouri Chapter of the American Planning Association. Designed by Lawrence Halprin & Associates (LH&A) and completed in 1974, the site in downtown Springfield was recently celebrated as one of a handful of public spaces in Missouri that “demonstrate exceptional character, quality and planning—attributes that enrich communities, facilitate economic growth and inspire residents and visitors alike.”

The Modernist design comprises a central paved plaza enclosed by a low wall and surrounded by grass terraces outlined by concrete steps. Along the eastern edge of the plaza is what would become recognized as one of Halprin’s signature features—a multi-level stone fountain (in this case made of Indiana limestone) with a highly articulated façade, enlivened by water that cascades into a shallow basin. The second project completed by LH&A in Missouri, the plaza annually hosts several festivals and community events.

This latest accolade comes not long after the square was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, the first such designation for a Halprin-designed landscape. But the recent praise and national recognition that the square has enjoyed are not indicative of how it has always been esteemed. In 2008, TCLF included Park Central Square in its Landslide program for threatened landscapes after major alterations to the space were being considered in conjunction with the city’s sale of an adjacent high-rise. Those alterations were ultimately averted when the square’s value as a significant work of landscape architecture was recognized.

The three other Missouri sites designated “Great Places” for 2015 were the statewide Katy Trail system (the nation’s longest ‘rails-to-trails’ trail) and two sites in St. Louis: Citygarden, designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, and South Grand Boulevard, recently revitalized by Design Workshop.

Park Central Square
Park Central Square - Photo courtesy The Offices of Lawrence Halprin