While establishing SWA, Peter Walker won a national competition with a group of architects to design the Golden Gateway, a 20-acre urban-renewal project that would keep the existing grid of the city and express the urban culture of adjacent neighborhoods. The designers adopted a scheme of layering to include necessary functions along with two separate circulation systems—ground-level for cars, and an elevated level for pedestrians. A walk through the area—across plazas, up stairs, and into courtyards—is a fundamentally urban experience.
As redevelopment proceeded Walker worked with SOM to create a series of plazas at the base of the new Alcoa Buildings. Two large square plazas are centered on the east-west axis and flanked by smaller sculpture courts with works by such artists as Henry Moore, Charles Perry, and Marino Marini and containing a monumental fountain by the great Australian fountain-designer Robert Woodward.
At the south end of the development lies Sidney G. Walton Square, a two-acre enclave of undulating lawn and groves, a popular lunch and picnic area for residents and near-by office workers. Vertical elements, including the ring of cast-bronze columns in the fountain by Francois Stahly, draw the eye upwards to the towers. A ring of poplars (now removed) once reminded the relaxing crowds of Rousseau’s tomb and the romantic appreciation of the landscape.