Public Space Is the Happening Place in LA Design

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Some of the most interesting new design in LA is going on in public space. Frances Anderton speaks with architecture critic Chris Hawthorne, landscape designer Mia Lehrer and architect Frederick Fisher about the public spaces and places to see this summer. Plus, Karen Ginsberg on a bright new future for Santa Monica's public conveniences, and Benny Chan on LA from 1000 feet.

Banner image: The view from the top of Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook





Four Public Space Staycation Destinations Right In L.A.'s Own Backyard

Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, above, was created by the Baldwin Hills Conservancy and State Parks on restored hillside once drilled for oil; it's dramatic and wild and has got to be one of the rare locations in LA where you can get an astonishing, near 360 degree view, enhanced by a graceful visitors center and terrace by Safdie Rabines Architects.

Vista Hermosa is a gorgeous park on restored hillside West of downtown in the Westlake neighborhood. It was created by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the LAUSD (adjacent to the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center, formerly known as the beleaguered Belmont Learning Center) with landscape design by Mia Lehrer and Associates. The park offers something for everybody: walks through fragrant planted areas; a children's play area with giant sculpted tortoise and snake in place of the usual jungle gym; a soccer field; and restful terraces to simply enjoy its fantastic view of downtown. 

Orange County Great Park has designer Ken Smith at the helm and a team that includes Vista Hermosa's Mia Lehrer and Associates. This is a hugely ambitious public project, transforming the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station into a 1300 square feet park complete with a newly created 2.5 mile canyon and lake. The park is in process, for now you can enjoy the Great Park balloon rides, dance performances and other programmed activities in the 27 acre "preview" park.

The Annenberg Beach House is a destination that inspires pride in our oft-criticized public realm. The product of a private-public partnership between the Annenberg Foundation, the City of Santa Monica and State Parks, this beach club aimed at the general public offers R+R at a very affordable ticket price, in a great architectural package that mixes modern and historic. It consists of a restored guesthouse and sumptuous tiled swimming pool remaining from the neoclassical estate designed for actress Marion Davies and her lover, William Randolph Hearst by Julia Morgan, coupled with a modern clubhouse by architect Frederick Fisher, landscaping by Mia Lehrer and Associates and public art by Roy McMakin. Not to mention it's right beside the very popular Back on the Beach cafe, about to reopen back on the beach! 

Benny Chan's TRAFFIC!

Using a custom-built camera and a rented helicopter (and a rather frightening method for getting the best shot), architectural photographer Benny Chan has captured the Los Angeles freeways in all their tangled, gridlocked glory. See his show of monumental-sized prints up at the Pasadena Museum of California Art until September 20.