Tag Archives: Grand Park

supergraphic Deborah Sussman


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When I visited Los Angeles’ Grand Park for the first time, I didn’t know that environmental designer Deborah Sussman, who passed away last week at age 83, was the force behind those shocking pink chairs and benches, a color Ms. Sussman energetically promoted throughout her 60-year career.

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Her design firm Sussman/Prejza & Co handled “signage, wayfinding, and amenities” for Grand Park, including its color schemes.

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above photo by Jim Simmons found here

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Garden markers (designed by Sussman/Prejza & Company) resemble oversized garden stakes and indicate the region, describe the climate, and talk about the specific characteristics of a featured plant within each garden. Magenta site furnishings throughout the park invite visitors to linger, enjoying its vibrant display. The vibrant color was chosen to act as a year-round “bloom” that complements the seasonal colors of the gardens.” — World Landscape Architecture

photo from Design Boom

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photo from Design Boom

Of course, there were many more celebrated projects before and after Grand Park, beginning in her twenties, when she worked for Charles and Ray Eames.

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I also didn’t know that Sussman had collaborated on the graphics and signage work for the Eames exhibit at Pacific Standard Time when I visited that show at LACMA here.

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Perhaps most famously, Ms. Sussman was the environmental designer for Los Angeles’ 1984 Summer Olympics, the first since 1932 to make a profit. Her brilliant sleight of hand with inexpensive, temporary structures such as scaffolding, bold use of graphics and color in signage, has brought her the status of the graphic designer’s designer. Just last weekend I was chatting with an architect about her, who admitted that he had stowed some of the throwaway ’84 Olympic signage in his garage (lucky him).

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image found at Design & Architecture

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As her last show at the WUHO Gallery proclaimed, Deborah Sussman loved LA, and the bold, vibrant mark she left on this city will be something I’ll be reminded of now every time I visit Grand Park.


Los Angeles’ Grand Park

I worked at the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles today. I love these occasional work assignments downtown. We drove up Broadway, taking in an early morning dose of awe at its many ghostly, majestic movie palaces like the Orpheum, now housing optometrists and bargain shops. It wasn’t until I was dropped off at the courthouse steps on Hill Street, preparing to brave the security queue, that I caught that distinctive flash of magenta out of the corner of my eye. I instantly knew where I’d be spending the lunch hour.


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The courthouse borders part of the new 12-acre Grand Park, which replaces the moribund Los Angeles County Civic Center Mall, about as inviting a space as a name like that implies. There have been lots of financial complications and physical challenges leading up to the opening of Grand Park in July 2012, which can be read here. But today I wasn’t interested in the sausage-making back story. This was my first look, and I was ready to be dazzled. Yes, the new park is sited awkwardly in places. Yes, it’s a compromise location. And it strikes me as more plaza than park, probably because it’s not heavily treed and is unapologetically angular and geometric. But, oh, I do most definitely approve.

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Landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios were not only bold in their choice of seating but in their selection of plants as well.

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It was the plants that coaxed and lured me deeper into the park. A lunch hour wasn’t nearly enough time to explore it all.

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The openness of the park allows for wonderful views

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Large bunch grasses like miscanthus are seldom seen in Los Angeles. Here were great sweeps of them.

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The movable metal street furniture was designed inhouse by Rios Clementi Hale and manufactured by Janus et Cie.

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It’s about time Los Angeles decided to be included in the pantheon of cities with great urban parks.

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The opening of the fourth and final segment will be celebrated this Saturday, October 6, 2012.

From Rios Clementi Hale Studios website:

“Our design for Grand Park has no smaller aim than to express the global multicultural diversity of Los Angeles through landscape design and architecture to create a spectacular, iconic park for Downtown Los Angeles. Thematically, the park celebrates Los Angeles’ identity as a 21st-century multi-cultural global city metropolis composed of an amazing diversity of authentic ethnic communities and neighborhoods, set in a County where 244 distinct languages are spoken.

Over its length, the site is divided by two city streets and a challenging 90-foot grade change. Our design makes a series of grand park gestures to tie the four-block site together, and create a connected, unified park. We used Grand Park’s significant grade changes as an asset, rising to the challenge of softening Bunker Hill’s natural incline with pedestrian-friendly and ADA-accessible ramps and broad steps. The new ramps extend existing below-grade ramps to the north and south to create a series of central terraces leading down into the park from Grand Avenue with a great view of the restored fountain. The terraces are adaptable to an array of uses, including al fresco dining, event seating, meeting enclaves, and general gathering places. The historic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain has been restored and expanded to increase its sustainability as well as its viability as a dynamic water feature for park users.”