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Square Morning

January 22, 2011

Heroes, aloes

It’s early morning in downtown Los Angeles and it’s bright, almost warm at 7:30 a.m. Sadly, my barber is AWOL. Faced with time to kill before hitting the office, I head to Pershing Square for some hipstamatic flexing. I’d visited the Square during the holidays to take photos but it was gussied up in annoying holiday frippery, so I opted out. Today is more like it; most of December’s gew-gaws have vacated and only a few lonesome souls are about — perfect picture-taking conditions. Emerging from the Metro station on Hill, I crossed the street and enter the square to the view above: an area featuring various monuments, statues and cannons that commemorate long-ago wars and the heroes who fought in them; aloes-in-bloom, recent additions, look on in neat rows at their feet …

Cozy geometry

Passing through the Hill street entrance, the Square opens out before me, offering a feeling of urban openness with the bright morning sky as canopy. This is the best way to experience the Square’s most striking design features: a 10-story purple bell tower and geometric fountain. The tower is made up of a super-tall right triangle snuggled up to a towering rectangle that is topped by a square cut-out and filled by a huge pink orb. I remember when the Square first opened in 1994, and was struck at that time by the brash coloring and gargantuan geometry of the forms designed by Mexican architect, Ricardo Legorreta, two years before. An earthquake fault by artist Barbara McCarren, radiates out of the fountain, wending its way jaggedly across the Square’s floor. Various giant spheres dot the landscape …

Water wall

Legorreta’s design for Pershing Square puts on full display his affection for the work of fellow Mexican architect Luis Barragán. Barragán pioneered the use of flat, bright colors, and geometric forms with cut-outs to capture light and shadow in the 1940s and 50s, and his influence figures prominently here. The fountain is like a massive wall with a stream of water arcing off the end corner into a pool whose basin is made of what seem like thousands of carefully placed black Mexican river rocks. A curved wall guards the fountain and its bench gives rest to a few weary sitters …

Flat, bright

A denuded tree, chorisia speciosa, looks especially stark against a backdrop of yellow stucco. This acid-colored wall’s flat expanse of color brings each branch, and the thorny trunk, into sharp focus.

Rhythmic variegation

A planted bed on the square’s northeast corner features an array of succulents with variegated foliage. Set back, feathery grasses and the red-orange spears of a large aloe add to the attractive melange. Many of these plants were placed here relatively recently and I’m happy by this new profusion; unfortunately the retaining wall that creates this bed has an ugly chip in its corner. These days, Pershing Square is looking a tad rough in spots, and Legorreta’s color vision could use a freshening-up … and, depending on the time of day, its denizens can range from the sleeping homeless in the morning, to lunching office workers at midday, to canoodling Latino couples in the early evening … I can’t say I know who occupies the square beyond that …

Time to go ...

Looking at my phone I realize it’s getting late … But first I have stop for a hard-boiled egg/tomato/red onion/cilantro-on-wheat breakfast sandwich at a fave cafe. When I lived in Long Beach, my trip from the train to the office would have me passing through Pershing Square every day … I suddenly realize how much I’ve missed the Square, and this sandwich … it’s a bit out of my way now, but I have a feeling I’ll be passing through here more often.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 23, 2011 2:47 am

    Well, when I was a little girl the height of excitement was parking in the garage under Pershing Square (is there still such a thing ? ) and going to the Broadway on ..9th ? Or the Biltmore Theater. There were homeless in Pershing Square in the 50’s too, though they were called ‘bums’ then, and we children were warned against them. We were not allowed to take the bus downtown, but were given a green light for the Wilshire District.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      January 23, 2011 4:57 am

      Fascinating, thanks for sharing the memories; there is a parking lot under Pershing Square still, but I’ve never been there. I have used the subway access under PS, however. ‘Bums’ is still the preferred term for the homeless even now, for some people …

  2. January 23, 2011 4:00 pm

    I love the Hipstamatic app. Do you have any favorite settings you’d like to share? We love downtown LA, too!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      January 23, 2011 4:06 pm

      Actually, I just used the shake’n’shoot feature, so the lenses change along the way … I have all the currently available lenses so it’s kinda fun to see what happens.

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