Here’s a bright idea for the park

July 12, 2012 

Even before Grand Park opens, its signature benches are getting noticed.

When Grand Park opens in the downtown Civic Center later this month, it won’t just be the show-stopping fountain and collection of internationally-inspired garden plantings that will have eyes popping—and tongues wagging.

Check out those benches.

Perhaps not since “festive federalism” stamped its exuberant, mid-‘80s color palette on the 1984 Olympics has such a comment-worthy color explosion rolled into L.A.

While most of the park itself remains out of view behind temporary chain-link fencing swathed in green mesh, a pair of its vibrantly-hued benches recently popped up outside the 2nd floor entrance to the Hall of Administration, where they’re visible to everyone passing by on the busy pedestrian corridor to and from Starbucks.

And everyone, it seems, has an opinion.

“Awesome. It’s fun. Different,” said Adrian Taghdiri, who’s interning in the County Counsel’s office.

“They’re cute, but it’s a little bright,” said Frances Espinosa of the Assessor’s Office.

“Beautiful!” said Zella Scott of the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s office.

“A little bit too loud for me. It’s like something out of the 1960s,” said Jesse (Jay) Luna of Public Health.

“Generally, with pink you think of breast cancer awareness. It’s different, I guess,” said MacKenzie Smith of the D.A.’s office.

“Will the boys not sit at the girls’ benches?” wondered Renee Rose, also of the D.A.’s office. “You’ll have to be very in touch with your masculine side not to be intimidated.”

“I like them, especially on a bright, warm, sunny day like today,” said attorney Ludlow Creary, passing through after an appearance in Federal Court. “They’re very inviting. I think it’s very L.A., but that’s not a bad thing. Something like this works in L.A.”

So what color are those benches, anyway? Officially termed magenta, the after-lunch crowd passing by this week offered its own interpretations, ranging from “kind of like a fuchsia, but with a little deep purple in it”  to “hot pink!”

Technically a variation on the color known as Pantone 219C, the hue was toned down and “richened” by the park’s designer, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and by JANUS et Cie, the firm hired to produce the custom-designed furniture that will adorn the 12-acre expanse. (In its original form, the color is also associated with Pantone Barbie and is a dead-ringer for “Lights” in Essie’s “Poppy-razzi” nail polish line. In other words, Elle Woods would love it.)

Even though it exudes an unmistakable sense of Southern California fun, the color choice has a far-from-frivolous role. It’s a key factor in establishing the new park’s identity, taking inspiration from a variety of influences around the world, including the green seating at Paris’ Tuileries Gardens.

“We obviously wanted to really create something iconic with the furniture,” said Tony Paradowski of Rios Clementi Hale. “Our idea was to have a floral quality throughout the year.” No matter what plants were in season, “the furniture would always be this kind of bloom-like color sensation throughout the garden.”

In addition to 26 freestanding benches and 41 wall-mounted benches, the park will offer furnishings that can be moved around by patrons: 120 café tables, 240 café chairs and 40 lounge chairs on the lawn.

Using unsecured furniture is “definitely a different model for Los Angeles, but in other cities this has been around for quite a while,” Paradowski said, citing New York’s Bryant Park and Hyde Park in London, where folding fabric chairs are rented out in nice weather. Grand Park’s around-the-clock security should help keep the chairs from walking away, as will a plan to tether furnishings together after-hours, he said.

As for the color, Paradowski thinks most people will come to love it, although he acknowledges that the benches “definitely ask for opinions.”

“We worked with the construction crew out there, and a lot of them said, ‘Wow, why’d you pick pink for the chairs?’  I think a lot of them are still scratching their heads.”

Posted 7/12/12


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