This summer, Lehrer Architects completed work on its latest public park project: the Central Park Recreation Pool in South Los Angeles. Designed to replace an aging aquatics complex, the 1.44-acre project was funded by the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, and is infused with Lehrer Architects’ characteristic do-more-with-less architectural ethos. The project, consisting of a refurbished bathhouse and pool, aims to reactivate a vital community gathering spot in what is one of the most park-poor areas of the city.
The bathhouse, a humble structure made of concrete masonry units, is wrapped by a segmented butterfly roof canopy made of tightly folded, corrugated white metal panels. The three roof pitches meet several times over the course of the building’s main entrance on East 22nd Street. At each meeting point, a delicate armature of steel members, including W-beams and square tubing, joins the roof planes. The south-facing exposure, its CMU walls painted bright shades of lemon and lime, gathers and warms the light filtering through the canopies. A longer but similarly articulated form is mirrored about the bathhouse’s central axis, where on the other side it shades the pool deck. At the foot of each of the columns supporting the canopy along this length, the firm has designed broad, monolithic concrete benches. The two benches on either end are cocked a half-turn inwardly, framing the type of communal, yet highly individualized public space that exists far too infrequently in Los Angeles.
Buried deeply into the far leg of an L-shaped site is a tetrarch of 20-foot tall towers, each housing a pair of concrete benches. The towers provide a different kind of social space that is simultaneously more intimate and public than the larger shaded area just mentioned. Shaped like parallelograms and wrapped in sheets of white perforated metal, the towers mark the recreation center’s location in the community during the day, reflecting and catching the sun’s light as it passes overhead. At night, the structures are lit up from within.
During a studio visit to Lehrer’s Silver Lake offices, the principal described the sculptural qualities of the sentinels: “The light and shadow towers work to create a calibrated sense of civic monumentality by relating to the pool, to the larger park, and (most) importantly, to the surrounding neighborhood beyond.”