As the normally mild Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia baked during a record-shattering heatwave that’s now starting to subside, Los Angeles, which has experienced mostly normal (albeit toasty) temperatures in recent days, debuted a fully overhauled new public outdoor swimming pool where Angelenos can cool off and beat the heat.
Located in South Los Angeles, the much-anticipated new Algin Sutton Pool opened to swimmers on Saturday, June 26, following a transformative revamp headed by Lehrer Architects. Design work on the reimagined aquatic recreational hub, described by Lehrer Architects as a “multigenerational leisure complex,” began in 2016, with construction work kicking off in 2018. The opening of Algin Sutton Pool, however, was delayed a full year by the pandemic.
Opening to swimmers as the mercury rises across Southern California during the summer months, Lehrer Architects noted in its announcement that the new pool is also timely and important for other, non-meteorological reasons:
“As both the pandemic and the national reckoning on racial equality have forced cities to look hard at themselves and the communities they serve, investing in thriving community centers like this are critical acts of social justice. Public pools have a long history of segregation and discrimination, making the placement of this stunning new community pool as a focal point in a this under-served neighborhood a galvanizing template for how to truly invest in the wellbeing of local communities.”
Deploying the same bursts of primary color as the two bridge housing communities recently completed by Lehrer Architects, the revamped Algin Sutton aquatic complex is comprised of an 8,800-square-foot swimming pool, 4,200-square-foot mirrored splash pad, and 6,500 square feet of dedicated lounge areas and changing facilities. The pool is part of the larger Algin Sutton Recreation Center, a 17-acre park that includes soccer fields, basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and more. The children’s play area at the park was renamed earlier this yearn memory of Latasha Harlins, a local teen whose 1991 murder at the hands of a convenience store proprietor was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary short.
In addition to its refreshing recreational features, the new complex features a soaring, 3,600-square-foot canopy and 7,000-square-foot public plaza that serve as a new central community gathering space for the entire park. As noted by the firm, the shade-providing, park-anchoring canopy “brings together all of the disparate recreational, urban, communal, and symbolic elements of the site” while referencing the gabled roof of the complex’s existing historic pool building.
The canopy’s “loosely avionic shape” also nods to the dual flight paths in and out of Los Angeles International Airport located in the skies directly above the pool. “This [the canopy and plaza] serves as the focal point from which all site features ‘explode’ outward, including the pool, splash pad and the neighborhood street entry,” elaborated the firm.
“The work here was simply to honor and celebrate an awesome community by massively amping up the Pool’s water and architecture—and their centrality to the Park,” said Michael B. Lehrer, founder of Lehrer Architects Los Angeles, which is based in L.A.’s Silverlake neighborhood. “The idea was to make the Park its very best self. Exuberance, appropriate monumentality were deployed to draw visual joy out of every single element.”
The Algin Sutton Pool is the third L.A. public pool project commissioned by the Bureau of Engineering and designed by Lehrer Architects. In 2013, the firm oversaw the design of a competition pool at Reseda Park in which “daylight and night lighting, color, and the beauty of the pool water itself” was used, per the firm, to create “an uplifting complex that provided a focal point on sparse Victory Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley.” Four years later, in 2017, the firm breathed new, watery life into the Central Recreation Center Pool in South L.A., which was left forsaken after incurring damage during the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
In a statement, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, L.A. City Councilmember of the Eighth District, praised the design team for taking the Algin Sutton Pool project “far beyond the construct of our imagination.”
“His [Lehrer’s] team ideates and executes through the lens that everyone is entitled to beautifully designed functional spaces,” added Harris-Dawson. “The pool and recreation area at Algin Sutton is joyous and welcoming to families and friends, and our community is certainly deserving of such a space.”
Previously known as the Manchester Recreation Center, the park and pool complex was renamed in 1987 in memory of Algin Sutton, a former longtime recreation supervisor for Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks who passed away in 1984.