While the normally mild Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia was baked during a record breaking heatwave that is now subsiding, Los Angeles, which has seen mostly normal (if warm) temperatures for the past few days, debuted a completely revamped new public outdoor pool, where Angelenos can cool off and brave the heat.
The highly anticipated new Algin Sutton Pool in South Los Angeles opened for swimmers on Saturday June 26 after a transformative remodel led by Lehrer Architects. The planning work for the redesigned water leisure center, described by Lehrer Architects as a “multigenerational leisure complex”, began in 2016, with construction beginning in 2018. However, the opening of the Algin Sutton Pool was postponed for a whole year due to the pandemic.
Bold primary colors, a signature from Lehrer Architects, are used throughout the complex, including the fencing. (Courtesy Teacher Architects)
As mercury rises in southern California during the summer months, it will be opened to swimmers. Teacher Architects stated in its announcement that the new pool is also timely and important for other, non-meteorological reasons:
“As both the pandemic and national racial equality settlement have forced cities to take a hard look at themselves and the communities they serve, investing in thriving community centers like this one is critical acts of social justice. Public swimming pools have a long history of segregation and discrimination, which makes the placement of this stunning new community pool as a focal point in this underserved neighborhood a stimulating template for how to truly invest in the wellbeing of local communities. “
The redesigned Algin Sutton water complex uses the same primary colors as the two bridge settlements recently completed by Lehrer Architects of special lounge areas and changing facilities. The pool is part of the larger Algin Sutton Recreation Center, a 17-acre park with soccer fields, basketball courts, a baseball diamond, and more. The children’s playground in the park was renamed in this wistful memory of Latasha Harlins, a local teen whose murder by a shopkeeper was the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary in 1991.
Mimicking the gable roof of the historic pool building, a towering canopy structure provides shade on a new public space that serves as a meeting place for the community. (Courtesy Teacher Architects)
In addition to its refreshing leisure facilities, the new complex features a towering 3,600-square-foot canopy and a 7,000-square-foot public space that serves as the new central communal space for the entire park. As the company notes, the shady, park-anchored canopy combines “all the different leisure, urban, community and symbolic elements of the site” and at the same time refers to the gable roof of the existing historic pool building of the complex.
The “loose avionics shape” of the canopy is also reminiscent of the two flight routes to and from Los Angeles International Airport, which is located directly above the pool in the sky. “These [the canopy and plaza] serves as a focal point from which all site features ‘explode’ outward, including the pool, splash pad and the neighborhood street entrance, ”explains the company.
(Courtesy Teacher Architects)
“The work here was simply to honor and celebrate a great community by massively improving the water and architecture of the pool – and its centrality to the park,” said Michael B. Lehrer, founder of Lehrer Architects Los Angeles based in Silverlake’s Los Angeles neighborhood. “The idea was to make the park its best self. Exuberance and appropriate monumentality were used to draw visual pleasure from every single element. “
The Algin Sutton Pool is the third public swimming pool project in LA commissioned by the Bureau of Engineering and designed by Lehrer Architects. In 2013, the company oversaw the design of a competition pool in Reseda Park that used “day and night lighting, color, and the beauty of the pool water itself” to create “an uplifting complex centered on barren Victory Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. ”Four years later, in 2017, the company breathed new, watery life into the Central Recreation Center Pool in South LA, which was abandoned after the damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
(Courtesy Teacher Architects)
In a statement, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, LA City Councilor for the Eighth District, praised the design team for bringing the Algin Sutton Pool project “way beyond our imagination.”
“His [Lehrer’s] Team ideas and leads through the lens that everyone is entitled to beautifully designed functional spaces, ”added Harris-Dawson. “Algin Sutton’s pool and recreation area is fun and inviting to families and friends, and our community certainly deserves such a space.”
Formerly known as the Manchester Recreation Center, the park and pool complex was renamed in 1987 in memory of Algin Sutton, a former longtime recreational director for Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks who passed away in 1984.