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Street Artist Unlocks Potential of Neglected Spaces

Surfer in the Los Angeles River by Calder Greenwood. Photo by Stephen Zeigler via KCET Departures.

Surfer in the Los Angeles River by Calder Greenwood. Photo by Stephen Zeigler via KCET Departures.

Street artist Calder Greenwood creates paper-mache sculptures of people and animals and places them around some neglected space in Los Angeles including our river (51 miles long and so important to our city’s history!), an empty pit in Downtown and a grassy knoll (also in Downtown L.A.).

Deer on Angels Knoll in Los Angeles by Carter Greenwood. Photo by thaddywarbucks via KCET Departures

Deer on Angels Knoll in Los Angeles by Calder Greenwood. Photo by thaddywarbucks via KCET Departures

These sculptures seem so out-of-place in these spaces but they allow you to imagine the potential of that particular space and in the case of the pit for example, you realize how large it actually is in comparison to a person and all of a sudden, that large space seems more like a wasted opportunity for something that can enhance our own quality of life.

Sunbathers in an empty pit in Downtown Los Angeles by Calder Greenwood. Photo by Calder Greenwood via KCET Departures.

Sunbathers in an empty pit in Downtown Los Angeles by Calder Greenwood. Photo by Calder Greenwood via KCET Departures.

Los Angeles’ Street Pianos

Future pianist plays at a street piano near the Egyptian Theater. Photo by Adam Winter via streetpianos.com

Future pianist plays at a street piano near the Egyptian Theater. Photo by Adam Winter via streetpianos.com

Between April 12th and May 3rd, 30 pianos were scattered around Los Angeles for anyone to play and enjoy. The project called “Play Me, I’m Yours” was the brainchild of Luke Jerram who has installed more than 600 pianos in 26 cities across the country in the last four years. In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra teamed up with local artists and community groups to decorate pianos and work with Mr. Jerram to bring the project to life and the Street Pianos website became a repository for images and videos of professionals and those not-so-professional to share their experiences with the pianos.

Musicians having fun at a street piano in Los Angeles. Photo by Elson Trinidad via streetpianos.com

Musicians having fun at a street piano in Los Angeles. Photo by Elson Trinidad via streetpianos.com

Mr. Jerram says that the “idea for Play Me, I’m Yours came from visiting my local launderette. I saw the same people there each weekend and yet no one talked to one another. I suddenly realised that within a city, there must be hundreds of these invisible communities, regularly spending time with one another in silence. Placing a piano into the space was my solution to this problem, acting as a catalyst for conversation and changing the dynamics of a space.”

These pianos were a true delight in our city. Helping to create livelier indoor and outdoor spaces and bring passersby together to stop and enjoy beautiful executions of music as they unfolded.

People gather to watch a budding musician at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photo by The MetroDuo Blog

People gather to watch a musician at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photo by The MetroDuo Blog

The Transfer Accelerator!

The Dutch city of Utrecht's "Transfer Accelerator". Photo via Pop Up City

The Dutch city of Utrecht’s “Transfer Accelerator”. Photo via Pop Up City.


The Dutch city of Utrecht has installed a slide (or what they humorously call a “Transfer Accelerator”) at a local subway station. Often we talk about successful public space project “activating” spaces and this happens through movement, engagement and conversation and this slide accomplishes all three. How fun! And what a wonderful way to spend time waiting for a train or to slide your luggage instead of carrying it down those stairs. = )

Watch a video about the Transfer Accelerator below:

Sunset Triangle Plaza

Cities like New York and San Francisco have lead the way in the transformation of our largest public space, our city streets. They have successfully created comfortable, vibrant and welcoming public plazas constructed efficiently and  inexpensively by using paint and temporary materials. These plazas can help calm traffic (decreasing incidents of pedestrian and cyclist injury and fatality), encourage walking and cycling (contributing to personal and public health through exercise and the decrease of carbon emissions from cars), and can benefit local businesses (because when you create an attractive space, people are more likely to linger and patronize nearby shops and restaurants.

The hallmarks of these public spaces are their location (converting redundant or wide streets in areas that already have high levels of commercial, pedestrian or cyclist activity), their customizable nature (moveable seating and chairs are always preferable because you can feel comfortable to sit alone or in large groups), and their accessibility (no stairs, adjacent to crosswalks and sidewalks, lots of seating options, shade and visibility).

Madison Square Plaza, NYC. Photo by Anna Peccianti

Los Angeles, with it’s warm weather, wide boulevards and high levels of pedestrian activity in certain neighborhoods could be a perfect playground for these types of public spaces. Last year the Los Angeles Department of Public Health received a grant to decrease obesity rates in Los Angeles and together with the Department of City Planning, they decided to put that money towards Los Angeles’ first street-to-plaza conversion project.

Spearheaded by Streets for People, Frank Clementi of Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and the Los Angeles Departments of Transportation, Planning, Public Works and Public Health; along with the local council office and local community and non-profit groups, Sunset Triangle Plaza was officially opened on March 4th.

Sunset Triangle Plaza. Photo by Anna Peccianti

This particular location was chosen because a) the community had been asking for a pedestrian plaza in this area for over 10 years, b) there was already a twice-weekly farmer’s market in this location so the street already had consistent pedestrian activity; and c) as previously mentioned, the street is redundant and sandwiched between a small triangular park and popular businesses whose patrons were usually crowding the tiny sidewalks with bicycles and belongings.

Sunset Triangle Plaza Draft Plan by Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Sunset Triangle Plaza is a one-year pilot project. Early next year community members, city agencies and elected officials will determine whether or not the plaza will become something more permanent or be converted back in to a street.

Street-to-plaza conversion projects can be hard to visualize if you’ve never seen or experienced one before. The wonderful thing about creating temporary demonstration projects is that they allow a city to inexpensively transform public space so residents can see for themselves just how transformative these types of spaces can be.

Sunset Triangle Plaza from Streets for People on Vimeo.

Sunset Triangle Plaza design by Frank Clementi of Rios Clementi Hale Studios. Sunset Triangle Plaza opening day video by Joel Schroeder