Total Pageviews

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Festive Federalism" 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics

photo credit:

"Festive Federalism" is the term coined by designer Deborah Sussman to describe the colors, design, and graphics her firm developed for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics.

photo credit:

Thirty-three years ago, the eyes of the world were on Los Angeles, host of the Olympic Games. The design firm of Sussman/Prejza, working in partnership with architectural firm The Jerde Partnership, created a unique, bold look that helped bring together the city like never before - and never since. 

photo credit:

Above: outside the Los Angeles Memorial Collisium. Last week I shared some thoughts of being in the city for the 1984 Olympics (here's a link). 

photo credit:

What absolutely impressed almost everyone in Los Angeles - as well as across the country and around the world - were the colors and inovative designs of of the 28 different Olympic venues. 

photo credit:

Actually, looking at these images from the designers' (and other) websites, they still impress.

photo credit:

According to the Sussman/Prejza website: "Sussman/Prejza and The Jerde Partnership were co-design directors in creating the ‘look’ of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, a massive undertaking that encompassed forty-three art sites, twenty-eight game venues and three villages. 

photo credit:

"The designers worked together to create a “kit-of-parts” visual alphabet that could be adapted with flair to the disparate venues. 

photo credit:

"Hot graphic colors, iconic geometries, and ephemeral materials were fused together to transform the city of Los Angeles.

 photo credit:

"As a matter of practicality, S/P’s design also included a wayfinding and identification system that directed spectators from the highways to their seats. 

photo credit:

"This system included vehicular and pedestrian wayfinding signs, transportation signs, facility identification signs, and graphics."

photo credit:

From another site, "Festive Federalism, a term coined to reflect the graphics program for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, is reflected here in the color palette and an image of one of the many dimensional stars located throughout the city. 

photo credit:

"This was where we all heard the word Sonotube for the first time!"

photo credit:

Here's what Michael Bierut from had to say: "Trust Los Angeles to finally understand how to stage a modern Olympics: design it to be seen on television.

photo credit:

"So out with the costly white elephants of permanent venues built of steel and concrete: Deborah Sussman and Jon Jerde, working on a tight schedule and a tighter budget, led a team of designers that created one of the most cohesive Olympic design schemes ever.

photo credit:

"It was all Hollywood stagecraft, including fabric banners, painted cardboard shipping tubes and what was reportedly all the aluminum scaffolding west of the Mississippi.

 photo credit:

"The dazzling color scheme of the 1984 LA games, which Sussman dubbed "festive Federalism" was purportedly based on the hot pinks and oranges of Southern California and Baja Mexico, but looked to American designers like a hyped-up reiteration of the prevailing West Coast design aesthetic led by Michael Vanderbyl and April Greiman. 

photo credit:

"And why not? It was the ultimate California moment."

photo credit:

"Sussman's brilliant success had a not-so-brilliant aftermath, as dozens of designers, developers, and local Chambers of Commerce burghers realized that they had been delivered a formula for civic identity on the cheap. 

photo credit:

This led to a "festive" profusion of garish banners and over-decorated wayfinding systems in every down-on-its-luck shopping mall and town square in America, all of whom hung the crepe and waited for a Hollywood close up that would never come."

photo credit:

Design firm Sussman/Prejza and architectual fim The Jerde Partnership have gone on to create numerous other projects - both in Los Angeles and around the world. A reminder that Los Angeles' cultural impact isn't just limited to television and movies. 

photo credit:

Los Angeles, Tokyo, New York, Paris, Beijing, London. Great cities do great things. Things like host the Olympic Games. 

photo credit:

Here's hoping that Sussman/Prejza and The Jerde Partnership will be called upon again as Los Angeles hosts the Olympic Games for the third time

photo credit:

When I first got started with this blog 9 years ago, the name I wanted "Experience LA" was already taken. My son, 8 at the time, said "how about Experiencing LA?" That's what we went with. Pulling together photos from different sites, I realized I wasn't the first to use this term. 

photo credit:

A final view of the Olympic Tower outside the Coliseum. 

© 2017 - originally posted 7/28/2012

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Los Angeles' Moment: the 1984 Summer Olympics

photo credit:

It looks like it's really happening. Wednesday, September 13th, the International Olympic Organizing Committee will officially award the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympics simultaneously

2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles. 

Like Paris and London, this will be the third time that Los Angles will host the Olympics.

So, is L.A. up for the task? 

image credit:

Let's turn back the clock a bit to 1984, the last time L.A. hosted the Olympics. For anyone who was here at that time, it was an incredible experience, arguably the best two weeks in the city's history. 

And it almost didn't happen. 

photo credit:

Los Angeles had hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 (above), introducing the first ever Olympic Village, limiting the events to just 16 days, and - for the first time ever - finishing in the black financially.

photo credit: Rich Clarkson

Fifty two years later, the eyes of the world would again be on Los Angeles.

As hard as it might be to envision today, by the late 1970's, the Olympics had fallen on hard times:

Mexico City 1968 saw government troops opening fire and killing 300 student demonstrators ten days before the opening ceremonies.

Munich 1972 was marred by the tragic murder of 11 Israeli athletes by terrorists.

Montreal 1976 nearly bankrupt the city on costly infrastructure.

The whole concept of the modern Olympic Games was being called into question. By the time the International Olympic Organizing Committee met in May of 1978 to decide who would host the 1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles was the only city in the world willing to host them. 

Could Los Angeles save the modern Olympic Games?

For the first time ever, a private corporation - the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee - would oversee and be responsible for financing the Olympics. The existing stadium and infrastructure would be used. Los Angeles proved it could be done.

photo credit:

Peter Ueberroth, who would become Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" pulled off an incredible event, costing the tax-payers of Los Angeles nothing, and making an unheard of $215 million profit - the majority of which endowed inner city sports programs in the city.

photo credit: Joe Payne

Tickets for the opening ceremonies went on sale almost two years ahead of time with prices pegged at $50, $100, $200 - which seemed pricey at the time. Lack of vision (and a very tight budget as a college student) kept me from considering buying a couple of tickets. By the day of the opening ceremonies, people were offering $1500 for tickets - if they could find them. I - along with everyone else I knew - simply enjoyed the event a few miles away on TV.

photo credit:

The opening ceremonies were nothing less than amazing. From the opening "Welcome" song, to the "Rocketman" flying across the stadium, to the dozens of pianos playing George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," to the flags of the nations card show, to composer John Williams stirring Olympic theme ... it was incredible and primarily staffed by volunteers. (In contrast, 75% of those who participated in the opening ceremonies four years ago in Beijing were members of the Chinese military. It was said that in terms of "precision" only North Korea could have done a better job than China.)

Unfortunately, thanks to Cold War politics, the Soviet Union and their Eastern European allies decided to stayed home. What can we say? Their loss.

photo credit: 

What no one in Los Angeles could miss was the dazzling color scheme, dubbed by designer Deborah Sussman as "Festive Federalism." 

photo credit:

It was fantastic just walking around the different venues.

photo credit:

I love what Michael Bierut said on "Trust Los Angeles to finally understand how to stage a modern Olympics: design it to be seen on television. 

photo credit:

"So out with the costly white elephants of permanent venues built of steel and concrete: Deborah Susman and Jon Jerde, working on a tight schedule and a tighter budget, led a team of designers that created one of the most cohesive Olympic design schemes ever. 

photo credit: 

"It was all Hollywood stagecraft, including fabric banners, painted cardboard shipping tubes and what was reportedly all the aluminum scaffolding west of the Mississippi.

photo credit:

"Dubbed 'festive Federalism' [it] was purportedly based on the hot pinks and oranges of Southern California  . . . . And why not? It was the ultimate California moment."

Festive Federalism at the Forum: this the only personal photo I have from the Los Angeles Olympics: my sister and me in front of the basketball venue at the Forum in Inglewood. Unfortunately, all my other photos from that summer are lost (stolen when I was living out-of-state, actually). 

photo credit:

Los Angeles hosted the Olympics in both 1932 and 1984. 

photo credit:

When I first posted these photos back in 2008, I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, L.A. would have the Olympics in 2032, the 100th anniversary of the the first time the city served as host. Am I glad they didn't wait around for that. 

Traffic? Summer 1984 was the year of "catastrophic traffic that never was." Los Angeles has hosted the Olympics twice before. I think they'll figure it out. 

And the summer weather forecast eleven years from now calls for 72 degrees, sunny skies, low humidity, and a light breeze coming in off the ocean. 

Congratulations to Paris. Congratulations to Los Angeles. 

Wow. Looks like it's really happening. 

Here's a link to some additional photos from the 1984 Olympics I posted a few years back.  

© 2017 - originally posted 8/14/2008 

Los Angeles 1984 Summer Olympics

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Angels Flight: (Finally) Back on Track

Angels Flight is a historic, 300 foot long funicular located in downtown Los Angeles, described as "the world's shortest railroad." 


The photo above shows Angels Flight at it's original location, a half a block away next to the Third Street Tunnel. It originally opened in 1901, serving as a mode of transportation to the top of what was then the residential community of Bunker Hill. 

image: Ben Abril

Over the years, it's been the subject of numerous painting, including this one of by artist Ben Abril. 

Back in May 2010, when my wife and I were living in Los Angles, we took our kids on the 50 second ride to the top of Bunker Hill on Angels Flight. We included this, along with a visit to a pre-gentrification Grand Central Market on a trip to downtown L.A. with some other westside home schooling friends. 

The two bright orange and black cars traveling up and down the hill are named Sinai and Olivet, names taken from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.

A plaque installed to celebrate it's 50th anniversary stated that: "Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years."

In 1969, after 68 years of service, it was "temporarily" closed, scheduled to be moved to it's current location and reopened within two years.

The cars went into storage and the promised deadline came and went. Two years turned into ten. Then fifteen. Then twenty. Finally, in 1996 - twenty seven years after it was closed - Angels Flight finally reopened.

Unfortunately, a change in the original 1901 design resulted in a fatal accident in 2001. 

Angeles Flight was closed. Again. This time was for another nine years. It finally reopened again on March 15, 2010. These photos were taken a couples of months after the reopening. 

Another accident. Another closure. In 2013, an accident (with no injuries) resulted in Angels Flight being closed. Again. 

This was Angles Flight in September 2016. My family and I were visiting The Broad art museum (subject for a future post) and walked by it. Non-operative, with no date for re-opening.

Oh, and did I mention, covered with graffiti? 

The above photo's features Angels Flight with L.A.'s City Hall in the distance. I don't want to go all political, but seeing a historical monument broken down and tagged does not instill confidence in the ability of local government to get things done. 

The 2016 film La La Land featured a brief clip of stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone on a beautiful and functioning Angeles Flight. This is how it's suppose to be: things are suppose to work, not languishing for years while the city drags it's feet. What City Hall could not do, Hollywood was able to pull off - at least for a day of filming. 

On March 1, 2017, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that Angels Flight would be re-opening "before Labor Day." Did the cameo in La La Land put pressure on City Hall to get going on the needed repairs? Perhaps. It certainly didn't hurt. 

Hard to believe, but Angels Flight reopened two days ago, on Thursday August 31st. As promised, "before Labor Day." 

Back to my May 2010 photos, from the top of Angeles Flight, looking south. 

This is the upper station. Fans of La La Land will recognize this is where Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (Mia and Sebastian) got off - exploring more of the city's historic treasures. 

My kids were in 2nd and 4th grades back in 2010, back when we took our first and only ride on Angels Flight. 

Seven years later, they're both in High School (a Sophomore and a Senior). Here's hoping we can all get down to L.A. and take one more ride before they take off for college. 

© 2017