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LA’s Street Lamps Could Include Poetry And Élan

A girls plays under columns of Urban Lights, a 2008 large-scale assemblage sculpture by Chris Burden, in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (JOE KLAMAR/AFP via Getty Images)
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The notion of L.A.’s street lamps has, in recent years, been almost completely co-opted by Instagram and “Urban Light,” the lovely yet slightly over-’grammed display in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

But soon, we might all be singing a different tune (in, or out of, the rain). The city is holding an international competition to redesign our local street lighting:

“Many of the historic Los Angeles streetlights we now cherish for their élan were designed as site-specific streetlights for neighborhoods within the City of Los Angeles… Los Angeles now has a chance to combine our rich streetlight tradition with the freedom opened up by progress in lighting technology to produce a standard design emblematic of 21st-century Los Angeles.”

At the moment, there are 223,000 street lamps in Los Angeles, the care and maintenance of which is overseen by the Bureau of Street Lighting within the Department of Public Works.
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The contest won’t replace all of those lamps, said Christopher Hawthorne, the city’s chief design officer.

“The standard design [was] introduced in the 1950’s,” he said. “At very much response to car culture… it doesn't really have a connection to neighborhood character or pedestrian scale.”

Friday is the final day for contestants to submit their registration and entry fee. The first round of designs will be due in March, and a winner is expected to be announced in June.

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