Bunker Hill Steps

Designers: Lawrence Halprin | City: Los Angeles, CA | Project Type: stairway
Date Visited: 11.27.12

Locations: S. Hope Street and Hope Place, Los Angeles, CA
Official Opening Date: 1990


Completed in 1990, the Bunker Hill Steps are an iconic Los Angeles take on Rome’s Spanish Steps. Designed by Lawrence Halprin, this grand, memorable staircase is bisected by a raised, cascading water channel that imitates a natural rocky stream. The final effect of this postmodern landscape design not only recalls the landscapes of California’s High Sierras, but also strongly echoes of Halprin’s love for “choreographing” urban spaces as well.

Aligned with the central axis of the L.A. Central Library’s Maguire Gardens, the 103-steps of the Bunker Hill Steps links together Hope Street to Fifth Street, tying together the downtown historic core with the more modern architecture atop Bunker Hill. Flowering trees, shrubs, and plants edge the sides of the stairway, framing and concealing views. Completed in 1990 across from the Central Library, it meanders from Hope Street down to 5th Street, where the start is marked by a small bronze sculptured entitled Source Figure. Added in 1992, this work by sculptor Robert Graham symbolizes the continuum of life.

This grand stairway with its meandering stream are perhaps one of the most memorable stairways I’ve ever seen. The shape of the stairway curves down the hill, as if carved, and its large, terraced landings accommodate a range of activities, from retail shops and outdoor cafes to areas to sit and gather. The Bunker Hill Steps more closely mirror that of an urban street.

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