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Design Brief
Automatic Beauty: A history of streetlight design in Los Angeles

Angelenos with even a passing interest in the shape of the public realm know that the history of streetlight design in the city is unusually rich: a point of civic pride. This section of the competition brief will attempt to do some justice to the variety of designs that have graced (and continue to grace) the streets of Los Angeles. But it is possible to make a stronger case than stylistic range or eclecticism for the significance of streetlight design in Los Angeles history. Streetlights represented a widespread early effort by the City of Los Angeles, its departments, boards, commissions, successors and assigns to make an argument for the importance of aesthetic ambition in the public realm, as opposed to the idea that designing or illuminating streets is fundamentally a utilitarian exercise.

Further reading:

The following resources may be of interest to the competitors:


A history prepared by the Bureau of Street Lighting:


Photographs of historic L.A. streetlight designs:


Daniel Prosser’s detailed streetlight history, prepared for the Department of City Planning’s Survey L.A.:

Eddy S. Feldman’s 1972 book The Art of Street Lighting in Los Angeles, published by Dawson’s Book Shop and available from the Los Angeles Public Library:

Details of the Los Angeles World Airports’ “Curbside” program, which included the introduction of a newly designed streetlight in the Central Terminal Area:

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