Ideas That Matter

Bunker Hill Steps

Lisa Gimmy
Bunker Hill Steps


Halprin stands in front of his rendering for Bunker Hill Steps.

By Jeff Graham, ASLA

 Los Angeles is often thought of as a horizontal city, but downtown’s Bunker Hill, which rises five stories above the adjacent business district, has always provided a connectivity challenge. Angel’s Flight, constructed in 1901, was an early attempt to solve the problem; Lawrence Halprin’s Bunker Hill Steps (1990) provide a robust pedestrian link between the two levels.

The opportunity to create the steps arose when developer Rob Maguire transferred air rights from the Central Library to an adjacent site. Architects Pei Cobb Freed created the Library Tower (now US Bank Tower), a graceful 73-story skyscraper. Space for the steps was carved out on the west side of the tower to connect Hope Street, to the north, with 5th Street and the Central Library to the south.

Robert Graham's Source Figure at the top Fountain.

Lawrence Halprin’s vision for the steps was based upon his visits to Italy and his experience of the vitality of the Spanish Steps. He adopted that vocabulary for Bunker Hill, developing a lively water feature that travels from the source fountain at the top, through two levels, to the basin below. He created gathering places at the two intermediate levels that feature a small cafe and retail. The perimeter of the steps is lined with flowering trees and colorful shrubs that soften the edge and create a human scale.

The final pool at 5th Street.

These 103 stairs not only provide an important and practical connection between these two districts, but also are a vital segment in Halprin’s Open Space Network for Los Angeles. Check back with us next week as we discuss an interior space within that network, Wells Fargo Court.



The Cultural Landscape Foundation: Landscape as Catalyst: Lawrence Halprin's Legacy and Los Angeles


Writer and Media Management Consultant Taylor Van Arsdale provided research and contributed to this article.


Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture

Helms Bakery Building
8800 Venice Blvd., Suite 216
Los Angeles, CA 90034

Phone: (310) 202-8320
Fax: (310) 202-8350

Creating landscapes for California living



Lisa Gimmy Landscape Architecture is a professional consulting firm offering master planning, site planning, and landscape design. Since its founding in 1992, LGLA has designed landscapes for schools, campuses, boutique hotels, buildings, public parks, estates, and private residences. At LGLA each project is viewed as an opportunity to explore a series of relationships: between the site and the region, architecture and landscape, and most importantly, between the landscape and the people who will use and enjoy it.

Recent Posts




    Barbara Lamprecht Docomomo Award poppies Wells Fargo Plaza Japanese gardens 9-11 Memorial Cranbrook Academy of Art Grand Eclair Herzog and de Meuron Heineman and Heineman Virginia Robinson Gardens Max Palevsky House Hafley House Landscape as Catalyst EPT Design Lisa Gimmy Lisa Boone Bolinas Courtney Coffman Jon and Liliane Lovelace Opera on the Great Lawn Garden Conservancy Peter Walker Mission Revival Desert Courtyard House graphic design Transforming Small Spaces, Intimate Courtyards, Custom Steel Gates, Velvet Elephant Ear, Kalanchoe Beharensis, Bluestone Pavers, Bourget Brothers, Moroccan Motif LIght/Breeze House Lina Loos exhibition design Koffka/Phakos Design pool landscaping Dominus Winery Los Angeles Conservancy fabrics TCLF Los Angeles Central Library Hindry House David Collins Heather Scott Peterson Pasadena Craftsman Ralph Cornell, Malcolm Leland, Howard Troller, UCLA, Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden Architect's Garden granite Frank Lloyd Wright First Point Construction Soils Solutions Lawrence Halprin Kelly Sutherlin McLeod Architecture Ruth Adler Schnee Native Mow Free Annie Chu Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre Elrod House Frank Gehry Floating Teehouse Villa Pisani Italy TheBlack Desert House Jeffrey Dahl, John Wooden, Dustin Dorr, Rosemarie Allaire, Yoshikawa Ralph Bacerra Ray Eames Loewy House Garden of Sculpture Wendell Burnette Andre Le Notre Landscaping Maguire Gardens Deborah Sussman Vaux le Vicomte Pamela Palmer grasses Kun II Lovelace Pool MoMA, Museum of Modern Art Queer Eye for the Straight Guy multidisciplinary designer King Palm forest Kitchen for Exploring Foods George Hargreaves Howard Rosen Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency Ira Keller Fountain California Preservation Foundation Rose N' Palm FIDM Oller & Pejic Allegra Fuller Snyder Los Angeles Times tablescape Nord Eriksson Friends of Robinson Gardens Don Chadwick mid century landscapes Artecho Native Bentgrass, Hafley House, Hindry House, Artificial Turf Landscape Sequence E. Stewart Williams Virginia Robinson tropical planting Delta Bluegrass Open Days landscape architecture in los angeles furniture Marin Grace Miller House Adolf Loos Florence Knoll New York landscape architecture Flowermaid Julius Shulman interiors John Lautner Albert Frey toys garden restoration Paulette Singley Gere Kavanaugh Darin Marten Denise Scott Brown Kengo Kuma Craig Elwood Richard Neutra Jack Coyier garden color Thomas D. Church Photography by Marion Brenner rock Stinson Beach Garden Dialogues Palm Springs Modernism Cleo Baldon garden design Leslie Cozzi Bunker Hill Steps Grand Hope Park mid century architecture downtown Los Angeles California natives Carl Andre Isabelle Green, FASLA Edris House Martin Garden Craftsman Nasher Sculpture Garden Kaufman House Landscape Architecture Eugene Kinn Choy, Garden Dialogues, The Cultural Landscape Foundation Charles Waldheim