During my lunch breaks I’d set out to inspect the beautiful sidewalk paving designs lining the Historic Core of Downtown Los Angeles. All photos by Wendy Chan.

Our firm has recently been given the opportunity to submit a proposal for a new pedestrian linkage project. It’s an exciting design opportunity, one integrating art as an expression to link pedestrians with the history and culture of their community.

The pedestrian linkage project inspired research of various other examples where art was used as a way-finding and informational element. I looked at the Freedom Trail in Boston, a project which leads pedestrians through historically significant sties with a red-lined brick inlay on the sidewalk, alongside other historically significant districts in cities using pavement design to represents the local history and culture.


The terrazzo paving design in front of the Garfield Building mimics the bright marble sunburst on the underside of the entrance canopy. The sunburst might be a literal expression of the original building occupants, Sun Realty Company.


Beautiful colored ceramic tiles inlay by artist Frank Romero, commissioned by the CRA/LA to activate the sidewalk as part of the Broadway Pedestrian Amenities Project in 1984. The tiles are located along Broadway and 7th Street. The artist incorporated cultural patterns to represent the various ethnic groups that shopped on Broadway (e.g. geometric designs taken from Persian rugs), alongside the the building’s tenants at that time.


This ornate terrazzo art is located in front of Clifton’s Cafeteria and was done by artist Arthur D Pizzinat, Sr. in 1935. The designs have 12 medallions representing  areas of Los Angeles, including the city’s beaches, missions, oil farms, film industry, and the La Brea Tar Pits.


The terrazzo pavement entry leads visitors into the Baroque French Renaissance lobby of the Los Angeles Theatre.


My favorite sidewalk is located on the corner of 5th and Hill in front of the Art Deco Title Guarantee & Trust Building. I have fond childhood memories of Thrifty Drug Store; although it’s no longer a Thrifty store, I still appreciate the remnants of its history.

The beautiful pavement designs of Downtown Los Angeles act as a captivating threshold, linking passerby to the historical significance of the buildings. Although these individual designs aren’t directly linking together to form a cohesive narrative, they can be pieced together to offer us a glimpse of the history and architectural trends of the time, reminding us how sidewalks can act as a network of stories enhancing the pedestrian experience.

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