Los Angeles 1984 – Look of the Games

Designer: Deborah Sussman/Sussman Prejza & Co.


Many architects, artists and designers were involved in the conception and implementation of the entire environment design programme with all its decorative and symbolic elements for the 1984 Olympic Games. Work on this programme did not begin until the autumn of 1982. Before, the LAOOC had taken only rudimentary steps in this direction, including the development of the official symbols (“Stars in Motion” emblem, mascot Sam and sports pictograms). These creations helped to promote the Games as they could be used for commercial purposes. However, they alone were not sufficient as a basis for structuring the entire design programme. In January 1982, the LAOOC Look organisation began its work as a design centre that was initially managed by The Jerde Partnership (architects), later also by Sussman/Prejza & Co. (designers), with whom the LAOOC entered into separate contracts. Both companies recruited additional companies and individuals. The design centre formed the creative environment that gave both designers and architects the freedom to experiment with a variety of concepts to create a festive look that would be of particular importance to the Los Angeles Games. The networking of all those involved in the Look of the Games concept was intended to ensure that the thoughts and ideas of everyone could mix as much as possible and stimulate each other.

In early 1982, The Jerde Partnership was commissioned by the LAOOC to design one of the two Olympic Villages: existing structures at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) were to be converted into a secure village with residential areas, a main street, entertainment facilities, a welcome area, transportation entry and exit points, and other typical village functions. By mixing temporary buildings with existing facilities, the UCLA campus was to be given a completely new appearance. In order to achieve this new look, Jerde sought the support of the graphic design company Sussman/Prejza. Later, the designers assumed responsibility for creating a uniform overall picture of the Games, involving other graphics offices that already worked for the LAOOC. It was John Follis Associates who first suggested replacing the original red, white and blue with more cheerful pastel colours, a thought that ultimately led to the colour palette of these Games, selected by Sussman/Prejza (see previous pages). At the same time, Jerde completed a catalogue of standard physical elements to be used in equipping the venues and Olympic Villages. At previous Olympic Games, monumental architectural landmarks were left behind that would remind future generations of the Games. The LA 1984 Games, on the other hand, had to be described as “spartan” in terms of cost and appearance; only a few permanent facilities could be built. Existing facilities were redesigned by means of a kit of simple but recurring decorative parts; so “new” streets, squares, etc. were created in a relatively simple way. The preferred use of cardboard, string, tents and bailing wire resulted in a completely new set of shapes. The further development of the design programme made it clear that a catalogue of standard construction and decorative elements was necessary. These elements were used for temporary buildings, environmental design, etc.; they consisted mainly of simple geometric shapes that could be easily combined with designs in various locations. The advantage of this was that the need for customer-specific parts could be drastically minimised, as this kit could be used very flexibly. The philosophy behind this was laid down by those responsible in November 1982 in a document entitled “Design Coordination Guidelines”. It states: “The staging of the Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad will present the world with a view of a series of events juxtaposed against the highly disconnected, eclectic background of Los Angeles and its environs. The number and complexity of sites dictates a design and planning process done in parts by various players. If the Games are to avoid being perceived as fragmented as Los Angeles itself, their visual presence must be powerful enough to unify the otherwise unpredictable chaos of their diverse geographical parts. Los Angeles today in 1982 looks exactly like it did in 1981 and like it will look in 1983. In 1984 it must look dramatically different while the Games are being staged. Everything associated with the Games must have a fresh, festive look to it that conveys the temporal qualities of the event. The whole city should look like a wonderfully colourful invasion of butterflies has descended upon it. The notion of a “spartan” Olympics suggests tremendous opportunities to shift the design away from the ego architecture of recent Olympics towards a more appropriately designed environment that captures the special qualities associated with the Games. An environment whose focal point is clearly the athlete and whose architecture celebrates its temporary qualities in fanciful assemblages of coloured fabric and exotic graphics.”