Malcolm Leland’s modernist designs in San Diego.

Malcolm Leland was an influential modernist sculptor and architectural designer whose work can be seen in important structures around Southern California. He lived in San Diego for much of his life, and the city is home to several fine examples of his work.

I became aware of Malcoln Leland recently while watching a very informative San Diego Museum of Art video here. When I visited the artist’s website, I soon realized I’ve seen many examples of his work during my walks around the city!

In the past few weeks I’ve revisited places where his often iconic mid-century modern designs can be found. In many instances his elegant designs were used to create stylish decorative elements. Most of his work is in pre-cast aluminum and concrete. I took photographs in Balboa Park, Fashion Valley, and San Diego’s downtown Civic Center, which I’ll now share!

First up are his organically intertwining aluminum gates, and his gracefully shaped concrete columns and the archlike fascia above them at the San Diego Museum of Art’s outdoor May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden and Court…

Next, check out his beautifully ornate fascia along the rooftop of the Elmer C. Otto Center at the San Diego Zoo…

Next are his façades on several sides of the JC Penney building in the Fashion Valley shopping mall. They were made using panels molded out of copper sheets.

Originally water tricked down the sculptural panels, which were meant to oxidize and turn turquoise. But maintenance problems shut the unique fountains, and the panels were painted over. You can still see a little bit of copper orange in my photos…

Next is Malcoln Leland’s “Bow Wave” bronze sculpture fountain, in downtown’s Civic Center Plaza near the Community Concourse building.

In my photos the water feature is off. When on, the sculpture appears to be a ship’s bow moving forward through a spray of water. Leland’s once controversial sculpture is now much loved, and is listed in the Smithsonian’s inventory of art.

The previous photo was taken from the Civic Center’s multi-level Evan V. Jones Parkade parking garage, which features more instances of Malcolm Leland’s work.

Decorative panels around the perimeter of the parking garage and forming arches inside the garage were designed by Leland and made from pre-cast concrete.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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