Where the Sidewalk Begins

The street-side vault lamps of a Pasadena building show L.A. history in a new light

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Vault lights are a common sight in many cities, but they’re a bit more rare in young Los Angeles. They’re a feature of older buildings; where basements jutted out towards the street, tiny squares of glass were embedded into the sidewalk and serve as miniature skylights, illuminating the rooms below. Some aren’t particularly inventive or decorative, but these particular vault lights make for an especially pretty mosaic out front of an Old Pasadena storefront. I’d really love to see what they look like from below. I was so entranced by the tile on the building I almost missed this purple sidewalk completely as I walked by this weekend. Spotting them at last was a reminder that some of the most spectacular L.A. details can only be seen if you’re looking down.

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