Malcolm Leland: Designer/Sculptor

MALCOLM LELAND (1922-2019)

Malcolm Leland at work, c.1962. Photo; Museum of California Design, courtesy Malcolm Leland.

The Museum of California Design, the first museum to exhibit his work, honors the life of designer/sculptor Malcolm Leland who died on July 31st, 2019. Leland was born Malcolm Leland McGuckin in Pasadena, California, in 1922. His commercially produced designs, his architectural facades and his public sculptures made significant contributions to modern living in the 20th century. One of his early works, the svelte Bird Shelter, first produced by Malcolm Leland Ceramics in El Segundo, California, in 1951, then by Architectural Pottery in Manhattan Beach, was included in the 1955 Good Design Exhibition at MoMA in New York.

In 1955 Max Lawrence, co-founder of Architectural Pottery, saw Leland’s work at the Contempo design store in Westwood. Lawrence and his wife Ruth proposed to Leland that Architectural Pottery produce and distribute his designs. Leland, then 31 and pleased to be relieved of those chores, agreed and closed his El Segundo pottery. Among his iconic designs produced by Architectural Pottery is the Modular Lantern that was so futuristic it appeared as an alien’s accessory in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” a 1966 episode of the original Star Trek TV series. And the architect A. Quincy Jones used Leland’s sensual bird shelter – gourd-shaped, with a slender neck and a wide, smile-like slit for birds to enter and exit – to decorate the interior of his own West Los Angeles home.

Among Leland’s architectural exteriors is that for the Los Angeles County Hall of Records (Richard Neutra, 1962) and his now much-lauded pre-cast-concrete X-forms for the exterior of the American Cement Building (DMJM, Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall, 1964) in Los Angeles’ Westlake District. Also in concrete, Leland contributed an elegant footbridge (1964) to the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden at UCLA.

His dynamic Bow Wave outdoor fountain and sculpture was installed in San Diego's Civic Center Plaza in 1972.

Some of Leland’s designs are currently in production by Vessel USA:

Columns, Malcolm Leland, c. 1952. Contemporary production by Vessel USA.

Malcolm Leland, Module Lantern, terra cotta, c.1951; Bird Shelter, c. 1954. Museum of California Design exhibition “California Pottery: From Mission to Modernism” at the Autry Museum, 2003-4

Still from “The Corbomite Maneuver,” Star Trek TV series, 1966.












Malcolm Leland with X-forms for American Cement Building, Los Angeles. Photo: courtesy Malcolm Leland


American Cement Building, Los Angeles, DMJM Architects 1964, Facade by Malcolm Leland. Photo: Larry Underhill

Loft by Todd Yoggy Designs 2019 in the American Cement Building.


Malcolm Leland at this home/studio, Potrero, California, 2001. Photo: Bill Stern, courtesy, Museum of California Design.

1 Response

  1. Very interesting! He seems like a fascinating artist.

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