Tag Archives: Art Deco

PHOTO ESSAY | Los Angeles Architecture

There are few cities in the world more perplexing than Los Angeles. The reasons are many. The Outlaw Urbanist will take a closer look at some of those reasons in a multi-part, photo essay series. Today, we look at a small selection of Los Angeles architecture. There are hundreds of interesting, even gorgeous historical examples of Art Deco and Modernist buildings in Los Angeles. There are an equal number that can be simply described as curious. The sample in this photo essay is designed to be eclectic rather than exhaustive.

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Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard in Mid Wilshire/Central LA (Photo: Mark David Major).

There is an odd, symbolic symmetry about the impenetrable, foreboding facades of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Mid Wilshire/Central L.A. and the Screen Actors Guild Building down the road on the Miracle Mile. The architectural message could not be clearer: beware to all those who do not belong here (you know who you are).

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Screen Actors Guild Building on the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles (Photo: Mark David Major).

We interrupt this photo essay for something cool: an example of the classic California Style house or bungalow (depending on your definition of size) and a Modernist residential house, both located a few hundred feet south of Wilshire Boulevard in La Brea.

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A classic California style house in La Brea (Photo: Mark David Major).
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A Modernist house in La Brea (Photo: Mark David Major).

Based on quantity alone, the prototypical strip mall in Los Angeles has a L-shaped typology. Two-story buildings with double loading (at ground and above) of small retail units, connected by external stairwells and walkways, surrounding a small parking lot (see below). Who would go to L.A. and take photographs of ubiquitous strip malls? Probably only The Outlaw Urbanist. These strip malls have the architectural vocabulary of a proverbial bull in a china shop.

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A example of the prototypical Los Angeles strip mall on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown (Photo: Mark David Major).

Truth in advertising at the American Cement Company Building (now the Concrete Studio Lofts) on Wilshire Boulevard at the western perimeter of MacArthur Park. Across the street is the ‘tent city’ of the homeless living in MacArthur Park. The homeless problem in Los Angeles might be the worst of any American city I’ve ever witnessed. It is disgraceful the City of Los Angeles/State of California has not capitalized on the ‘tiny house movement’ to tackle the homeless problem. The result is the distinctive urine aroma of MacArthur Park.

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American Cement Company Building (now Concrete Studio Lofts) on Wilshire Boulevard in MacArthur Park area (Photo: Mark David Major).

False advertising at the Park Plaza Hotel across the street at the northwestern corner of MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. Everything about this building screams ‘courthouse,’ the building envelope (absent the sculptures) echoes the classical architecture of the Hall of Justice in Downtown Los Angeles. However, the Art Deco building designed by Curlett & Beelman was originally for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks as Elks Lodge No. 99. Today, the hotel is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

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Park Plaza Hotel in MacArthur Park area of Los Angeles (Photo: Mark David Major).

Pretend deconstructivism in Kohn Pedersen Fox’s facade design for  the Petersen Automotive Museum along Museum Row of the Miracle Mile on Wilshire Boulevard in La Brea, Los Angeles. It is a big red box building with vertical, metal sliding covered by a false ‘piggly wiggly’ facade. The building is dramatic from faraway but extremely disappointing up close, especially the big red parking garage at the back, which creates a blank wall along the long length of a full urban block on South Fairfax Avenue.

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Petersen Automotive Museum on Museum Row of the Miracle Mile of Wilshire Boulevard in La Brea, Los Angeles (Photo: Mark David Major).

A common theme of historic buildings in Los Angeles is gorgeous (often Art Deco) high-rise buildings with converted or attached ground level retail units at the base. There is nothing wrong with the impulse but it is often accomplished so poorly (in terms of design) that it is akin to the most beautiful woman who ever lived (BTW, that would be Audrey Hepburn) garishly painting her toe nails like a common street whore. There is a lot of this type of ‘architectural whoring’ going on in Los Angeles.

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Art Deco building on Wilshire Boulevard in Koreatown (Photo: Mark David Major).

We conclude this eclectic photo essay of Los Angeles Architecture with some cools things: a ‘green wall’ along the street facade of an Modernist apartment building in Beverly Hills and the Art Deco styling of the building typology for the Observation Pit Building at the La Brea Tar Pits, which was recently reopened after being closed for twenty years.

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‘Green wall’ along the street facade of an apartment building in Beverly Hills (Photo: Mark David Major).
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Art Deco styling of the building typology for the Observation Pit Building at the La Brea Tar Pits (Photo: Mark David Major).
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PHOTO ESSAY | Downtown Los Angeles

There are few cities in the world more perplexing than Los Angeles. The reasons are many. The Outlaw Urbanist will take a closer look at some of those reasons in a multi-part, photo essay series. Today, we begin with Downtown L.A., which uniquely combines fascination and frustration for any architect, urban designer, and planner with a good conscience.

Downtown L.A. could be incredible urbanism. In fact, it should be incredible urbanism. Instead, it comes across as lazy. Downtown L.A. is alive but not necessarily well. It has ‘good bones’ including some stunning pre-World War II buildings. However, Downtown L.A. desperately needs large doses of TLDC (tender, loving design care), which appears somewhat lacking at the moment.

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View along S. Broadway in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

There were actually a LOT of people in Downtown L.A. on a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon, especially to the south in the Jewelry District. The street level of many buildings has been converted into small, retail units. However, it is haphazardly done for the most part. On one hand, it is good to see the people and retail units. On the other hand, it is such low rent quality that it deters from the innate advantages of the building space above. There are a lot of historic buildings in Downtown L.A. BEGGING for rehabilitation. A few renovations are progressing but not nearly enough. It is deeply frustrating. A lot of the new buildings are design disasters that most often successfully promulgate blank walls in downtown.

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Pre-World War II building in the process of renovation (Photo: Mark David Major).
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Conversion of ground level entry space into small, low quality retail units at the historic Palace Theater building in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

Given the history and money surrounding the film industry in Los Angeles, you would think residents and the city would take more care in rehabilitating the plenitude of old historic movie theaters but most often it appears to have been mindlessly done (e.g. Palace Theater above and Los Angeles Theater below) on a ‘cash in’ basis only.

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Conversion of ground level entry space into small, low quality retail units at the historic Los Angeles Theater building in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).
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Internal street arcade in the Jewelry District of Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

The gorgeous Bradbury Building (below) in Downtown L.A. was designed by Sumner Hunt and designated an architectural landmark in 1977. Its interior and rooftop were the settings for the climatic scenes of Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Blade Runner (1982).

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Bradbury Building designed by Sumner Hunt in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

The government sector to the north in Downtown L.A. effectively demonstrates the danger of single-use districts. Whereas the Jewelry District was populated and lively on a Sunday afternoon, the government sector was deader than a graveyard, except for the cars racing through the area.

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Distant view of the Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).
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View of Los Angeles City Hall in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

Los Angeles City Hall (above) was the exterior for the Daily Planet in the old Adventures of Superman series from the 1950s. The O.J. Simpson criminal trial occurred in the building to the left in 1994-95.

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Hall of Justice in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).

The Modernist building where the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is housed in the government sector has a plaza attached to it, working hard at being as empty as the day it first opened, no doubt. The ironic symbolism seems appropriate.

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Modernist plaza attached to the Administration building containing the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning in Downtown L.A. (Photo: Mark David Major).
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