RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life


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Looking down on Los Angeles

skyspace los angeles

In the very very distance at the left on the top of the mountain you may be able to see a white horizontal splodge. That is the Hollywood Sign. If you look a little to the right you will see another white speck which is the Griffith Observatory.

Almost 30 years ago Library Tower opened as the tallest building in Los Angeles and West of Chicago at 73 stories and 1018 feet (approx 310 m) high. As a Los Angeles Conservancy docent at the time I had the privilege of leading tours around the 72nd story. It was late afternoon. There had been a huge storm the day before. The skies were full of wonderful cloud formations and the view went on forever… from the glittering ocean to the mountains and beyond to the desert. It’s a scene I will always hold in my head.

skyspace los angeles

Wilshire Boulevard at center heading northwest. It jogs to the left around Koreatown to turn west and then runs through Beverly Hills, heads southwest at Westwood Village and then all the way out to the beach at Santa Monica.

It’s now the US Bank Tower but it’s always been an office building closed to the public. New owners took over recently, built some observation decks and installed a glass slide between the 70th and 69th floors and called it OUE Skyspace which is open to the public for the price of a ticket. Above are two views from the observation decks. Below are three photos of the slide.

I was able to get 50% off coupons for up to 16 people and we had 13 in our group so that worked out well. None of us wanted to go on the slide… this time… but there’s always a next time!

I wrote a blog post back in December including a trip to the top of the Wilshire Grand, (you can visit it here) which is claiming to be the tallest building in Los Angeles. In fact, it is a few feet shorter but a mast attached to the top allows it to be called the tallest building. So it’s the fake tallest building in LA. The US Bank Tower is still in reality the tallest. Yes, it bugs me!

The best part is that you can look down on the fake tallest building from the real tallest building observation deck. The fake tallest building is, of course, the one with the mast sticking up above its roofline.

skyspace los angelesUnfortunately, this was a pretty smoggy/hazy day with limited visibility. Otherwise we would have seen the glittering ocean 15 miles away. I just checked Google maps and at 5:20pm (current time) on a Monday afternoon it would take one hour and 20 minutes to drive those 15 miles! Good luck!

skyspace los angeles

This shell-like image is taken by standing on a glass plate at the top of an old elevator shaft on the 54th floor looking down to the ground floor.

skyspace los angeles

So many stories (no pun intended) in these buildings both happy and sad.

Cylinders in the center comprise the 1974 Bonaventure… still one of my favorite hotels in downtown.

Of course, I have to leave you with a photo of the building itself!

us bank tower

One of my favorite views of the US Bank Tower, originally named the Library Tower, next to the Central Library building. These two buildings by themselves tell the story of architecture in Los Angeles.

The real tallest building in LA!

I’ve probably said it before but I will keep saying it: I love exploring downtown LA (and all of LA) as there is so much to discover and learn. I’ve lived in LA all my adult life and I’m still finding new, delightful and surprising things!


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Art Deco – walking with the Los Angeles Conservancy

art deco walk los Angeles

I’ve been a member of the Los Angeles Conservancy for well over 25 years. For 16 of those years I was an architectural walking tour docent, which I enjoyed immensely.

For the rest of September members can reserve spaces on any of the tours (through November) free of charge for themselves and a guest. I haven’t been on a regular LAC walking tour in many years. I led just about all the tours myself and it’s very difficult for me to walk along on another tour guide’s tour! I want to be up front leading the tour!

downtown los angeles

But I decided to take this opportunity to take a friend for free. My friend “S” was willing to accompany me on the Art Deco tour on Saturday. We met at the Culver City Station and took the Expo Line to downtown Los Angeles. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot.

The starting point for the tour was Pershing Square. I’m hoping to write a separate post about this park another time as it is undergoing more changes.

The photo at the top of this post is looking back at the 1923 Millenium Biltmore Hotel with the Pacific Mutual Building to the left built in the same era. This is the first time I’ve noticed the cat over the escalator entrance. This may have something to do with the new children’s playgrounds recently installed in the square.

The second photo shows what used to be known as the Gas Company Tower on the right (buildings annoyingly change names when a major tenant moves in and claims naming rights). In the center is Library Tower (which will soon no longer lay claim to being the tallest building west of Chicago). In front, of course, another view of the Biltmore Hotel.

title guaranty building

So, this is the Art Deco tour! The 1930 Title Guaranty Building was designed by the father and son team of Donald and John Parkinson. They were prolific architects in LA during the 20s and 30s. Like many former office buildings in downtown, Title Guaranty has been converted to residential lofts.  In the background to the left is one of the California Plaza buildings.

During this time period there were two major architectural styles in downtown commercial buildings: art deco and beaux artes. The art deco style is easily recognized by its verticality and set backs.

Click an image below to start a slide show of some details of the building:

Thrifty

I don’t know about people from outside the LA area, but Thrifty Drug Stores were a mainstay of everyday life for many decades. Everybody loved Thrifty ice cream. I go as far back as single cones for a dime, or maybe it was quarter, I don’t quite remember. When the Thrifty stores became Rite Aid, Thrifty ice cream was so ingrained in the hearts of customers that they retained the brand name. You can still buy Thrifty ice cream cones, albeit no longer for a dime or a quarter! (This terrazzo logo remains at the corner of the Title Guaranty Building.)

In LA, the term “art deco” is used as an umbrella term to cover many related styles and versions. At least by me!

Southern California Edison Building

Probably my favorite art deco style building in all of downtown is the Southern California Edison Building or One Bunker Hill, or whatever company is in possession at the time being and bought the naming rights!

Completed around 1931, just as the depression era moved into Los Angeles and put the kabosh on any further expensive, luxury construction. This was the building that convinced me to sign up for the Los Angeles Conservancy docent training program in 1988. After seeing many other gorgeous 1920s/1930s buildings in both the art deco and beaux artes styles, this was icing on the cake.

Built for the Edison company, the architects were Allison and Allison (as a UCLA grad that is a familiar name to me) and it was the most high tech building at the time. No surprise, it was all electric.

Walking around with a group I have a hard time taking the photos I want to capture. I am better at being by myself and taking my time. But hopefully the following photos will give you some sense of why I love this building so much, inside and out. Click on an image to begin slide show:

Some notes on the lobby photos: there are about a billion different kinds of marble used. At one time we had a geologist docent who made an inventory of all the marbles but I no longer have that information at my finger tips. Maybe it’s short of a billion, but at least a LOT!

The windows are composed of multi-pastel-colored panes that imbue a soft, warm light into the space.

The painting by Hugo Ballin is entitled The Apotheosis of Power and depicts the discovery of electricity by Benjamin Franklin and William Gilbert. A hand comes down from the heavens bestowing electricity (power) on the people of Los Angeles. The hand of God or the Southern California Edison Company?

I could write many posts about this building… but we move on. Well, not quite…
downtown los angeles

The 1930s meets the 1990s. By now you recognize the building to the left as Library Tower (US Bank Building). The story of Library Tower is quintessential Los Angeles but I won’t go into the whole story here. Another day…

downtown los angeles

Okay, I could spend a week talking about what is going on in the above photo. The short story is Central Library (see previous blog post here) is in the center, which supplied the air rights to allow Library Tower (peeking in at right) to be built. To the left of the library is the new construction for The Wilshire Grand Center, replacing the old Wilshire Grand Hotel, which promises to overtake Library Tower as the tallest building. Boo hoo… I always liked pointing out Library Tower to visitors. I guess I’ll get over it.

The two black shoe box buildings in the background tell a terrible story. The Los Angeles Conservancy, which does its best to preserve and protect buildings of architectural note, was not around in the 60s when the black and gold Richfield Building, the MOST beautiful art deco building anywhere, was demolished to make way for what were originally known as the Arco Towers. Don’t you just love the towers’ exquisitely intricate design? When I was an LAC docent I had a hard time keeping my opinions to myself! I do hope you will take an extra second to click on the link to see what LA is now sorely missing.

The tour continued on but at this point my stupidity took over. I was trying to change a setting on my camera while walking, listening to the docent and doing my best not to trip and fall flat on my face. I’m still extra cautious after my concussion!

I apparently accidentally hit a button that made me believe my camera had crapped out on me. This was the power of suggestion at work as a few days before I had inadvertently left my camera outside overnight. In the morning it was soaking wet with dew and I was afraid I had damaged it. So instead of continuing to investigate why the camera was not working properly, I decided it was indeed damaged and I stopped taking photos on the tour.

Of course when I got home and thought everything through, I realized it was merely  a wrong setting in the quick menu. In any event, by this time in the morning the sun was very strong and causing a lot of glare on the buildings, so photography would have been limited anyway.

At some point in time I need to make the effort to walk around downtown earlier in the morning and finish up the art deco tour on my own.

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

 


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California Plaza at Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles

california plaza downtown los angeles California Plaza is an office tower, restaurant and courtyard complex located on Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles. It is at the top end of Angels Flight. You can see my blog about that here. california plaza downtown los angeles One California Plaza was completed in 1985 (which actually surprised me) and Two California Plaza was completed in 1992. california plaza downtown los angeles 1992 I knew about as I was still an architectural walking tour docent with the Los Angeles Conservancy. california plaza downtown los angeles Anybody who was anybody in Los Angeles showed up for the gala opening. It was a beautiful evening. I was half the size I am now and wore a little number with a short skirt, plunging neckline and chiffon sleeves… oh, and four inch heels that I favored at the time. california plaza downtown los angelesIn case you are wondering, I’m much more comfortable now in jeans, LL Bean polo shirts and athletic shoes! california plaza downtown los angeles But you’re right, this isn’t about me… The California Plaza complex also includes the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (another blog post), the Colburn School of Performing Arts, the Omni Hotel (at right above)  and a 1.5-acre water court.   California Plaza downtown Los Angeles Free concerts are held here on week days and during the summer in the evenings. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles When Angels Flight is running again you can take the train from Central Market to California Plaza. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles From California Plaza you get a good view of the Subway Building. This is where, back in the good old days you bought a ticket to begin your journey by train throughout the Los Angeles area. We had over 1200 miles of track before the automobile industry destroyed the rail lines. Brenda Levin renovated the building in the 80s. Can you see the faux windows and the guy painting the “windows” (at left)? California Plaza downtown Los Angeles   Above Left: 1991 Gas Company Tower. Center: 1961 AT&T tower. Right: California Plaza. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles California Plaza downtown Los Angeles I couldn’t decide if I liked this photo better with or without the shrubbery so here are both versions! Reflection of Library Tower at right. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles I love wandering around this plaza. On a hot day in downtown the water features make me feel cooler. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles A great place for office workers to eat lunch during the week or to walk around on a Sunday when it is pretty much empty except for a few tourists. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles Above center is a good view of the US Bank building, also known as Library Tower for those of us who know its history. Still the tallest building West of Chicago at 73 floors. California Plaza downtown Los Angeles   In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I love taking photos of architecture and I especially like reflections! los-angeles-downtown-031614-038-C-850px California Plaza downtown Los Angeles This sculpture at California Plaza is called Pre-Natal Memories by Mark di Suvero, 1976-1980.

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!