Glendale Municipal Services Building

GCC 01 Crnr Full

LA has a remarkable architectural history. For decades writers and photographers have been documenting our homes and hotels, coffee shops and car washes, but there are still plenty of buildings that haven’t gotten nearly the attention they deserve. A prime example is the Glendale Municipal Services Building. It’s kind of surprising, given that the GMSB sits right out in the open at the corner of Glendale and Broadway, and that one of LA’s best known architectural firms was involved in the design.

The side of the building facing Broadway.

The side of the building facing Broadway.

Northwest corner of the building.

Northwest corner of the building.

Probably part of the reason for its neglect is that it’s in Glendale. When most people think about LA architecture, they think of Downtown or Hollywood or the West Side. Generally speaking, the Valley isn’t seen as a hotbed of innovation in design, though it does have its share of interesting structures. No question, the GMSB is one of them.

The building is lifted above street level by pylons of steel and concrete.

The building is lifted above street level by pylons of steel and concrete.

A close-up of one of the pylons.

A close-up of one of the pylons.

Stairway leading to the first level.

Stairway leading to the first level.

The fountain at the center of the courtyard.

The fountain at the center of the courtyard.

Another shot of the stairway.

Another shot of the stairway.

In surfing the net, I didn’t come up with a lot of information about the GMSB. Every web site I’ve been to mentions both Merrill Baird and the A.C. Martin firm. Baird is pretty obscure. It seems not much is known about him. The only other examples of his work I could uncover were a few homes, all in pretty traditional styles. Based on what I’ve seen, his involvement in a cutting-edge modern structure like the GMSB is pretty surprising.  It seems he had more to offer than his previous work suggests.  The Los Angeles Conservancy’s web site credits Baird with revealing the supporting pylons by removing decorative columns that were originally part of the GMSB’s design. Click on the link below to read more.

Municipal Services Building from LA Conservancy

All offices open onto the central atrium.

All offices open onto the central atrium.

A decorative pattern is worked into the railing.

A decorative pattern is worked into the railing.

There are three stories of offices, but the building is lifted off the ground at its base by concrete supports. To enter the GMSB, you walk down into the central courtyard, and then use the stairs or the elevator to get to the upper floors. All the offices open onto the central atrium, and there are plenty of windows allowing workers to enjoy natural light. Even though traffic is constantly flowing on the surrounding streets, the space at the center of the building is quiet and peaceful.

A shot of the fountain from above.

A shot of the fountain from above.

And a shot of the stairway from above.

And a shot of the stairway from above.

Walkway on the third level.

Walkway on the third level.

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The Conservancy’s web site describes the building as brutalist. While some of its features connect it to that school, it doesn’t have the heavy, blunt appearance of other brutalist structures. Generally the apartment blocks and office buildings built in that style tend to dominate the landscape. But not this one. It has a totally different vibe. It illuminates the landscape.

GCC 50 Glndl Side

Another One Bites the Dust

Oswald Bartlett House, Los Feliz

Oswald Bartlett House, Los Feliz

Got this in my e-mail this morning. More bad new for those who care about LA’s history.

Press Advisory, Immediate Release

DEVELOPER SET TO DEMO LA’S CULTURAL HISTORY

Reprieve Denied: Historic Oswald Bartlett House Goes Down Today

WHAT: Demolition of the 100-year-old Oswald Bartlett House is set to begin today and members of the community are expected to be present to document and bear witness to the house’s undeserved and sad destruction in the middle of the season when Jews and Christians celebrate – instead of destroy – their history and traditions.

WHEN: Demolition work is set to begin at 7 am, today, Thursday, December 18, 2014.

WHERE: 1829 N. Kenmore Ave., Los Angeles – the Los Feliz neighborhood

BACKGROUND: The Oswald Bartlett House has been recognized by preservationists as a pristine and rare example of architect A.C. Martin’s work. Martin, one of Los Angeles’ leading architects in the first half of the 20th century, designed LA City Hall and a half-dozen other notable structures now designated as landmarks. The Bartlett House was designed by Martin for a friend and is a rare example of Martin’s youthful work in domestic design; his more lasting reputation was founded on his design of major public and religious buildings. Despite the recognition by experts of the cultural and historic significance of the Bartlett House, City Hall turned a deaf ear to the experts (including the LA Conservancy) and community’s appeals to spare the house from demolition to make way for a six-unit townhome project whose building entitlements were gained through misrepresentations about the historic nature of the Bartlett House. Last Wednesday the City Council gave the developer, a business ally of one of Mayor Garcetti’s top campaign fundraisers, the green-light to proceed with demolition. Today the sledgehammers and bobcats will start taking the house down.

For Additional Information Contact:
John Schwada, MediaFix Associates
john.schwada@gmail.com
310 709-0056
310 597-9345 w

So one more historic building bites the dust. Garcetti seems determined to let developers have their way, no matter the cost to the city’s cultural heritage. Some of you may remember that the Mole-Richardson building on La Brea was recently demolished, in spite of the fact that it was a classic art deco building by Morgan, Walls and Clements. If you missed that story, here’s a link to a piece on Curbed.

Art Deco Buidling Destroyed

Other historic structures currently being threatened are the Warner Pacific Theatre, the Mosaic Church, and the Chase Bank building at the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights. But who cares about history, when you can have a shiny, new mixed-use skyscraper?

The photo of the Oswald Bartlett House was taken by Michael Locke, who has spent a fair amount of time documenting the Los Feliz area. To see more of his work, click on the link below.

Michael Locke at Flickr