In January Interstate Hotels and Resorts flew me out to Los Angeles to do some work for them. It was a whirlwind trip, photographing four properties over five days + a personal side trip to San Diego, with my friend Jen, to see the Geisel Library and the Salk Institute.
These are my personal photos from Downtown Los Angeles. If you'd like to see the photographs I took for Interstate, they're located here. And if you'd like to see the rest of the photos from this trip you can find them using the links below:
The Westin Bonaventure
In 1976 my experience with architecture had been limited to suburban ranches, old victorian farmhouses, and the occasional antebellum plantation (I grew up in Georgia, after all), so when little 6-year-old me walked into the John C. Portman-designed lobby of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel for the first time my perceptions of what the world could look like just exploded. The experience shaped my visual aesthetic and made me fall in love with concrete and brutalism — a love that still endures to this day.
Mr. Portman designed a trio of nearly identical, silver, cylindrical buildings: one in Atlanta, one in Detroit (the Renaissance Center, now GM’s world headquarters), and one in LA, the Westin Bonaventure, where I am today. I spent my childhood enamored with Peachtree Plaza, in Atlanta, and spent my college years occasionally wandering around the Renaissance Center, in Detroit, so this visit to Bonaventure feels like the completion of one of the story arcs of my life.
I don’t know if I believe in destiny or preordination but I do know that we’re free to assign meaning to whatever events and coincidences we experience in our lives. The fact that I was in LA for work, and was creating art of my own based upon Mr. Portman’s art seems significant and meaningful to me. The hotel opened in 1976, but forty-two years later it still looks and feels like the future to me.
I arrived fully prepared to not like Los Angeles but found myself swept up in her charms rather quickly. Downtown LA reminded me a lot of L'Enfant Plaza, in the District, but larger and with more opportunities to get lost in layer upon layer of sidewalks and pedestrian bridges.
Walt Disney Concert Hall
I'd quite intentionally reserved forming a firm opinion about Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall until I could see it in person. It personified my experience with LA: I want to hate it but am fascinated by it and secretly think I might actually really like it.
It reminds me of a pavilion at EPCOT. (Which maybe is part of the point of the design?) And if it actually were a pavilion at EPCOT I'd love it, no doubt. This makes me confront my own prejudices and preconceptions of what architecture "should be" and what is contextually appropriate within a formal city environment, rather than a fantastical simulation of reality, like EPCOT. (But then again, isn't LA rather fantastical, too?)
But the way it plays with light is otherworldly and gorgeous. And I can't say I'm mad about that.
And a bit of local color.