Standing in the shadows of the skyscrapers of downtown Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill area, it’s hard to imagine what the neighborhood once was: a quiet, upscale community, with elegant Victorian homes that housed the city’s social elite.
How times have changed.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, with the city’s population soaring and the neighborhood’s residents relocating to other parts of the city, Bunker Hill underwent a major redevelopment. Streets were reconfigured and the once-stately houses were razed, replaced with the towering corporate skyscrapers that we see today, in what is now a major financial center.
These sleek glass and steel Corporate International Style buildings are on display this summer, as the Los Angeles Conservancy hosts weekly Modern Skyline Walking Tours as part of the Getty initiative Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. (You can read more about this initiative, and check out a tour I took of the modern residential architecture of Pasadena, Calif.)
Earlier this month, I joined a dozen or so other architecture enthusiasts for one of these guided tours, and in the weeks following, I have found myself looking at Bunker Hill in a totally new light. What I once saw as a tangle of one-way streets and too-tall, monolithic buildings is now a beautiful collection of modern shapes and textures that showcase the last century’s changing aesthetic tastes and innovations in engineering.
While we stared up at these structures, our docent got us thinking: What makes a “good” addition or alteration to a historic building? What are the benefits -- and the pitfalls -- of adaptively reusing historic structures? And why is it so important that we save them?
See what you think as you explore some of the photos captured from this tour, and leave your impressions in the comments!