Friday, March 23, 2007

LA's Civic Center PlanS

At a certain point, it appears that history just keeps repeating itself. We've gotten to that point again in the City of Los Angeles. Last week, Mike over at Franklin Avenue shares the 1933 plan for the Los Angeles Civic Center. Just 5 years after the completion of the monumental City Hall, this master plan for the Civic Center presented an ideal of what the City could be as it grew in the 20th Century. This plan, though, actually was first kicked around starting in 1919, which led to the construction of the tallest building in LA (at that time) and the center piece of this Civic Center.

From 1919 all the way through the 1950s, this plan was revised, reworked and adapted with the different levels of government forcing changes and adding to the mix. At one time time, an airport was planned just north of the then-proposed Union Station (which itself was a controversy and needed the push of Mayor Shaw (who was recalled). This has recently repeated itself as the City & County push to create a park linking the Civic Center from City Hall west to the Music Center via the Grand Avenue Project.

Here are the iterations, layouts, and aspects of the grand civic center plans from the early 1920s through the 1960s:









1952 (an "LA of Tomorrow" proposal)



In the 1930s, a committee of councilmembers and civic leaders were formed to develop this Civic Center. Initially, Temple was aligned farther north then it ended up as seen by this rendering from 1930:

And speaking of history repeating itself: notice the plan for the first convention center back in teh 1930s called for it to be 1) in teh Civic Center and 2) self-funding. Claims never change, but the reality - what actually hapopens - is sometimes far from what's promised. Hence, the issue over the Convention Center Hotel.

And like today as there is controversy of the location of a new police headquarters, back in 1954/55 there was protest by the citizens in Little Tokyo arguing that the eastern expansion of the Civic Center was encroaching into their neighborhood. They argued that they were losing their cultural center (or a portion of it); and they were right. (On your next visit to the Japanese American Museum, check out the artifacts they have related to the growth of the Civic Center into the cultural enclave of Little Tokyo as the Civic Center expanded.):

In the 21st Century, the same ideas and motivations have resurfaced as they did 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Though the players have changed slightly, the issues remain the same whether the altruistic goals or the major complaints. The City continues to try to redefine and reinvent its Civic Center. And in a City like LA - why not? This is the town where reinvention takes center stage. (And remember, as it current exists, our Civic Center is the largest concentration of governement buildings outside of the Mall in Washington, D.C. So, if any Civic Center has the clout to keep dreaming, it's ours!)

Images from the Historical LA Times Archive and the USC Digital Archive.


Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see also the Barton Myers plan from, say 1990, for these spaces.

Scott said...

Note the "subway" under Main Street in the 1922 plan.

And, an airport next to Union Station? Are you kidding me? That's I guess when planes were about 1/20th the size of the current jumbo jets.