Fig & 3rd, note pedestrian bridge and Westin Bonaventure Hotel
Pedestrian bridge is part of the Calvin S. Hamilton Pedway:
"The Calvin S. Hamilton Pedway, as the system is formally known, is a network of elevated walkways that was first presented in the 1970 Concept Los Angeles: The Concept for the Los Angeles General Plan. Hamilton was the city planning director at the time, having taken the position in 1964. The plan, adopted by the city in 1974, promoted dense commercial developments connected to one another by a rapid transit system. The plan was abandoned in 1981 when federal funding for the project was eliminated. Hamilton stepped down from his position in 1985 after a criminal investigation."
"The pedways fall within the Downtown Center Business Improvement District, but the organization's CEO says its strained resources can only cover maintenance crews on the pedways about once a week."
404 South Figueroa Street
Architect: John Portman
Central City Community Plan Area, Los Angeles State Enterprise Zone, Freeway Adjacent Advisory Notice for Sensitive Uses, Greater Downtown Housing Incentive Area, General Plan Land Use ="Regional Center Commercial", Downtown Adaptive Reuse Incentive Area, Bunker Hill Redevelopment Project, w/in 500 feet of USC Hybrid High, Downtown Center Business Improvement District, Central City Revitalization Zone
Assessed Land Val.: $31,878,705
Assessed Improvement Val.: $20,033,803
Last Owner Change: 12/18/95
Last Sale Amount: $260,002
Year Built: 1976
Famous for the elevators, the revolving cocktail lounge, the mirror glass exterior, et cetera et cetera, and for being the star of a famous essay by Fredric Jameson on postmodernism.
Before I get into that, let me just say that what I currently find interesting about the Westin Bonaventure and the urbanism of this section of Figueroa and Bunker Hill in general are the really complex histories about what was happening with and against modernism from the 1950s through the 1980s, especially in Los Angeles, especially with regards to Bunker Hill, housing, car culture, et cetera.
But with the Westin Bonaventure in particular, I'm also interested in visual/formal comparisons with both Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago (1975), the BMW headquarters in Munich (1968–73), and LaForet Harajuku (1975–80).
Or in terms of textures and materials, there's the more local Samuel Goldwyn Theater:
(There used to be a lot more examples in Los Angeles of mirror glass facades combined with concrete, but I feel like a lot have been torn down.)
Because of its dramatic qualities and because of how Jameson explicated them, people don't really talk about this building in the context of Brutalism, even though that style arguably was just as interested in dramatic effects and complexity. (There's also the totally different social uses of the "main" buildings of each style as well, of course.)
Of course, I'm probably just massively ignorant and there are a ton of good books already out there that are full of chapters that explicitly talk about connections between architecture and urban planning in Los Angeles and the UK, with lovely details about Victor Gruen Associates and Milton Keynes and the Barbican and the Glendale Galleria. Even better if they also bring in Metabolism and connections with what was going on in Japan. Particularly since Mori Yoshiko seems a lot more important and successful at building the massive city-in-a-city projects than John Portman, on the whole. Anyway, if so, let me know what they are?
Jameson's essay (or at least the beginning of it):
newleftreview.org/I/146/fredric-jameson-postmodernism-or-... (original version, 1984, sub required)
books.google.com/books?id=oRJ9fh9BK8wC&lpg=PA39&v... (book version, first few pages of the part on the Westin Bonaventure)
books.google.com/books?id=wfd-c0blcb0C&lpg=PA103&... (another book version, w/ an intro by Asa Berger, again the first few pages about the Westin Bonaventure)
More of other people quoting Jameson:
" In Frederick Jameson’s essay on the utterly bizarre Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles, he describes a 'postmodern hyperspace,' an emblem of the 80s trend in which building design hoped to create hermetically sealed miniature cities. At the Bonaventure, human activity is directed in a space threaded with fitness centers, plants that thrive without any natural light and functionless open spaces offering the blank hyperreality of grandeur and respite contained in concrete."
"Citing the example of the Westin Bonaventure hotel in Los Angeles, Jameson argues that 'this latest mutation in space -- postmodern hyperspace -- has finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate surroundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world'. The effect on cultural politics, according to Jameson, is that the subject 'submerged' by this postmodern hyperspace is deprived of the 'critical distance' that makes possible the 'positioning of the cultural act outside of the massive Being of capital.'"
"Its reflective glass façades seemed to disappear into their surroundings. Behind them (for those who could afford it) there opened up a city within a city. Portman’s Hotels—where client, financier, and architect were all one and the same—are for Jameson the epitome of late-capitalist space. He writes of the lobby: 'I am tempted to say that such space makes it impossible for us to use the language of volume or volumes any longer, since these are impossible to seize. ... A constant busyness gives the feeling that emptiness is here absolutely packed, that it is an element within which you yourself are immersed, without any of that distance that formerly enabled the perception of perspective or volume. You are in this hyperspace up to your eyes and your body.'"
Or drawing on Jameson:
"In his book Postmodern Geographies: the reassertion of space in critical social theory (1989), Edward W. Soja describes the hotel as 'a concentrated representation of the restructured spatiality of the late capitalist city: fragmented and fragmenting, homogeneous and homogenizing, divertingly packaged yet curiously incomprehensible, seemingly open in presenting itself to view but constantly pressing to enclose, to compartmentalize, to circumscribe, to incarcerate. Everything imaginable appears to be available in this micro-urb but real places are difficult to find, its spaces confuse an effective cognitive mapping, its pastiche of superficial reflections bewilder co-ordination and encourage submission instead. Entry by land is forbidding to those who carelessly walk but entrance is nevertheless encouraged at many different levels. Once inside, however, it becomes daunting to get out again without bureaucratic assistance. In so many ways, its architecture recapitulates and reflects the sprawling manufactured spaces of Los Angeles' (p. 243-44)."
See also Soja on Jameson on the Westin Bonaventure for the BBC: www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWlu3OlvL58
"Writing from California, Jameson imagined the whole new era was summed up in the alienating 'disorientation' one felt in hotels like John Portman's Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles. Lost in its lobby, without any 'cognitive map,' Jameson found an allegory of a supposedly late phase in capitalism (coming before what?), which explained the kind of space to which French theory had unwittingly been leading us. For architecture, the art closest to capitalism, was the one best able to point out late capitalism's 'totality.' Frank Gehry, for one, was not pleased; more generally, at the very moment Jameson was confidently offering his allegory, architects like Gehry were departing from so-called po-mo (quotationalist, historicist) architecture, often to rediscover modernist strategies. Indeed, the architects that the Museum of Modern Art would group together in a 1988 exhibition as 'deconstructivists' (e.g., Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, and Peter Eisenman) were linked less by any sustained interest in Derrida than by their contempt for postmodernism. Jameson, though, was unable or unwilling to give up the 'totality-allegory' view of works, and in the face of this and other difficulties, he was gradually forced to admit that he no longer knew what to do with the categories modernity and postmodernity. In the absence of new works or ideas to 'totalize,' he tried to look back and reassert the Marxist sources of critical theory, now itself in a late or disappointed state."
—John Rajchman, "Unhappy Returns: John Rajchman on the Po-Mo Decade. (Writing the '80s)," Artforum International, Vol. 41 (2003), No. 8
"The programmed music of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles follows patterns of use typical to that of most programmed music. In the large open expanse of the lobby/atrium, music is always playing in the background. During the mornings and early afternoon typical small jazz group arrangements are played, never with vocals, and as the day progresses and the bar opens for the evening the music slowly shifts towards a more upbeat genre, signaling to the guests that the objectified content of the contemporary nightlife experience is beginning. Speaking to the maître d’ at the reception desk, however, he informed me that the neither the amplitude of the music nor its aesthetic intensity ever crosses above a consciousness level threshold where any guest would be forced to acknowledge its presence."
"Downtown Los Angeles is notoriously quiet in the evening; the streets develop an abandoned, out-of-season feel, and the BonaVista Lounge shared some of this atmosphere. At first we were the only customers. Two people drinking alone in a revolving restaurant -- now there's an existential image for you. . . . It had been a clear, sunny day and now the sky was coalescing into a spectacular sunset. Because we were downtown we had a close-up view of some very untypical Los Angeles features: the few skyscrapers in this essentially low-rise city, shiny corporate blocks; then beyond them were the more familiar Los Angeles sights -- mountains, interweaving freeways, the vast ground-hugging grids of street lights, all bathed in a deep orange light. I wasn't so naïve, or so easily satisfied, as to think that I'd really found the perfect revolving restaurant; but for an hour or so, with the city far below, with a Cloud Buster in my hand, I found it hard to imagine anything better."
"The Westin Bonaventure Hotel looks like something out of Robocop. Typical of architect John C. Portman Junior's style, at its heart is a large atrium and multi-story labyrinth of walkways, shops, and mostly empty seating pods. The building's inward orientation and imposing exterior make it feel, if not as impregnable as a fortress ideally is, something like an arcology, biosphere or space station. It's designed to provide everything one would need for tourists and business travelers within its walls, although most of it shuts down after lunch. I just managed to grab a bánh mì from Mr. Baguette before its closing time of 3:00 pm. Forced to order my food to-go, after wandering around the building I ventured back out into the lawless outlands."