Monday, November 28, 2011

Art Deco Walk

I went on an Art Deco tour this weekend.  It's one of eight walking tours offered by the Los Angeles Conservancy, and the tour's duration is for two and half hours during which we examined nine buildings within a few blocks radius from Pershing Square.  The buildings we saw date back to the mid-1920s to the late 1930s, the height of the Art Deco movement.  Juxtaposed to the examination of Art Deco buildings, we also learned some history of downtown's Beaux-Arts architecture, the predecessor to Art Deco, and how each style differed from the other.  Downtown L.A. architecture is steeped in these art movements, and I enjoyed getting to know some of the more prominent examples.  I particularly liked the Southern California Edison Company Building, now known as One Bunker Hill.  At the time it was built, the Edison Building was one of the world's few all-electric buildings.  Today, it's an office building.

Southern California Edison Company Building
Edison Building. That's our tour docent.

Edison Building portico

All of the buildings we saw are in use today as either commercial buildings or residential structures.  The Los Angeles Conservancy's mission statement states "preservation and reuse strategies" for these historical buildings to save them from demolition.  Pretty awesome.  Here are some more Art Deco examples I saw:
William Fox Building

L.A. Central Library

Oviatt Building

Oviatt Building

Oviatt Building

Sun Realty Building

Sun Realty Building

After the tour ended, I walked to Little Tokyo for lunch.  I wanted to check out Orochon, a ramen joint in the Weller Court shopping center about which my guidebook raved.

Orochon's main gimmick is the various levels of spiciness one can order--I think ranging from #1 to #8--with #1 being the most spicy.  I ordered the salt ramen at heat level #3, which was definitely spicy but not explosively so.  The ramen as a whole was good, but it's not the best I've had.  After lunch, I explored Little Tokyo for a little while and did some shopping.

From Little Tokyo, I headed over to L.A. City Hall.  It was only mentioned on the conservancy tour and wasn't included in the route.  However, the city hall building was also built during the Art Deco era, and at the time, it was the tallest building in L.A.  As I approached city hall, I noticed the news vans and realized that I was witnessing the Occupy L.A. encampment.  I took some pictures.

L.A. City Hall. News vans monitoring Occupy L.A.

I finally headed back to Pershing Square where I had parked my car.  Along the way, I dropped into The Last Bookstore where I bought some books.  When I finally made it back to Pershing Square, I took a break to eat my Thrifty Rite Aid ice cream cone (two scoops--chocolate and rainbow sherbet) and to watch the ice skaters in the rink that the city puts up annually.

In all, it was a satisfyingly full day.  I thought it appropriate that I focus my inaugural post on an exploration of downtown L.A.  More than any part of L.A., I always felt both a challenge and an annoyance of downtown, with its cramped scuzziness and confusing one-way streets.  It was a part of town best to be avoided, as far as I was concerned.  Anyway, I've by no means seen all of it, but it was a successful first date, and I look forward to more exploration.