Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welton Becket's Los Angeles

Prolific L.A. architect Welton Becket (1902-1969) designed dozens of buildings in Los Angeles between the 1930s and 1960s that reflected and shaped a distinctive L.A. aesthetic.

Becket built the Cinerama Theater on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard in 1963. The Cinerama is modeled on the geodesic dome design by inventor/architect/engineer/artist Buckminster Fuller and it is the earliest and the largest geodesic dome theater in the world. ArcLight Cinemas re-opened the Cinerama in 2002 after installing extra-comfy seats, upgrading the acoustics, and adding additional theaters in the adjacent building. The Cinerama is still a popular location for Hollywood movie openings.

In the 1950s, people in Southern California liked buildings to be shaped like whatever was sold or made in the building. There are still donut shops here that have giant donuts on top of them and hot dog stands shaped like hot dogs (somewhat more distastefully, there is even a parking enforcement building in West L.A. that is shaped like a parking meter). Welton Becket's Capitol Records building in Hollywood was completed in 1956 and was the world's first round office building. Its 12 circular stories and wrap-around shades are supposed to look like a stack of records:

The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, built in 1959, includes six 72-foot high concrete masts that are reminiscent of 1950's Cadillac fins. Behind the giant masts and the entrance canopy, a cast concrete grille runs the length of the building and gives the facade a beautiful, delicate look.

At the downtown Los Angeles Performing Arts Center, Becket built the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion between 1964 and 1969 with a gently swooping roof:

Across the plaza from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Becket-designed Mark Taper Auditorium, also built between 1964 and 1969, consists of a circular theater surrounded by a dark blue moat and a free-standing, square-shaped colonnade. The circular drum of the theater is encased in a 378-foot long cast concrete relief in an abstract pattern:

The Schoenberg Hall at the Herb Alpert School of Music, which appeared in my blog post on UCLA, was built by Welton Becket in 1955 and is decorated with a mosaic by modern artist Richard Haines:


  1. I had no idea Becket played such a large role in the creation of a particular, iconic L.A. aesthetic. This is a great blog--thanks!

  2. Thank you for creating this posting on Welton Becket

  3. My mother worked for Becket, and always likes to read about any of his buildings. Thanks for posting.

  4. Nice to know about someone who designed such cool buildings.