Saturday, April 18, 2009

Union Station

Union Station in downtown Los Angeles serves as the city's main train, metro, and bus transit hub. The station, which was built between 1934 and 1939 by a team of architects including John and Donald Parkinson, was the last of the great rail passenger depots built in the United States.

At the end of the 19th century, many Californian artists and writers romanticized the eras of Spanish and Mexican rule, which they envisioned as an idealized, pastoral time before the arrival of the Yankees and the beginning of the industrial age. This interest in the past encouraged Californians to begin conserving, restoring, and then emulating the style of the old Spanish missions. By the early 20th century, the Mission Revival style, which drew inspiration from the missions' tiled roofs, curved archways, arcades, and unadorned white plaster surfaces, was the most popular architectural style in California.

In Union Station, the architects combined traditional Mission Revival forms with a modern, streamlined, Art Deco aesthetic. The main waiting hall has a floor made with inlaid marble and teracotta tiles, 6 iron chandeliers weighing 3000 lbs. each, and original leather Art Deco arm chairs:

A detail of one of the black iron chandeliers and the intricately painted ceiling. The ceiling appears to be constructed of traditional beamed wood, but is actually made of concrete that was painted to resemble wood:

The station is decorated throughout with glossy marble and tile work:

Union Station's integration of indoor and outdoor space is unusually successful for a large urban train station. Doors along both sides of the main waiting hall open out to pleasant outdoor courtyards. The North courtyard's tables, chairs, and benches are an ideal spot for lunch and the South courtyard (pictured below) is a more formal rose garden:

Detail of a tiled bench in the North courtyard:

View Union Station in a larger map


  1. Hi there. I've just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it! Love the Cat of the Week too.

  2. You're really captured Union Station. Actually it's one of the places I have yet to visit, but it's on my long list.

    Thanks for the tour, and the photos. BTW, I don't know if you have a flickr account, but I'd like to invite you to join a new group I just started. It's called Visiting California, so when you have time, please check it out,

  3. This is becoming one of my favorite architecture-art-built-environment-feline-appreciating blogs. Probably the only one I read not written about Philadelphia. Your photos, research, and writing are really transforming the way I've had to think about a city that I assumed was the antithesis of urbanity.

  4. Isn't our station lovely? I'm glad you got a photo of the tiles. I believe they were made by Catalina tiles.