Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bradbury Building

The 1893 Bradbury Building, which was commissioned by mining millionaire Lewis Bradbury and built by novice architect George Wyman, is the oldest commercial building in downtown Los Angeles. The building's 50-foot high interior atrium features beautiful carved wood, terracotta tiles, and intricate wrought-iron grillwork.

The architect's inspiration for the design came in part from the 1887 science fiction novel Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. The novel, which is set in the year 2000 and envisions the United States as a socialist utopia, describes buildings with interior atriums lit by natural light.

In the last several decades, the Bradbury Building has become a science fiction icon. A quick internet search finds it described as "the most famous building in science fiction" and a "real-life steampunk palace." The building has featured prominently in numerous comic books, television shows, and movies such as Blade Runner. Marvel Comics, along with the Los Angeles Police Department's Office of Internal Affairs, is one of the tenants that currently rents office space in the building.

The atrium has two open-cage elevators that originally ran on steam power. Here is a side view of one of the elevators traveling up the open-cage shaft:

Some closeups of the French-made ironwork:

Here is a view down into the lobby from the first floor landing. The lobby floor tiles are Mexican and the marble in the stairways is from Belgium.

In contrast to the ornate interior, the building's exterior is in the plain Romanesque style favored on the East Coast at the end of the 19th century:

There is more information about the history of the Bradbury Building on the Public Art in L.A. website. The building is located on the corner of 3rd Street and Broadway and is open to the public daily from 9-5. The offices in the building are still in use so visitors are only allowed in the lobby and up to the first landings on the stairwells.

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  1. I've not been to the Bradbury building since I was nine. You really are making the rounds.
    You might enjoy the blog "Big Orange Landmarks"

  2. Very much enjoyed these photos. Spent two weeks in LA downtown in 1999 at the Federal Courthouse in an infamous adventure as an expert witness and, boy, my sanity would have surely benefited from visiting these buildings, especially the Bradbury. Did manage to see the Park Plaza Hotel across from Mac Arthur Park on Wilshire in Pico Union - another glorious Art Deco creation but no longer a hotel I believe.