Friday, February 13, 2009

Looking Forward/Looking Backward

How to represent architecture of the future?  Would you look to Los Angeles?  The structure most frequently utilized as a setting in science fiction films is actually the oldest extant commercial building in L.A.'s central city (Broadway and Third Street).  Designed by George H. Wyman for real estate millionaire Lewis Bradbury, it was completed in 1893 and was inspired by Edward Bellamy's novel Looking Backward 2000-1887 (first edition 1888), which describes a utopian building of the future as "a vast hall of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides but from the dome, the point of which was a hundred feet above. . . the walls [. . . ] in mellow tints to soften without absorbing the light which flooded the interior."

Wyman incorporated gold and rose-hued glazed brick, golden oak, yellow tiles, brown terra cottta and rose marble to evoke California's warm natural light.  Cast iron balconies diminish in scale as one approaches the clerestory, thus exagerrating the interior height.  To read Charlie Jane Anders' piece on the building's appearance in SF places (not just utopias), click here.  To read the building's 1977 nomination for National Register of Historic Places status, which includes a (now dated) bibliography, click here.

My thanks to Texas A & M Science Fiction Curator Hal W. Hall for the information!

Image:  Marvin Rand, photographer.  Bradbury Building (304 South Broadway, Los Angeles, CA, 1893). HABS photograph CA-334-12 taken 1965.  

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