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Making a Big Deal About Tower's Design

July 22, 1990

Leon Whiteson's criticism of the First Interstate tower is simply wrong. Its architects have designed an elegant facade without being fussy. Whiteson laments "inadequate detailing," but a more intricate treatment would detract from the serenity of the facade--which accomplishes a massive task of enclosure with grace.

Many of the features Whiteson finds objectionable are examples of good design. For example, Whiteson argues that the main lobby entrance (at 5th Street) is obscured by the multistory illuminated glass wedges outside its recessed doors. These "light fins" are very interesting architectural elements that create a sense of both procession and enclosure. They "cloak," which is an appropriate and delightful way of entering this obelisk to commerce, far superior to a solution that would carry the facade as a solid wall down to ground level.

Admittedly, the entry at the north (Bunker Hill) side of the tower is weak. It may have been preferable to continue the bold south side motif (which Whiteson disliked) around the west facade of the building and up to this entrance. This would have surrounded the building on its public sides with an ascending screen of large forms.

L.A.'s straight gigantic version of the Leaning Tower would have had a crooked base if this were done. As it is, however, the humble top-of-the Bunker Hill entrance is a nice counterpoint--like the servants entrance to a very ornate mansion. I've always liked back doors.

Out of their constraints, the architects have created a composition of subtle elegance. Over time, this building will be recognized as one of the great successes of the Postmodern period. Bravo!

BOB SARNOFF

Los Angeles

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