Thursday, March 10, 2016

Prudential Square

Prudential Square, 1949. Photo by Adelbert Bartlett 

I've always loved this majestic building at Wilshire Boulevard and Curson Avenue on the Miracle Mile of Los Angeles. Prudential Square was built in 1949 by the architectural firm of Wurdeman and Becket. Here is a description of the building from the Los Angeles Conservancy:
A 1949 cover story in Arts & Architecture magazine called Prudential Square, "a symbol of Los Angeles and the western way of life."
Prudential Square, 1949. Photo by Adelbert Bartlett
Designed by the renowned Los Angeles firm of Wurdeman and Becket, this building spanned two city blocks and held 517,000 feet of office and retail space, making it the tallest and largest privately owned structure in the city when it opened.
The building altered the character of the Miracle Mile from a shopping destination to a white-collar office district. Its International Style design also marked a stylistic change for its architects. 
The Prudential building is composed of two asymmetrical wings flanking a central, windowless shaft. The shaft contains electrical and mechanical services, which are often underground but were placed above ground here due to the site's proximity to the La Brea Tar Pits.
The building's tower originally held the western headquarters of Prudential Insurance. A portion of the east wing housed Ohrbach's department store until 1965, when the store relocated to another Becket design down the street, the former Seibu Department Store (now the Petersen Automotive Museum).
Prudential eventually left its namesake building, leaving behind a memento in the cornerstone of the main lobby: an actual piece of the Rock of Gibraltar, the company's corporate symbol. The building has been altered over time but still retains its basic shape and form, as well as one unique aspect. 
Prudential Square, 1950. Security Pacific National Bank Collection
Today, this is called Museum Square and houses the Screen Actors Guild offices along with other retail establishments, including restaurants and shops. I was saddened to see Marie Callender's Restaurant move into one of the shop spaces in the mid 1980s and totally change the front of this beautiful modern design to their own idea of a mock-Victorian building. The only redeeming feature of this place is the mural inside depicting what the Miracle Mile looked like in the 1930s. Save the mural, bring the building back to it's stream-lined modernity!
1930s-style Mural inside Marie Callender's Grille, Miracle Mile

Museum Square, 2016

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