In his mid-century heyday, Southern California architect William L. Pereira was so famous that his portrait appeared on the cover of Time Magazine. His firm’s high-profile commissions included the LAX Theme Building, CBS Television City, The Disneyland Hotel, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Marineland of the Pacific, The Los Angeles Times Corporate Headquarters, UC Irvine campus plan and many more.
But today, Pereira’s name is most often heard when one of his buildings faces the wrecking ball. Earlier this year, preservationists lamented the potential destruction of the L.A Times Corporate Headquarters (1973) for a residential tower. LACMA has proposed knocking down the architect’s original museum campus (1965) for a new Wilshire-spanning building by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. And a notice of intent to file a demolition permit recently appeared on the fence outside the Metropolitan Water District Headquarters (1963), an action temporarily halted by the submission of an Historic Cultural Monument nomination; on September 15, the unbalanced Cultural Heritage Commission deadlocked at 2-2, leaving the campus vulnerable to demolition.
Concerned that several architecturally significant examples of William Pereira’s work simultaneously faced possible destruction, this summer architect and architectural historian Alan Hess teamed up with historic Los Angeles tour company Esotouric to raise consciousness about Pereira through a series of free site visits and illustrated lectures. Past events include well-attended programs at the Metropolitan Water District Headquarters and LACMA, and attendance at the MWD landmarking hearing. Video of all of these events can be found on Esotouric’s Pereira in Peril page (http://esotouric.com/pereira)
Encouraged by the great public interest in the architect’s mid-century work, and the need to raise awareness of the imminent threat to many of his important Southern California commissions, Hess and Schave are hosting a third, free “Pereira in Peril” site visit and talk: about the Los Angeles Times’ Corporate Headquarters (1973) on Sunday, October 30 at 1:00 pm, as part of Schave’s free monthly LAVA Sunday Salon and Broadway on My Mind walking tour series.
The public is invited to come learn about the history of the Los Angeles Times compound, an interlocking series of three architecturally significant buildings, none of which are currently protected by an historic landmark designation. With the recent sale of the Times complex to Vancouver developer Onni Group, Pereira fans are particularly concerned about the possible loss or alteration of the architect’s 1973 addition, but all of the buildings are at risk.
The first half of the event will be a LAVA Sunday Salon illustrated lecture in the basement of Grand Central Market, focusing on the development of the Los Angeles Times’ multi-building compound, comprised of the main building (Gordon Kaufmann, 1935), the Times-Mirror tower (Rowland Crawford, 1948) and the corporate headquarters (William L. Pereira, 1973).
Then attendees will walk two blocks north to Times Mirror Square for an on-site discussion of Pereira’s legacy and significance while viewing his 1973 black glass corporate headquarters. This widely misunderstood structure at the northwest corner of the historic Los Angeles Times compound reveals fascinating layers of change in the city’s architectural style, the Chandler family’s relationship with their newspaper and Pereira’s evolution as an architect.
With its future uncertain, there has never been a better time to get to know Times Mirror Square.
The clock is ticking for William Pereira’s iconic Southern California civic architecture. Can the Metropolitan Water District Headquarters be saved from the wrecking ball and the Cultural Heritage Commission compelled to take another vote once its missing, tie-breaking commissioner is replaced? Can LACMA’s leaders be convinced to preserve and improve the existing buildings rather than starting from scratch? Will the L.A. Times buildings’ new corporate owners seek to replace Pereira’s black glass addition with a residential tower? Los Angeles preservationists are holding their breath, hoping for the best and coming together to raise consciousness about a great local master whose work is worth a second look.
Architectural historian Alan Hess and Esotouric tour guide preservationists Kim Cooper and Richard Schave are available for interviews about William Pereira’s LACMA campus, and Metropolitan Water District and Los Angeles Times Corporate Headquarters, and writers on assignment can often be accommodated on the Esotouric tour bus. Esotouric’s crime and literary tour bus rolls in October with Echo Park Book of the Dead (10/15), Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles (10/22) and The Real Black Dahlia (10/29). Contact Kim, firstname.lastname@example.org, 213-373-1947.