Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Water and Power Building

Photo from the internets.

The Water and Power Building is one of my favorite buildings in downtown Los Angeles, rivaled only by the Bradbury Building, the Bonaventure Hotel, and the Los Angeles Theater. To my knowledge, it was first discovered by the movies in Omega Man, but it has recently been used by Inception as well. I loved seeing it in Inception, but I do worry that its use there was slightly unmotivated. In terms of shitty uses of awesome locations, however, it's hard to compete with 500 Days of Summer's use of the Bradbury Building.

Two quick things about the building:

1. As I understand it, it was originally designed to have all of its lights on all the time, so that it would simply glow at night. In the photos I've seen of what this looks like (which I can't seem to find online), the sheer beauty that results from this effect is a partial argument against environmentalism.

2. In what has quickly become my favorite book about L.A., Reyner Banham has this to say about the Water and Power Building:

"[T]he only public building in the conventional sense of the word, the only public building in the whole city that genuinely graces the scene and lifts the spirit (and sits in firm control of the whole basis of human existence in Los Angeles) [is] the Water and Power Building of 1964 by Albert C. Martin and Associates. In daylight it is a conventional rectangular office block closing the end of an uninspired civic vista and standing in an altogether ordinary pool full of the usual fountains, but at night it is transformed. Darkness hides the boredoms of the civic centre and from the flanking curves of the freeways one sees only this brilliant cube of diamond-cool light riding above the lesser lights of downtown. It is the only gesture of public architecture that matches the style and scale of the city." (116)


Mkunde said...

I just saw 'Inception' tonight. Was the water and power building, the one that Leo and his wife wanted as their dream house when they were living in their dream world?

Charles P. Everitt said...

Yep. It leads to one slightly contrived bit of dialogue as they walk up to it for the first time. DiCaprio's character says something like 'In real life, we would have to choose between different housing styles, but not in a dream'. I think this was meant to explain how it's a corporate building from the outside, but when they go inside it turns into the single story house on the top of a hill that we've seen earlier in the movie.