Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Tuesday, February 26


Looking back through my photos from a trip to LA last November, I found some of Union Station.  This grand building was recommended as a must-see during our visit.  Coincidentally we needed to drop off a friend who was catching a train to San Diego, so I took a bit of time to photograph some detail shots of this Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 101.

Replacing La Grande Station and Central Station, both built in the early 1900s, LA Union opened in 1939 and was designed by a number of different architects resulting in a number of different architectural styles; Dutch Colonial Revival meets Mission Revival meets Streamline Moderne.  It is a strange and interesting combination of contrasting time periods, motifs and materials.  The terracotta tiles, inlaid travertine marble, eclectic clock faces, eight-pointed star motif, and painted wood ceiling are conflicting aesthetics which, in my mind, speaks to a conflicted origin.  

Wikipedia tells me that in 1926, the citizens of LA voted between a new vast network of elevated railways or the construction of this much smaller Union Station to consolidate the railroad terminals.  The election took on racial controversy as the proposed location for the new railway hub was in the original Chinatown, which many conservative citizens wished to dissolve.  The vote was close, at 51 to 48 percent in favour of Union Station, which meant that much of Chinatown was demolished.

Often successful design is the product of a clear and focused vision.  In this case the design was born from many visions, and the final result is aesthetically unclear and unfocused.  Though, I would not call this building unsuccessful. I do think it accurately represents the diversity and complicated history of its city.

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