No Further West: The Design of Los Angeles Union Station | KCET
No Further West: The Design of Los Angeles Union Station
There was a time when the heady romance of travel wasn't just felt in a certain destination, but it was also imbibed in the ways we got from point A to point B. In the first half of the twentieth century, railways stretched across Europe and America; ocean liners that competed with each other in elegance, glided across the Atlantic. The Getty's recently opened exhibition recaptures a bit of that Old World elegance.
Recently opened beneath the opulent ceilings and tasseled lamplights of the Los Angeles Public Library's Central Library, "No Further West: The Story of Los Angeles Union Station" transports viewers to another place and time, when union stations (where one or more railways would share stations) became signs that a city "has arrived." Washington D.C.'s Union Station, New York City's Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal, and Kansas City, Missouri's Union Station were just a few whose civic buildings intended to project increasing political relevance.
Then viewed as a simple pueblo, Los Angeles wouldn't be content to stand behind. Civic leaders rallied to bring three transcontinental railroads -- the Southern Pacific Railroad, Santa Fe Railway, and Union Pacific Railroad -- all under one roof and furthermore, to create, a union station that would borrow from the famed Beaux-Arts style as well as the California's Mission heritage to design something uniquely Los Angeles. Building a Union Station would also arguably increase the safety of Angelenos by minimizing railroad tracks that met the regular roadways.
It would take nearly 30 years to plan and build the station, but its end product was a seamless mix of Mission Revival, Southwest, Spanish and Art Deco styles that could easily have been a misguided mess.
Los Angeles's Union Station wasn't the work of just one or two architects, but a conglomeration of architects with representatives from each of the railroads, and consulting architects John and Donald Parkinson, who already had several train station projects including those for Caliente, Nevada and Ogden, Utah, under their belt.
Though the structure can be attributed to the Parkinsons, Edward Warren Hoak conceived many of the station's key design features. An artist and draftsman with an engineering background from California Institute of Technology and University of Pennsylvania, his freehand drawings and more, meticulous line drawings would become the foundation on which many decisions were made. "No Further West" is peppered with his beautiful work, showing plans for the Union Station tower, light fixtures, and information booths.
In one, Hoak captured the intended grandeur of the station's arrival and departure lobbies at the rear of the station, as well as the sense of anticipation from well-suited men in fedoras and frocked women making their way to and from their terminals. In another rendering, Hoak's precise hand sketched out the scroll-like Art Deco ornament that adorned each corner of the entryway to Mail, Baggage and Express areas. Hoak's hand seemed sure and certain, confident in the future potential of what he was designing.
Though Hoak's finally given credit in this exhibition, many more draftsmen and architects remain nameless. Almost all of the Getty Research Institute's 6,500 architectural drawings, sketches and blueprints were unsigned, were made anonymously by architects and draftsmen who worked for the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal Agency, the corporation comprising the three railroad companies involved in the venture.
It was an unknown draftsman that helped render the Union Station's 850-foot long façade, which we walk past every day on Alameda street. His deft hand showed a Union Station where the high-ceiling-ed concourse and clock tower could co-exist with the two-story buildings and arcades on either side. Clear lines depict the station's complex grillwork, crosshatching show where tiles might go. Small notes in elegant handwriting indicated the minutia involved in a large undertaking. Every note was a reminder that someone had labored with just pencil, paper and few tools over this meticulous plan.
In another, yet another nameless artisan, drew the inlaid compass medallion patterns that would eventually grace the floors of the Union Station. Interlocking lines, loops and basket weave patterns seem to dance in unfailing, repetitious harmony. It is a task now more easily done with computers, but there was none of that then.
Iconic architecture nowadays is often seen as a one-man or two-man undertaking, where a single source was the fountainhead of genius, but "No Further West" reminds viewers that design is a collective affair that borrows from the labor of many.
Watch our special on "Invisible Cities," the avant-garde opera performed at Union Station:
Read more about Union Station and "Invisible Cities:"
Invisible Cities: The Dematerialization of the Opera
Artistic director Yuval Sharon details his inspiration for "Invisible Cities," and the endless possibilities opened up by the use of headphones. The presence of wireless technology in the experimental work creates a new operatic experience -- and maybe even expands the definition of opera.
Invisible Cities: The Science of a Silent Opera
Sound designer Martin Gimenez explains the challenges of getting wireless technology to deliver the extraordinary sonic experience that befits the unconventional opera.
Invisible Cities: Composing an Opera for Headphones
In composing the music for "Invisible Cities," Christopher Cerrone created many levels of orchestral detail that would evoke the elaborate and fantastical places that Calvino imagines.
Invisible Cities: The Choreography of Union Station
Dancers in "Invisible Cities" execute an array of moves in Union Station that range from rigorous solos to improvisational and hip-hop-like explosions, to glacially slow stances.
Finding Space in the Inferno: Observations on Calvino's 'Invisible Cities'
Union Station is an ideal place to realize the opera "Invisible Cities," an adaptation of Italo Calvino's book about relationships between built environments and social and economic life.
Yurok relationships with other people and with land, water, animals, and plants form an extremely complex network of moral obligations. People care for all of their family members, and their kin — including condors and salmon — reciprocate the care.
Astrophysicist Andrea Ghez, user experience designer Evan Sullivan, and choreographer Kyle Abraham talked about everything from what it means to be creative to how we can overcome creative fears.
Places like Taylor Yard give us a window to explore ways to balance the city's critical needs for green space, livable space and climate change strategies.
A Q&A will immediately follow the screening with actor Susan Kelechi Watson and production designer Jade Healy.
- 1 of 220
- next ›
From the typeface of “The Godfather” book cover to the Noguchi table, the influence of Japanese American artists and designers in postwar American art and design is unparalleled. Learn how the World War II incarceration affected their lives and creations.
"Artbound" looks at the dinnerware of Heath Ceramics and a design that has stood the test of time since the company began in the late 1940’s.
Inspired by Oaxacan traditions, Dia de Los Muertos was brought to L.A. in the '70s as a way to enrich and reclaim Chicano identity. It has since grown in proportions and is celebrated around the world.
Gospel music would not be what it is today if not for the impact left by Los Angeles in the late 60’s and early 70’s, a time defined by political movements across the country.
A behind-the-scenes look at the contemporary art world through the eyes of a legendary art dealer and curator, Jeffrey Deitch.
- 1 of 11
- next ›