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Six Other Contributions to L.A.’s Architectural Heritage From Parker Center Architect Welton Becket

Architect Welton Becket’s Parker Center has been the subject of intense debate since 2013 over whether to preserve or demolish it – a question complicated by its infamous past. The office building, completed in 1955, is the former Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) headquarters and bears the name of the department’s controversial chief, the late William H. Parker. As D. J. Waldie has written here, the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission recommendation to designate Parker Center as a historic-cultural monument now awaits approval by the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee – a wait that could last through mid-February.

However, Becket’s contributions to L.A.’s architectural heritage are not all so politically charged. The following is a compilation of some of his most prominent architectural feats. Even if you’re unfamiliar with his Parker Center, you’ll probably recognize one of masterpieces below.

Image above: 1952 architectural rendering of Parker Center, courtesy of the USC Libraries – Los Angeles Examiner Collection

Pegasus Apartments/General Petroleum Building (1949)

General Petroleum Building (Pegasus Apartments)
Drawing, dated 1949, courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.

The General Petroleum Building was the first major office building constructed in downtown L.A. after World War II. Spanning an entire block along Flower Street, it was designed in a late-modernist style, along with the interior finishing, by Becket and partner Walter Wurderman. Originally home to Mobil Oil, the building is known today as Pegasus Apartments, a name that pays homage to the winged symbol of its previous occupant.

Capitol Records Tower (1956)

Capitol Records Tower
Undated photo courtesy of the USC Libraries – California Historical Society Collection.

The first circular office tower on earth was built in Los Angeles. Designed by Welton Beckett and Associates, the Capitol Records Tower boasts another distinction: it housed the West Coast’s first major record label. 

Seibu Japanese Department Store/Petersen Automotive Museum (1962)

Seibu Japanese Department Store
Photo, dated 1962, courtesy of the Valley Times Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.

Welton Becket and Associates originally designed this building at 6060 Wilshire Blvd. for the Seibu Japanese department store. In 1994 the Petersen Automotive Museum moved in and, in 2015, unveiled a new façade that obscures Becket’s original. 

Cinerama Dome (1963)

Cinerama Dome, Hollywood
Photo dated 1963, courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.

Located on Sunset Boulevard, Becket’s Cinerama Dome was initially designed as a prototype theater for the Cinerama widescreen process. The dome – today part of the Arclight Hollywood complex – is a unique and rare example of a surviving Cinerama theater that maintains a curved screen and three-projector film system. 

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Los Angeles Music Center (1964-67)

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion
Photo, dated 1965, courtesy of the Herald-Examiner Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.

The Los Angeles Music Center’s set of New Formalist buildings were designed by Welton Beckett and Associates. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stands tallest, but the center also includes the Ahmanson Theater and Mark Taper Forum. 

The Equitable Tower and Plaza (1969)

Equitable Tower
Photo, dated 1969, courtesy of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection – Los Angeles Public Library.

The Equitable Tower was designed by Welton Becket and Associates and completed in 1969, the year Becket died. The 34-story building was, for a time, the tallest structure on Wilshire Boulevard.