Recently I shot Parker Center for the LA Conservancy as part of their campaign to save it. Opening in 1955 as the Police Facilities Building, it currently awaits an uncertain fate – either expansion or more likely, demolition. (Apologies for the recent array of stories of lost and soon-to-be lost architectural landmarks lately, I promise to feature at least one structure that isn’t facing demolition next week.)
I’ve often favored more elaborately decorated architecture styles like Art Deco and Beaux Arts, but I still enjoy the occasional Mid-Century Modern. Standing alone with plenty of cushion around its perimeter, Parker Center is a grand sight of its own in downtown’s Civic Center. I’ll be honest and admit that the landscaping does make all the difference, especially with the long palms casting their shadows on the facade.
Designed by Welton Becket & Associates, the Police Facilities Building was a revolution to the design of law enforcement structures. The eight-story International Style facility centralized all of the widely scattered police divisions under one roof. The idea was to bring the Detective Bureau, communications and information, traffic control, a state of the art crime laboratory, a lineup auditorium and jail cells together to provide complete service while saving time and resources. It was considered one of the first centralized police buildings in the nation and influenced the design of central law enforcement buildings across the country. In 1966, the building was renamed to Parker Center in honor of the late Chief William H. Parker, who died of a heart attack during his service.
The potential of demolition isn’t newly-founded. In 2013 the Bureau of Engineering of Los Angeles announced plans for redeveloping Parker Center known as the “Los Angeles Street Civic Building Project,” or “Goodbye Parker Center,” for short. The 2013 draft Environmental Impact Report offered three options:
– Rehabilitation of the 1955 structure
– Partial demolition & rehabilitation, plus an addition to the structure
– Full demolition of the structure to make way for new development
After the Final EIR was released this past June, the city announced it preferred – wait for it. . . . . demolition! Surprised? I wasn’t. It wouldn’t be out of character for Los Angeles to destroy the work of the same firm who designed our most symbolic landmarks such as the Capitol Records Tower and the Cinerama Dome.
OK, in all fairness the city is attempting to relocate 3,865 “off-site” employees closer to City Hall into two 27-story towers that will house 2,945 employees. According to anyone with reasonable math skills, that means 920 lucky folks get to work on the front lawn. The Conservancy has been advocating the rehabilitation of the main structure, plus the addition of an 11-story building to the rear of the structure, which is a reasonable compromise. With no updates since September, it looks like the building will live to see the new year.
There is a petition to save Parker Center on Change.Org – every signature counts!