A Tale of Two Buildings

There are two white skyscrapers on Miracle Mile. As a fan of architecture, one meets all of my criteria for a building that I would like, and the other has all of characteristics of a building that I would not like. Then why do I like the building I’m not supposed to?

The buildings in question are the “Variety” building:

And this building with no name:

Let’s start with the building whose name we must not speak, because it has none. I should like this building a lot. The shape of the building and its facade scream mid-century. The tower is set back from its base, reducing its bulk on street level.

The Variety building is one massive box without subtly. It goes straight up with no setbacks. When you walk past that building, you know you are walking past a massive skyscraper, just like when you walk past the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco or the late World Trade Towers. It is severely out of place, surrounded by low-rise structures.

Yet somehow I like the Variety building so much more.

I am a big believer is buildings fitting their surroundings. For example, you can walk past the Empire State Building and not even know it — that’s how perfectly incorporated it is with its neighboring buildings. The Variety building sticks out like a sore thumb. Yet for some reason it doesn’t bother me. In fact it endears me to it even more, especially when you see it from 8th Street. All you see are private houses and low buildings, and suddenly this giant is towering over you. It’s very impressive, especially at night.

Don’t get me wrong, the no-name building is a nicely designed structure, but it is far from impressive. Because it is wide and flat, it blocks out the sun on Wilshire for several blocks. It just seems more out of place than the Variety building.

The Variety building has become a landmark of sorts — you can see it from many vantage points all over town.  There is just something very majestic about the building, a word I am surprised I am using for such a bulky building. That term is usually reserved for slender buildings, like the Chrysler Building or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. But it is well deserved for the Variety building.

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