Bradbury Building

Los Angeles, California (CA)

The Bradbury building is the oldest commercial building remaining in Downtown LA.

Bradbury Building 7
- Steve Clancy

Discover the Bradbury Building

Downtown LA; what was once a place of high rise buildings and vacant storefronts has morphed into a lively area filled with trendy restaurants, art galleries, museums, and beautiful buildings; among which the Bradbury Building is iconic.

This 5-storey building, having opened in 1893, is the oldest commercial building remaining in the central city. Despite its age, the Bradbury Building remains an important part of Los Angeles Downtown cultural landscape, proven with its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and being designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. Its restoration in the early 1990s, as part of the Yellin Company's Grand Central Square project, ensured its preservation for future generations to admire and explore.

Bradbury Building 2
- sharyn morrow

History of the Bradbury Building

19th Century

The Bradbury Building's story begins with Lewis L. Bradbury, a 19th-century mining millionaire who envisioned a grand building at Broadway and Third Street in Los Angeles. Originally, a local architect, Sumner Hunt, was hired for the project. However, Bradbury found Hunt's design lacking and assigned the task to George Wyman, one of Hunt's draftsmen, instead. The construction commenced in 1893, just months after Bradbury's passing, and was completed in 1894, at a cost of $500,000, surpassing three times the original budget.

Despite Wyman's limited experience and lack of formal education as an architect, Bradbury felt that he had a better understanding of his vision. But because of the architect swap, the true genius behind the building remains a subject of debate.

Bradbury Building 6
- Javier Carcamo

20th Century

Throughout the 20th century, the Bradbury Building operated primarily as an office space. In the early 1980s, developer Ira Yellin purchased the building and invested $7 million in restoration and seismic retrofitting between 1989 and 1991.

The restoration efforts, overseen by architect Brenda Levin, included converting a storage area into a new rear-entrance portico and redesigning the lighting system. Since 1996, the building has housed the Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs division and other government agencies, earning the nickname "the Ovens" among LAPD officers.

Bradbury Building 3
- Juan Monroy

21st Century

In 2003, the Bradbury Building was purchased by a Hong Kong investor for $6 million. Despite the sale, the building's legacy and character remained intact. The building has since hosted various tenants, including the Museum of Architecture and Design from 2001 to 2003 and the Morono Kiang Gallery of Chinese Art in 2007.

Today, several offices are rented out privately, and retail spaces on the first floor house establishments such as Ross Cutlery, a Subway restaurant, a Blue Bottle Coffee shop, and a real estate sales office.

Bradbury Building 9
- Maciek Lulko

Designing the Bradbury Building

The Exterior

What makes the Bradbury Building stand out from the crowd in DTLA is… well nothing really. With a simple brown brick exterior you could be forgiven for not realising its architectural significance at first glance. However, stepping inside reveals the building’s most iconic feature; a breathtaking L-shaped atrium illuminated by natural light streaming in through a glass ceiling high above.

“In an architecture of steel and glass, marble, tile and movement, George Wyman envisioned and presented the material dream of Southern California as a technology flooded by sunlight.”

California historian Kevin Starr.

Bradbury Building 1
- chrisinphilly5448

The Interior

As visitors step through the ornate wrought-iron gates and into the atrium, they’ll notice a mix of architectural styles. The Victorian-style central court lobby wows with Italian marble staircases, intricate French wrought-iron railings evoking a sense of Art Nouveau, and delicate filigree work, all bathed in the soft sunlight streaming down from above.

“a vast hall full of light, received not alone from the windows on all sides, but from the dome, the point of which was a hundred feet above. Beneath it, in the centre of the hall, a magnificent fountain played, cooling the atmosphere to a delicious freshness with its spray. The walls and ceiling were frescoed in mellow tints, calculated to soften without absorbing the light which flooded the interior.”

An extract from “Looking Backward”.

Inspired by Edward Bellamy's utopian novel "Looking Backward," Wyman envisioned a futuristic style that would stand the test of time. The freestanding staircases and two open hydraulic elevators not only transport visitors up and downstairs, but to the future Wyman envisioned as well. Despite its initial costliness and humble exterior yet extravagant internal design, the Bradbury Building is definitely a symbol of architectural excellence in DTLA.

Bradbury Building 1
- Luke Jones

The Bradbury Building’s Cultural Significance

In Popular Culture

Since its creation the Bradbury Building has become more than just a thing of architectural beauty. It has also become a cultural icon serving as a backdrop for countless films, television shows, and works of literature. In the film industry the building has gained particular popularity within the science fiction genre, which is not shocking given Wyman’s “Looking Backward” inspiration.

Bradbury Building
- Juan Monroy

However, it has also proven rather versatile despite this distinct appearance. Over the years, it has masqueraded as various locations worldwide, from a Parisian setting to a New York backdrop. Its appearance in the 1982 cult classic "Blade Runner," where it served as the home of toymaker Sebastian, solidified its status as a cinematic landmark. Furthermore, its presence in television series like "The Outer Limits" and "Quantum Leap" underscores its enduring appeal within the sci-fi realm.

Beyond cinema DC Comics and Marvel Comics have created characters with ties to the Bradbury Building and music artists like Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake have filmed their music videos within the iconic interior.

Bradbury Building 4
- Emily

As a Tourist Attraction

Open daily, the Bradbury Building offers staff-led guided tours. While casual visitors are limited to the first landing, brochures and guided tours allow you to move deeper into the building both physically and historically. Its close proximity to other downtown hotspots, such as the Grand Central Market, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and Angels Flight, enhances its appeal as a must-visit destination in Los Angeles.

Bradbury Building
- Scott Lowe

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