500 Days of Summer is one of my all-time favorite movies. It features the beauty of falling in love and the reality of breaking up. It taught me that even though sometimes you think you’re absolutely right, you could be wrong. In the film, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) thought Summer (Zooey Deschanel) was the one, but in the end we find out that they were never meant to be and that there was someone else out there who was right for each of them. But enough about love for now. What I’d like to write about as of this moment is one of the things that make this movie different: the ARCHITECTURE and how it uses and shows architecture in downtown Los Angeles in a way it has never been before. It was not simply used as a backdrop or a scenic view like you would see in most films. It has been highlighted and according to some articles it has even been used to imply something about Tom and Summer’s relationship.

The movie is set in Los Angeles and there were many buildings shown and used in the film. Each was unique and had their respective historical backgrounds. But for me, one stood out the most. While at Tom’s favorite spot, aka “Tom’s bench” (Angels Knoll), he mentions one of his favorite buildings: Braly Block (presently known as the Continental Building). He identifies this as “L.A.’s first skyscraper”. It is located at 408 South Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles and is the city’s Historic-Cultural Monument #730. It is one of the first examples of the Beaux-Arts business block and at 175 feet was considered the city’s first skyscraper. I guess Tom Hansen has good taste in architecture! 

The name Braly Block originated from a successful banker who was the president of the syndicate that constructed the building, John Hyde Braly. The building was designed by John Parkinson and for more than 50 years, this 12-story, 175-foot office tower was the tallest office building on the Los Angeles skyline after its completion around 1902. And it was actually completed a little before the city had established a building height limit of 130-ft. Just in the nick of time! If it were not completed soon enough, it would not have been the tallest building of that time!

 Braly Block (Continental Building)

The beauty of this building is often overlooked and unappreciated. Most passers-by on the busy streets probably do not even notice the intricate details on the building’s façade. The architecture, much like the story line of the movie, makes us look back into the past. To find out more about the building, one must look into its history and discover more about the period and its style. The Braly Block is a wonderful example of the Beaux-Arts style. This particular style was during the late Neo-classical Period in American architecture. It reflects Greek and Roman artistic styles. This is clearly seen on the façade of the Braly Building. It’s rusticated and raised first story, hierarchy of spaces, columns, arches, pedimented entablatures on top of its windows and its symmetry all show characteristics of the style. The architectural details also contain decorative cartouches and sculptural ornaments.

Now, going back to the movie, I would like to quote a line from when Tom was showing Summer the wonderful view of pre-war buildings from his favorite spot (Tom’s bench, Angels Knoll):

“There’s so much beauty here. Sure the street level isn’t much to look at, but if you look up, there’s some exciting stuff going on. If it were up to me, I’d get people to notice!”

This just goes to show that if you look hard enough, you will see that somewhere in the midst of normal looking buildings, streets and other places are interesting and notable pieces of art and architecture you wouldn’t normally notice. It is quite sad to know that there are so many works that deserve recognition, but are often overlooked or ignored out of indifference. To know that such beauty goes unnoticed.

I, in my first year of college, have certainly learned that taking time to look closely at details and looking up at buildings to actually see its full glory does make everyday a little more interesting. Every discovery is something new and exciting for a student like me, especially because I myself am very much interested in architecture. And if you yourselves are interested, you may search for more about the history of your own discoveries. It’s actually very interesting and it’s nice to know that classic styles and history are not completely gone, forgotten or ignored. So one of these days, I invite you to take time to LOOK UP and see just what you’ll find.

Diane Angelica V. Diaz (2011-00250)

3/12/2012 1:38 AM

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