The Fine Arts Building by Walker & Eisen (500 Days of Summer)

Fine Arts Building

One of my favorite movies by far is “500 Days of Summer” starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel. It is basically about a guy named Tom Hansen who is actually an architect but is instead working in a greeting card company in Los Angeles because being an architect didn’t really work out for him when he needed a job. I loved this movie not only because it was romantic and funny but because it’s also about an architect who aspires to let everyone notice the beauty of the architecture in their city. And for as long as I can remember, being an Architect has really been my dream. Everything about it just marveled me and this is probably one of the other reasons I liked this movie; when they started talking about architecture in the city, one in particular, the Fine Arts building in Los Angeles by Architects Walker and Eisen. This caught my eye because after all our lessons in ID14 class, different motifs and architectural landmarks have been more evident to me.

The Fine Arts building in Los Angeles was designed by architects Albert R. Walker and Percy A. Eisen in 1926. It was actually originally built as working areas for artists who could also display their works in the building. In general, it is a Romanesque revival structure however; different architectural styles are also seen throughout the building like the courtyards that act as the lobby of the building which are actually from the Spanish Renaissance times. Four years after it was built, the Fine Arts building was sold and was renamed several times by the different owners; The Signal Oil Building, the Havenstrite Building, and Global Marine House. The Fine Arts building was declared a cultural historical monument in 1974. Continuing with the tradition, exhibits of various art forms are displayed in the lobby showcases. The building was restored in 1983, back to its original name “Fine Arts Building,” when it was acquired by Ratkovich Bowerz and Perez. They hired architect Brenda Levin to restore most of the interior for all the common areas of the building.

Most of the architectural features of the building like the Romanesque archs and the walls of the lobby were made from terra cotta designed to look like stone. There are also a lot of motifs seen in the exterior of the building which were reliefs also made from terra cotta; gargoyles, griffins, floral patterns, birds, human figures, fishes and many more. This was really one of the reasons why this building is remarkable. The original finish of the building was supposed to be all stone but the architects decided to discard that idea and replace it with terra cotta since it would permit more intricate ornamentation. The exterior of the building together with its bronze doors was modeled from early Christian churches.

The building was not only known for its architecture, but also for the many sculptures around and in the structure like the “Architecture and Sculpture” by Burt William Johnson. These sculptures can be seen outside the building and it gives a quick judgment on the difference between architecture and sculpture. He also did more sculptures inside the building like the statues in the fountain.

"Architecture" sculpture by Burt Johnson

"Sculpture" sculpture by Burt Johnson

Truly, this building has lived up to its name, “Fine Arts Building,” providing a marvelous view of Arts, Architecture and Sculpture (three of the five first pillars of fine arts). Until today, this building has been inspiring a lot of artists, architectures and designers through its beauty. This structure has also been in several books such as “The Architecture of Los Angeles” by Paul Glege and “Remaking of America” by Barbaralee Diamonstein. This historical monument is also being visited by students from prestigious schools for their tours and field trips. And as I already mentioned earlier, in the movie “500 Days of Summer,” it was introduced as the main’s character’s favorite building since it was by his favorite architects and for him, it was one of the architectural structures that made Los Angeles beautiful. This is what inspired him to continue on with his architecture in the end of the story because he believed that he could make things better though architecture and I too have the same belief.


By Gabriel Lim 2011-40386