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Voices From the Modern Past: CBS Columbia Square
SAH/SCC Tour & Talk, Hollywood
Saturday, September 22, 2018

SAH/SCC is offering a rare opportunity to visit one of Hollywood’s jewels of the International Style, CBS Columbia Square (1937) by William Edmond Lescaze (1896-1969). Participants will have the opportunity to tour the development—the radio and television studio complex for CBS West Coast until 2007—and see how the setting has been transformed to accommodate new uses for today’s Hollywood.

Inclusive of the site tour will be a presentation by John LoCascio, AIA, Principal of Historic Resources Group, who was the preservation architect for the rehabilitation project. LoCascio’s lecture will provide a behind-the-scenes look into the many historic features of the property, and how obstacles and challenges were overcome to transform the historic complex into a vibrant, mixed-use setting. The project won the 2016 Preservation Design Award in the Rehabilitation category from the California Preservation Foundation.

CBS Columbia Square’s historical structures include the Radio Building/Studio A and the Business Building. It is the only Lescaze project on the west coast. The Swiss-born architect is best known as the designer of the first International Style skyscraper in the US, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS) in 1932. Impressed with PSFS, Columbia Broadcasting System executive William S. Paley (1901-1990) hired Lescaze to reconstruct the Hammerstein Theater (Herbert J. Krapp, 1927; Lescaze, 1936; James Stewart Polshek, 1993) in New York for use as a CBS radio studio. (Among its several names, the site has been known as the Ed Sullivan Theater since 1967.) Lescaze completed several other projects for CBS and was granted the commission for the network’s flagship west coast complex.

For Columbia Square, Lescaze and his local associate architect Earl T. Heitschmidt, FAIA (1894-1972), designed an International Style corporate statement softened by elements of the Streamline Moderne. The finished project met national acclaim and was published in Architectural Forum, Architectural Record, and California Arts and Architecture. CBS Columbia Square symbolized all that was modern, glamorous, and innovative.

Memorable classic radio programs by Jack Benny, Orson Welles, Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, Gene Autry, and Art Linkletter were aired from there. It was where the pilot episode of “I Love Lucy” was filmed, and where Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana recorded classic songs.

For years, the dynamic nature of the architectural design was masked by a series of unfortunate alterations, and the property was shuttered from 2007 to 2013. Kilroy Realty brought on Historic Resources Group, along with design architect, planner, and landscape architect Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and executive architect House & Robertson, to restore key design elements, rehabilitate dramatic interior spaces, add new creative office and residential buildings, design communal landscape areas, and include new eateries to offer an amenity-rich mixed-use development to new Hollywood.

Join us as we learn more about the history, architecture, and rehabilitation of this showplace of Hollywood entertainment—old and new—and jewel of architectural design.

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