In 1996 my husband and two pre-school daughters moved to Long Beach from a variety of moves centered in Northern California. I won’t even go into how difficult it was for Dan to get me to move anywhere south of Monterey, let alone near Los Angeles. But, that's another story.
The point is, I had some business at City Hall, so headed down there in the car. First of all, I couldn’t find the place. I mean, I could SEE it, but how to park? Surely, I would need more than the 20 minutes allotted on the Ocean Boulevard meters? Eventually I made my way to the Civic Center parking structure, took care of business and left. Yuk, I thought. Besides being nearly blown into Lincoln Park by the wind that swept through the southern gap, I was unimpressed by the cold concrete buildings, the awkward berm in the shape of a semi-circle, and the lonely feel of the plaza.
Years later, I still harbor ambivalent feelings about our Civic Center. Fortunately, however, I have been challenged by people smarter than me when it comes to architectural history and design. I’m not sayin’ that I would lay in front of the bull dozers for the Civic Center, but I will say I have come to appreciate the fact that - when it was built - it was considered a masterpiece. The Allied Architects, led by Edward Killingsworth and Hugh Gibbs, plus three other distinguished master architects, designed a civic center that embodied the “ideas and forms of the Modern Movement.” Did you know renowned architect, I.M. Pei, had a design ready to go for a museum at OUR Civic Center? Long Beach was on Pei's radar?
Ever visit San Francisco and seen the Transamerica Pyramid? Same era, same idea. How about the monolithic Bonaventure Hotel in L.A.? Iconic. If you’ve had the chance to visit the Oakland Museum, you’ll see aspects of our Library’s roof top (non) garden.
The point is, whatever the future of our civic center, we need to understand its architecture before we make any decisions to remove, remodel or replace it. I voted for our Mayor, Bob Foster, in part because he made the point that he loved history and understood that the past informs the present. The time has come to take a hard look, not only at that past, but our present and where we are headed in the future, regarding our civic structures.
Good news! We can ALL participate in this civics lesson on Monday, September 10th at 7:00. Join the American Institute of Architects and Long Beach Heritage at the Aquarium for a "Discussion about the Long Beach Civic Center." See the particulars in the attached flyer. And, see you there.