Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Edward H. Fickett, 1954 "800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building" Now Los Angeles HCM No.1047

"800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building", architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A, 1954 - HCM 1047
The Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. 1954 design 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building is now officially Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) No. 1047.  I have been working on this nomination for 8 months, and thrilled to have Fickett's building noted by the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and the Office of Historic ResourcesHCM No. 1047 received approval by City Council on August 12, 2014.
Minimal use of applied ornament, creating a streamline and industrial appearance.
I always am grateful for my close friendship with Joycie Fickett, the widow of the famed architect.  A few years ago, she brought to my attention a beautiful design her late-husband created and suggested I drive over there at some point to check it out, as she knew I would appreciate the mid-century design of 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building. I fell in love upon first sight...
Two-story curvilinear wall made of troweled joint brick on the west-facing façade.
The building is an exceptional example of the Mid-Century Modern school of architecture. The 9-unit office building was commissioned by L.H.L. Corporation in 1953 and completed in 1954. The building meets two of the criteria for the designation as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Specifically, the building:
  • is a notable work of a master builder, designer or architect whose individual genius influenced their age; and
  • embodies the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen, inherently valuable for a study of a period style or method of construction.
Architect / Builder plaque
“I remember getting out of my car on Robertson having seen this sinuous brick wall slotted into a sweep of delicate glass, wondering ‘who designed this building?’ ... and was lucky to spot the plaque indicating it was one of Ed’s!” - architect, Stephen H. Kanner, F.A.I.A
Fickett won the Los Angeles Business Council Urban Beautification Award for Low-Rise Commercial Building for 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building in 1955.  Fickett worked with contractor, Barnett B. Poles to create the building.
Mechanical Brise-Soleil on the upper and lower windows on the west façade.
2-Story "Peek-a-Boo" Window Detail
As mentioned earlier, 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building is a fine example of the Mid-Century Modern style of architecture. Mid-century modern architecture was adopted in America in the mid-1940s and lasted through the late 1960s. It was a trend in American modern architecture and industrial design, which was sleek and sexy with a strong influence from the earlier coined movement known as the International Style. Architects incorporated rhythm, balance and scale within their themes for design, which sought the clarity of form and geometry in design.
Original Illustration - Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A. - Courtesy of USC Archives.
As with the earlier International Style, which was stark and void of ornamentation, the Mid-Century Modern movement was a manifestation of the future, with no thoughts of the past. It was an optimistic time, when the sky was the limit with the usage of new technologies and building materials. It was a period that embraced the “new.” People wanted buildings that not only represented people’s social and community life and provide more than functional fulfillment.  Mid-Century Modern architecture allowed for thoughts and aspirations for the future.
Two-story plate glass window wall on the north-facing entry.
Fickett’s curved entry wall at 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building is as if to greet the public with open arms. The exterior elevations adhere to the minimalist style of simplification and the elimination of ornament true to the Mid-Century Modern style of architecture. The clean lines and simple patterns suggest the coming of a new age in architecture. A moveable Brise-Soleil on the upper and lower windows on the west façade exemplify the effects from the mechanical industrial age, while providing protection from the Southern California environment and the influx of natural light.
Building entry and two-story Lobby/Atrium
The main entry off Gregory Way features a 2-story plate glass wall.  There are several styles of fenestration, which the building features that exemplify the Mid-Century Modern style architecture and Fickett’s vernacular, such as, a skylight, a "Peek-a-Boo" window, walls of glass, jalousie windows, plate glass, fixed glass and sliding glass doors and windows.
Steel mullions on the north-facing plate glass window walls.
 The two-story wall of glass on the north façade is flush with the roof line and features steel mullions that extend above the roof line.  Glass walls meet at a 90 ̊ angle at the northeast corner of the building. The west and north brick walls have a parapet extending above the roof line. Deep overhanging eaves on the east and south façades cantilever and provide shade with the underside having stucco application.
The orientation of the building provides optimal protection from solar gain while providing maximum efficiency in natural light. Fickett takes advantage of the northern exposure and utilizes a two-story glass wall on the northern façade, allowing natural light to filtrate the lobby/atrium and main hallway. The west façade has minimal windows to help reduce solar gain with mechanical Brise-Soleil over the upper and lower fenestration. The south façade features walls of sliding glass doors which lead to individual enclosed suite patios on the 1st-story and strip fenestration on the 2nd-story above, allowing for maximum solar gain to provide ample natural light.
An indoor-outdoor planter passes through plate glass.
Custom iron railing and open string staircase by Fickett
With this low-rise office building, we see Fickett’s ability to seamlessly bring the outdoors in through his use of glass and architectural features such as extending the exterior brick wall of the Facilities area, through glass slotted into the brick, and into the lobby/atrium area. The curvilinear wall also features a two-story “peek- a-boo” glass window, to “tickle the imagination of what may lie within” as it slots seamlessly into the brick creating an undisturbed line allowing for as much outdoors to envelop the interior space. Nestled under the custom iron railing and open string staircase, his indoor planter in the lobby/atrium extends seamlessly through glass from the exterior landscape providing a fluid invitation in “bringing the outdoors-in”, which was a theme in his work. 
Beveled cement stairs with colored pigment (Now painted)
Custom open-string stairway with steel hand railings and angled balusters.
There is a custom designed open-string staircase abutting the curvilinear brick wall at its half-landing in the two-story lobby/atrium. The staircase features beveled concrete risers that extend over the indoor planter and up to the 2nd-floor cantilevered platform. The risers featured red pigment in the concrete to contrast the greenery of the indoor/outdoor planter. The risers have since been painted red. The open string staircase also features custom handrails and angled balusters made of steel.   
2nd-Story Skylight Above 1st-Story Interior Planter
Natural light was always an important architectural feature for Fickett, as it allowed the outdoors-in.  Plate glass rising from floor-to-ceiling, skylights above emitting natural light over indoor planters, sliding glass walls shifting to allow the outdoors to meld with interiors...  He loved his high ceilings and walls of glass. 
2nd Floor Mezzanine Overlooking Indoor Planter
The interior consists of nine separate office suites featuring floor-to-ceiling, clear and obscure glass paneled walls.  The 1st-floor suites have outdoor patios through sliding walls of glass.
1st-Floor Main Hallway
1st-Floor Main Hallway
With the orientation of the building, Fickett took advantage of the northern light to allow for maximum solar gain through the hallways and into the office suites using floor-to-ceiling plate glass walls.
2nd-Floor Main Hallway
2nd-Floor Main Hallway
The 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building embodies the distinguishing characteristics of Fickett’s work, and thus meets the criteria of Sec. 22.130 of the Los Angeles Administrative code. The building is an example of the Mid-Century Modern style, which was exemplified by master architect, Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.

"800 S Robertson Blvd Office Building", architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A., 1954 - HCM 1047
Steve Ward is responsible for writing and submitting the application for 800 South Robertson Boulevard Office Building by architect, Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A.