Sunday, November 3, 2013

A new life for an unloved building in La Jolla

Prospect Center
Prospect Center by Thornton Ladd & John Kelsey (1965). Photo ©Darren Bradley
Prospect Center is one of La Jolla's most unloved buildings. Hopefully, that's about to change… 

This charming little seaside resort town is actually full of modernist office buildings. But the locals all seem to favor more traditional looks these days… 
Photo ©Darren Bradley
Personally, I really like the design of this building and find it quite beautiful and striking.  

Prospect Center
Photo ©Darren Bradley
Designed by renowned architects Thornton Ladd & John Kelsey in 1965 in one of La Jolla's most prized locations, this office building opened to great fanfare at the time. Ladd & Kelsey both graduated from USC's architecture program in 1950 (a year behind William Krisel). 

The Village of La Jolla. Prospect Center can be seen in the upper left, next to the tallest building in La Jolla (939 Coast). Photo ©Darren Bradley
Ladd gained early fame for the design of the Lyon Residence while he was still in school. The team later went on to design many homes and commercial projects, as well as the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena
prospect horizontal above
Location is hard to beat. Photo ©Darren Bradley

I was only able to find one vintage photo of this building - taken shortly after construction, by the looks of it. I only just discovered this photo - months after taking my own shots that you see here…

prospect center
Prospect Center in La Jolla, shortly after construction. (photographer unknown).

Several people, including Bill Krisel, have told me that this B&W version above was more beneficial to the building than my recent color shot (above). And I completely agree. B&W always looks better, I think. It highlights the forms more nicely. 

In this case, though, there's not a lot of difference between my shot and the older one, as far everything goes. Both were taken at roughly the same angle and at roughly the same time of day. But the shot above (the photographer is anonymous, but could be Shulman…) appears to have been taken during the summer because the sun is drawing a longer shadow on those brise-soleil windows boxes than my winter shot. 

Really, the main difference between the two photos is that the older vintage shot shows a lot more contrast and less range, so darker shadows and less detail. It works well because it highlights the strong lines of the facade very well. To have some fun, I decided to try to duplicate the photo above. 

I didn't have time to go reshoot. But no problem there; I have shots from a similar angle, anyway, from earlier this year. So I selected one from the same series as the color shot above, taken with the same woman but seconds earlier. So she's in roughly the same position as the woman in the vintage photo. Nothing I can do about the vegetation (I don't bring a weed whacker in my kit, but should start to). I can at least get rid of some handrails, trash cans, etc. Some of the stuff will have to stay. Here's the result: 

prospect B&W
I may be biased, but I think I prefer my version. Photo ©Darren Bradley
I was standing a bit closer to the building. You see how those window boxes jut out past the roofline in my shot? That's why I did that. I wanted to emphasize how large they are. In the older shot, above, the photographer was standing a bit further away and they are lost in the upper plane of the roofline. Also, standing closer allowed me to not have to crop it so tightly. I was able to get the tower from La Valencia Hotel in the background, which is important for context.

Anyway, enough geeking out on arch. photography stuff. Back to the building. As I mentioned, it's location and view are a big part of the attraction

Can't beat the view from inside the building, either. The helicopter was a lucky break. Photo ©Darren Bradley
There have been several plans to tear down or modify it heavily. Even now, it's currently covered in scaffolding so I assumed that one of those efforts was finally successful. 

Photo ©Darren Bradley
Photo ©Darren Bradley
But I've just learned that the facade is actually being restored (parts of it were starting to corrode away). This mid-century modern office building is going condo. 

prospect horizontal
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Hopefully, the white color and those boxes will be preserved. It'll be interesting to see what the condos look like. Somehow, I doubt they'll be in my price range. 

Photo ©Darren Bradley


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Unknown said...

The photograph you can't identify I believe is by Wayne Thom. He photographed a lot of Ladd & Kelsey's work.

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