When I first moved to LA I lived in a house on the east side of Hollywood and I was always slightly disappointed in the fact that it didn’t have much of a view. You could stand in the middle of the street and get an okay glimpse of the Hollywood sign, but that was really the only way to know you were even in LA—if you took away the palm trees it looked like a typical Midwestern suburban block. But I still remember the moment I was sitting on the porch and realized I could see the Capitol Records building, its white cylindrical volume perfectly framed in a slit of sky between two pastel Craftsmans across the street. I squawked and ran inside, dragging each roommate onto the porch and positioning them in a red tulip chair knockoff at the exact right spot so they could see the tiny toy building for themselves. No one seemed to be as excited about this development as I was.
When I moved out of that house I found a place about a mile west. Here I finally had my unobstructed view of Hollywood with Capitol Records as its centerpiece, hovering among the boring rectangular buildings like a space shuttle prepared for liftoff. No matter that I could only really see this view from my bathroom window. Every morning I washed my face and watched the needle catch the neighborhood’s first glints of light, and every night I brushed my teeth in time to the pulsing red light at its tip (which I now know taps out H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code). For the five years that I lived in Hollywood, seeing the comforting curves of the Capitol Records building meant I was home.
I don’t have a favorite building in LA but I love this building so much I made Capitol Records building Christmas ornaments one year, with its seasonal “tree” on top, to give out as presents:
But I had never been inside this building. Until yesterday.
A press event for the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Presents Modern Architecture in LA show was held, appropriately, in the building’s legendary Studio A, made famous by the early recordings of Nat King Cole and an echo chamber engineered by the great Les Paul. And thanks to a well-timed special request, I got to go upstairs for a tour.
The building is currently undergoing a massive renovation to help return it to its 1956 Welton Becket-designed glory—the lobby was actually closed during our visit as it gets new paneling and a shiny new circular reception desk. But many of the changes that you see here—the awesome vintage signs on every floor, murals made from the original blueprints—are just-installed, fixing some bad improvisations from decades past. We got to see some new workstations (note the curves) and a finished conference room, where they took an original wood table and laid it with a new marble countertop. But the best part is how they left so many of the original features, from a dumbwaiter (!) to a sound system embedded in the walls which used to be the only way for artists and producers to listen to their tracks.
It feels much smaller inside than I expected but the circular layout works—it feels cozy without any corners, but it’s actually more private than other offices. And of course you can’t beat the 360-degree views of Hollywood, like one continuous animated mural playing from behind those distinctive sunshades.
My dying-battery iPhone photos don’t do the place justice and of course not all the changes are complete, so we’re hoping to host a de LaB tour in the finished building. Sign up for our mailings if you haven’t already! And thanks to the Getty and Capitol Records for making one of my Hollywood dreams come true.
Update: I was on the tour with the Curbed LA team (and a much better camera in the hands of photographer Elizabeth Daniels). Check out their photos, too.