This is, believe it or not, a parking garage.
I am informed by Nir Buras, author of The Art of Classic Planning, that the parking garage pictured above, built at 9th & Hill Sts. in Los Angeles in 1926, designed by Alexander Edward Curlett and Claud W. Beelman, once stored the cars of Angelenos shopping at J.W. Robinson’s, a nearby department store completed at 7th and Grand Avenue in 1915.
Buras, an architect, city planner and founder of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, whose book was published earlier this year, called the garage “my current favorite parking structure.”
Indeed, this garage is almost too much. Should a garage, any garage, look this grand? It is classical and it is beautiful, and it looks not like a garage but like the department store it serves. Is this okay? That sounds like the old saying that a typical building designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe looks like the box a lovelier building came in. Yet the over-the-top quality of the Robinson’s garage violates the classical principle of hierarchy, which holds that, say, a tackle shop must not look like a state capitol.
In this case, however, I’m not sure I’d agree. Violate that principle, sez I!
Alas, that’s exactly what L.A. did. If it had followed the Law of Hierarchy, it’s most imposing buildings would not make the Robinson Garage look like the Taj Mahal. Instead, the City of Angels thumbed its nose at hierarchy, so today most of its architecture would make a tackle shop cry out for mercy.