One of the most grievous insults to historic architecture in Los Angeles has been the plastering of these buildings with supergraphic ads hawking everything from blockbuster movies to toilet paper. One of the longest runs of such advertising has been at downtown’s Figueroa Hotel, a 1925 building that displayed the first such ads on its 12-story, triple towers more than 10 years ago.
During the 2000 Democratic convention at nearby Staples Center, the freeway-facing walls featured black-and-white portraits of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, and Cesar Chavez. People might have been excused for thinking this was a tribute to historic Democratic party figures, but it was actually part of Apple Computer’s famous “Think Different” ad campaign. (During the convention, a group called the Ruckus Society attempted to hang a banner with a depiction of the American flag covered with corporate logos across the Apple ads, which were painted on the surface of the building.)
Those ads were legal, having been permitted in April, 2000, by the Department of Building and Safety. They were succeeded over the years by other painted mural-style ads for video games, movies, and other products. However, beginning in 2008, the hand-painted mural signs were replaced with the typical vinyl supergraphics either attached with cables and eyebolts or glued directly to a building’s walls, and Building and Safety cited the sign company, CBS Outdoor, with violating the terms of its permit.
The process of removing the layers of supergraphic ads began earlier this year, and the walls were painted this week. What’s next? Art murals celebrating the cultural history of the area, which might well be an appropriate use of the blank walls? Or sales pitches for some product or service? Or nothing?
The hotel, built in 1925 as a YWCA residential facility, was designed by the architectural firm of Stanton, Reed & Hibbard. It was turned into a hotel after the 1930’s depression.
For more on the hotel’s supergraphic signs, see the following articles from Blogdowntown.