Monday, March 31, 2008

The Santa Ana Civic Center and the 1970s

Today's "then and now" images show the part of the Santa Ana Civic Center I like to call "The Salt Flat of the Flags." The concept illustration was done in 1970, shortly after the completion of the Orange County Central Justice Center. I took the "after" photo a couple years ago. Note the State Building which now looms over this mostly featureless plaza.
Thanks to Anaheim native and architecture expert Daniel Paul, I now what to call the angular, massive, rough-surfaced, unpainted concrete structures that were added to the Civic Center in the 1970s. Daniel tells me that the official name for this style of architecture is "brutalism." The State Building and Santa Ana's City Hall are both good examples.
Indeed, look up "brutal" in a thesaurus and you'll find plenty of words that describe these buildings (and 1970s design in general): Coarse, heavy, dull, stupid and cruel. Okay, well maybe it's only cruel if you have to look at it all day.


Stephanie said...

UCI buildings (the early years) are also outstanding examples of Brutalism in Orange County.

Chris Jepsen said...

Yes, it's hard to believe that William Pereira - the man (partially) responsible for the graceful space-age arches of the LAX Theme Building - also gave us Irvine.

itsnotaplace said...

Seems pretty strange that they choose a style called "Brutalism" to create the seat of government for the county!

Looks more like a skate park.

Armilyn & David said...

Actually, the architect Richard Neutra designed the courthouse building and a few others. Not sure if he was involved with the flag plaza pictured. It's not his best work by any means, but he's done worse.

FWIW, his work is typically categorized as Modernism or Mid-Century Modern.

Other Neutra OC buildings include the Huntington Beach Library (which was severly altered almost 20 years ago), older parts of OCC campus, and the original Crystal Cathedral which still stands next to the more well known Crystal Cathedral

itsnotaplace said...

Now that I think of it... isn't Cypress Jr College sort of that style too? With it's big concrete second level plazas, molded concrete walls and bare concrete iconic tower?

anyone know who the architect was for the Cypress College campus?

Chris Jepsen said...

I think the Courthouse will be the subject for another post. Yes, Neutra was big name architect behind that project, although he did have some help. I'm rather a fan of Neutra's work, having spent much of my life around his buildings. Another local favorite of mine is the Mariners Medical Arts building (now the Westcliff Medical Center) in Newport Beach.

The building you're thinking of next to the Crystal Cathedral is the Drive-In Church, which now serves as the fellowship hall for the church. It is Googie on a grand scale and always worth putting on any O.C. architecture tour.

Glenn: Cypress College is mostly destroyed by recent "improvements" but I know what you mean. I think it was sort of halfway between Mid-Century Modern (Mid-Mod) and 1970s Brutalism. You could find elements of both. Clearly, it was designed to be defensible and easy to partition and control. (It was designed in the era of frequent campus "unrest" after all.)