Conservators working on the East Rotunda
North Hallway on the 3rd floor where emergency treatment was needed
LOS ANGELES CITY HALL
200 N. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
If you’ve walked its hallways, it is almost impossible to escape the beauty that surrounds them. From the ornately decorated vaulted ceilings above the elevator banks to the mythological figures symbolizing the courage, perseverance, progressiveness and energy of the people of Los Angeles, the work of art continues into the East Lobby. The central dome murals illustrate Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. Other murals depict themes of Science, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Power, Commerce and more. Los Angeles City Hall is perhaps the foremost symbol of our great metropolis and it has stood tall for almost 90 years. Preserving this crown jewel for generations to come has been Project Restore’s top priority.
Originally painted by two famous artisans, Anthony Heinsbergen (Dutch-born muralist who designed the interior of movie theatres including United Artists, Hollywood Pantages and Wiltern) and Herman Sachs (Romanian-born artist, muralist and decorator who contributed designs to important landmarks such as Bullocks Wilshire and Union Station), the murals in Los Angeles City Hall are suffering from flaking and deterioration. After the seismic retrofit and historic restoration of City Hall in 2001, inevitable humidity fluctuations and visitor traffic have caused significant damage. Spotting the damage is sometimes difficult due to the high ceilings, but paint has been gradually chipping and falling to the floor.
These murals are located on the ceilings of several floors and rooms of City Hall including the City Council Chamber, Board of Public Works Session Room, Rotunda, Main Street Lobby, Mayor’s Office, and the Tom Bradley Room. It is critical to save the historic artwork since most of it is original.
Project Restore is currently implementing the first stages of a long-term plan for the conservation of over 50,000 square feet of decorative paint and murals. Following a year of research, paint analysis and a complete survey of the building’s environmental readings, we developed our current in-depth conservation and restoration plan.
Conservator Zebala & Partners was hired by Project Restore to thoroughly examine the murals and after several months of exploration work, the conservators identified areas that needed immediate attention. As a result, they have performed repairs on the third floor’s East Rotunda and North Hallway. They have also developed a comprehensive cost estimate for the murals’ conservation effort.
Testing and research indicated that much of the damage is caused by the large swings in relative humidity within the building. To mitigate this, Project Restore formed a committee to oversee the effort to preserve and restore the murals. Christopher C. Martin, CEO & Chairman of AC Martin, is chairing this committee and AECOM has developed (pro bono) a series of recommendations to control or minimize the humidity fluctuations in the building as an important part of preserving the murals.
Recently, Project Restore contracted conservation specialist Evergreene Architectural Arts to examine and test the murals in the Edward R. Roybal Board of Public Works Session Room, where the five-member commission meets for public hearings and meetings. It has also served as a backdrop for many courtroom scenes in movies and television. The room’s heavy use and the passage of time have taken a toll on the historic murals, particularly in the beautiful green south ceiling. After much exploration, the conservation specialists began work to restore the timeless pieces. The work on the south ceiling is estimated to be completed during the holiday season.
Project Restore aims to raise further funding to complete the full restoration, and preserve the one-of-a-kind elegant ceiling murals in L.A. City Hall.