AKA: Los Angeles City Hall #3, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - city halls

Designers: Allied Architects Association of Los Angeles (AAALA) (firm); Clark Construction Group, LLC, Building Contractors (firm); Heinsbergen Decorating Company, Interior Designers (firm); Kaplan Chen Kaplan, Architects (firm); Levin and Associates, Architects (firm); Martin, A.C. Partners, Incorporated, (ACMP) (firm); Youssef, Nabih and Associates (firm); John Corneby Wilson Austin (architect); Chen (architect); Anthony T. Heinsbergen (interior designer); Antoon B. Heinsbergen (interior designer/muralist); Barbara Kaplan (architect); David Kaplan (architect); Brenda A. Levin (architect); Albert Carey Martin Sr. (architect); Christopher C. Martin (architect); Kemper Nomland Sr. (architect); Donald Berthold Parkinson (architect); John Parkinson (architect); Herman Sachs (artist/color consultant/educator); Austin Cruver Whittlesey (architect); Nabih Youssef (structural engineer)

Dates: constructed 1926-1928

32 stories

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200 North Spring Street
Civic Center, Los Angeles, CA 90012-4801

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Gebhard and Winter Los Angeles Guide, 1994 says "South Spring Street;" North Spring Street and West Temple Street

Building History

Designed by the Allied Architects Association of Los Angeles, including John C. Austin, John and Donald B. Parkinson and Austin Whittlesey; Herman Sachs and Anthony Heinsbergen painted murals on the interior; the movie exhibitor and impressario, Sid Grauman, (owner of the Grauman's Chinese and Egyptian Theatres in Hollywood), produced the three-day building dedication in 04/1928; Austin C. Whittlesey was credited with designing the City Hall's interior; the formal massing of the building was strongly influenced by the work of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, particularly his Los Angeles Public Library Downtown Branch of 1922-1926. The Allied Architects of Los Angeles also referred to a favorite monumental precedent in their City Hall design: the Mausoleum of Mausolus and Artemisia II of Caria at Halicarnassus, Asia Minor (353-350 BC) (now modern Turkey). Since its remnants were disinterred in the 1850s by the British archaeologist and diplomat, Charles Thomas Newton (1816-1894), speculative reconstructions of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus have inspired American architects trained in Beaux-Arts methods such as John Russell Pope (1874-1937), Frank Ray Walker (1877-1949) and Harry F. Weeks (1871-1935). The Los Angeles City Hall, like Grant's Tomb (New York, NY, 1891-1897), the House of the Temple, Washington, DC, (1911-1915) and the Indiana War Memorial, Indianapolis, IN, (1923-1924) had some basic elements of the Halicarnassus tomb, including a ziggurat top, a prominent portico, and a pronounced, monumental base and stairs. There was no clear architectural formula (as there was no definitive reconstruction of the tomb in the 1920s), but the presence of the ziggurat as a crown, is often attributed to the influence of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The building's architects eschewed the usual templar models used for city halls preferring, instead, to emulate the tall forms of contemporary commercial skyscrapers. This shift in architectural symbolism suggested the city's modern and forward-thinking orientation. As early as 1914, other cities in CA, most notably Oakland, were adopting the skyscraper tower form for city halls. Los Angeles, however, sought to focus attention on and aggrandize its city hall by imposing limits on the height of commercial towers in the central core. (It followed Philadelphia in this use of height limits to protect the preeminence of its city hall on the skyline.) Additionally, the city employed dramatic lighting to highilight the city hall tower, creating dramatic visual impact appropriate for the film capital of the world.

Building Notes

Between 1928-1964, the Los Angeles City Hall remained the tallest building (by civic ordinance) in the city at 454 feet. Various figures are given for the number of floors in the building, from 27-32, depending on whether basement floors are counted.

The City Halls's renovation in the late 1990s received wide recognition. The American Public Works Association (APWA) presented the Los Angeles City Hall its 2001 Historic Preservation Award. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) gave the City Hall its 2001 AIA Building Team of the Year Award; the five-member Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission (formed in 1962) bestowed its 2002 award to the building, as well.

On 11/15/2018, the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter hosted a tour of the Los Angeles City Hall's foundations, an outing led by Carey McLeon, the lead AC Martin architect on the 1989-1993 retrofit, and Nabih Youssef, head of Nabih Youssef Structural Engineers, the prime engineering contractor on the project.


The City Hall underwent an elaborate renovation 1989-1993, and after the Northridge Earthquake in 1994; its base isolation system was designed to withstand a future 8.2-magnitude earthquake. This retrofitting project had a budget of $300 million included the installation of 526 isolators and 68 viscous dampers to absorb seismic motion. Nabih Youssef and Associates served as the Seismic Consulting Engineers utilizing dampers produced by Taylor Devices, Incorporated. One of the original architects, A.C. Martin Partners, supervised the architecture and engineering on the retrofit. Levin and Associates, a leading historic preservation architecture firm in Los Angeles and Kaplan Chen Kaplan Architects teamed up to preserve the city hall's historic fabric. The renovated Los Angeles City Hall #3 opened in 07/2001.

The Clark Construction Group LLC served as the general contractor during this most recent seismic renovation of the Los Angeles City Hall #3. Its web site stated of its involvement: "To strengthen the building, Clark-led project team added 30,000 cubic yards of concrete, 3,000 tons of structural steel, 5,000 tons of reinforcing steel, and an additional 68,467 million pounds of dead weight to the structure. Clark also included the excavation of a sub-basement and installation of a system of hydraulic jacks to support the structure while the team installed 526 isolators and sliders, as well as 64 viscous dampers. Excavation of an exterior perimeter moat and saw cut of the perimeter walls from their foundations also was performed to allow the structure to float or sway during an earthquake. A seismically-reinforced shearwall aslo was constructed and extends from the foundationto the top of the building.

In addition to meeting rigorous safety and damage mitigation standards, the Clark team preserved the building’s distinctive façade, mosaics, artwork, articulated ceilings, and period ornamental details. The interior of the first five floors was renovated, including historic restoration of the ornate rotunda, grand staircases and other public areas. Historic electrical light fixtures were removed from their settings, cleaned, and restored to comply with current energy codes. Art conservators researched and analyzed the original 1928 paint colors in the main hallways so they could be replicated into the new construction. The installation of the shearwalls, intrinsic to the building's seismic rehabilitation, required removing any conflicting structures or finishes. When shearwalls intersected historic fabric or historic walls, the historic fabric was removed, cataloged, crated, and stored." (See Clark Construction Group, LLC, "Los Angeles City Hall," accessed 05/08/2017.)

Los Angeles City Historical-Cultural Monument (1976-03-24): 150

PCAD id: 157