Oct. 2007: Scene Around

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Steampunk Palace

The October 2007 issue of Westways, Orange County AAA’s member magazine, featured a story featuring Southern California buildings that made it to the American Institute of Architects’ list of 150 favorite American buildings. Which one was featured first? The Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles.

If these images look familiar, then you’ve probably seen Blade Runner once or twice. The Bradbury Building formed the backdrop for J. F. Sebastian’s apartment.

Located at 304 S. Broadway and built in 1893, the historic building has been used in several films and television shows, including, Blade Runner, Wolf, The Outer Limits and Quantum Leap.

The outside of the building is nondescript, but once you get inside and see the atrium, the Bradbury can take your breath away. Designed by George Wyman for Lewis Bradbury (not related to Ray Bradbury, who, by the way, in the 1960s, was the favorite SF author of P.K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the inspiration for Blade Runner), a mining millionaire who had become a real estate developer.

Interestingly enough, Wyman actually consulted a Ouija board when he got the commission, because he was nervous that his skills weren’t up to the task. The story goes that he contacted his late brother, Mark Wyman, through the board. Mark supposedly told him “Mark Wyman / take the / Bradbury building / and you will be / successful” and the rest is history.

During construction, a spring was discovered under the building’s construction site. Normally, this would be an engineering nightmare. But Wyman took the lemon and made lemonaid, harnessing the spring’s energy to steam-power the elevators.

When Blade Runner was filming, the Bradbury Building was used as an office building by day. So, the set decoration team had to dress up the set after business hours and then undress it before people came to work the next morning, Linda DeScenna, Blade Runner’s Set Decorator told Gary Willoughby, BladeZone.com owner and site manager.

Today, the Bradbury is a National Historic Landmark and is under government protection and historical preservation. It serves as headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department’s Internal Affairs division and other government agencies.

Visitors are welcomed on a daily basis and greeted by a government worker to aid them with historical facts and information about the building. Visitors are allowed up to the first landing but not past it. Brochures and tours are also available and the building is a popular tourist attraction.

Other genre-related facts about the building:

  • Wyman’s grandson is the science fiction publisher Forrest J. Ackerman.
  • Wyman took the inspiration for the atrium’s glass ceiling, from Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy. Published in 1887, the novel describes a utopian society in the year 2000.