Art and Architecture in the Los Angeles Central Library

After going to Little Tokyo to visit the Japanese American National Museum, I decided to stop by the Los Angeles Central Library on the way back since I haven’t been inside in a while. I was too late for the free public tours that they offer, but I decided to just do one of one my own using a self-guided tour pdf available on the Central Library website. I took some pictures, so let’s go through some of them!

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The museum library was constructed in 1926 and was designed by architect Bertram Goodhue. Compared to the surrounding skyscrapers, the building is unique because of its ancient Egyptian and Mediterranean Revival style influences. At the top is a hand holding a torch, but we’ll get to that later.

One of the really visually stimulating pieces inside the building are three giant chandeliers created by Therman Statom. They are colorful and are suppose to symbolize the natural world, the man-made world, and the spiritual world. Practically everything in this museum building is a symbol for one thing or another. I just realize that I have a habit of typing “museum” when I refer to this place now.

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The elevators are great because they feature a bunch of library cards that were basically obsolete once everything went electronic. That’s a really creative way to give the elevators a decorative touch connected to the building in which they are housed.

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Another great chandelier is the globe that hangs in the rotunda. The signs of the zodiac surround the globe as well as 48 lights that represent the amount of states in 1926.

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Nearby is a sculpture of a golden hand holding a torch. What does this symbolize? The light of learning, of course. This was the original sculpture that stood above the library before it was deemed too fragile and replaced by a copy.

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Close to the rotunda are also a statue of two sphinxes and the Statue of Civilization. Now this one is chock full of symbolism, from her book of quotations about knowledge, to her skirt featuring images representing various historic civilizations, to her torch resting on a turtle’s back, representing “civilization’s dominion over land and sea.” Has anyone written a Da Vinci Code-style book about this place yet?

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After going through most of the self-guided tour, I decided to sign up for a library card, which I actually haven’t had since I was probably in elementary school. I thought it would be great to actually get my card at the third largest public library in the United States. I didn’t take home any books, but I do want to go back and make use of the language-learning resources they have.

This place was made for people to learn and that’s what I want to do!

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