This small, but highly visible building is both the headquarters of a leading literary and talent agency and a focal landmark at one of the busiest intersections in Los Angeles. The design includes two curved wings wrapped around a central atrium to create an integrated whole. The building occupies an irregularly configured site and mediates two very different precincts, each requiring its own response. The curved window-walls of the exposed north wing follow the flow of traffic in this busy part of town. By contrast, the south wing’s flat facade responds to a quiet residential street. Inside, the open atrium and its great curved skylight continue Pei’s spatial play with radial geometry (first explored at Meyerson Symphony Center). The great conical skylight, seen from a distance at night, is protected by the tubular aluminum sunscreens that became somewhat of a Pei signature after their initial use in the East Building of the National Gallery of Art.
Inside and out, the building’s honey-colored Italian travertine walls are distinguished by their pronounced veinyness. To optimize the unusually rich patterning, each stone panel was end-matched to adjacent panels, so that the whole is woven together in rhythmic horizontals of great refinement. A large painting by Roy Lichtenstein animates the atrium; it echoes an underlying theme of movement and connection as the building, designed for the highly interpersonal entertainment and talent industry, maximizes opportunities for social contact with focal views of people walking through the atrium, on stairs, open bridges and corridors, or glimpsed through strategic wall cutouts. The painting is visible through a monumental glazed entrance that also allows interior activities to be seen from the street in an inclusive gesture that furthers the building’s connectivity.
In its contextualism and complex massing augmented by elegant materials and precision detailing, this urbane little building became an instant landmark. Much as Pei had established a new standard of corporate modernism with his Webb & Knapp Headquarters forty years earlier, he created a monument that testified to the authority of the Creative Artists Agency. In the process, Pei introduced a kind of architectural sophistication not often found in Hollywood.
Together with the Bank of China Tower, Meyerson Symphony Center, the Grand Louvre (Phase 1), and Choate Science Center, CAA was completed in 1989. The opening of so many important buildings in the same year prompted New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger to declare 1989 “the year of Pei.”
In 1990, CAA’s headquarters received an Annual Tucker Award from the Building Stone Institute and also an Architectural Design Award from the City of Beverly Hills. In the following year, it received a Marble Architecture Award from the Internationale Marmi e Machine Carrara and the American Institute of Architects.
Design Team: I.M. Pei, Design Partner; L. C. Pei, Design Architect
Pei Cobb Freed & Partners