Architect S. Charles Lee’s ornate and lasting impression of what would later become the historic core of Downtown Los Angeles is often overlooked from the contemporary postcard perspective of the city. Yet among local angelenos, locals, and adopted transplants, the corridors that represent the most historically significant remnants of LA’s architectural past – including the Broadway Theater District – are popular for the hidden beauty hidden behind the closed doors of their dilapidated facades. And now, thanks to Apple and the partnership with partners Fosters + Partners, a grande dame of the Renaissance Revival style is re-emerging as a flagship retail destination, where technology from the beauty of this gilded age like that Apple Tower Theater.
Apple’s Director of Retail Design Doo Ho Lee and Senior Executive Partner at Foster + Partners, Stefan Behling, spoke to us about the great efforts that have not only been made to make the decaying Tower Theater inside and out for Apple’s own needs as a retail and business environment modernize interactive event space, even more so about the extent of their joint efforts to preserve and revive the enormous wealth of historical details that remained in the 1927-era theater.
“You have to approach the restoration as if you were restoring an old master painting,” says Behling, “carefully peeling back the brine”. The Foster + Partners partner would also point out the delicate balance required for a restoration project rather than a full renovation – as was the case with the recent renovation of a historic cafe in Rome – where the already gutted interior is a blank canvas bot. The landmark Tower Theater, on the other hand, though worn and forgotten, preserved many of the treasures of its time, including exquisite stucco work and gold and bronze details that embroidered an interior inspired by the majestic Paris Opera House.
No expense or detail was spared in attempting this “true love work,” as Lee describes during a slide show that documents the extensive efforts made to eradicate decades of neglect marked by the baked-on “delicious brown” layer that envelops every inch of the interior of the theater at the beginning of the project.
Details range from large to minute, including the addition of a replica bell tower cap that crowns the exterior, an architectural detail that was removed after an earthquake in 1971. Inside, individual decorative crystals have been carefully restored to give the guests a sparkling again. Light rain hung over the chandeliers in the entrance area to decorate.
The architectural-forensic care of the team to preserve the original of the theater instead of replacing it characterizes the overarching narrative of this restoration project, but some changes have been made within the gleaming pantheon, including a refreshed and simplified trompe l’oeil skylight – Mural, the addition of lots of more comfortable Italian leather seats, and some acoustic A / V changes behind the curtain to allow Apple to host events in the room.
The Apple Tower Theater is now open to the public and will act as not only a retail space but also a hosting platform for Apple Creative Studios, including a global initiative for underrepresented young creatives as part of the ongoing Today at Apple program taking place in Apple is offered store locations worldwide. Working with the non-profit Music Forward Foundation and Inner-City Arts and the Social Justice Learning Institute, Creative Studios LA provides access to technology, creative resources, and hands-on experience, as well as a platform to learn about and upcoming talent over nine weeks of free programming.
The converted movie theater will also host public in-store sessions and virtual sessions hosted by Creative Studios, who teach artists and mentors, including photographer and filmmaker Bethany Mollenkof, rapper and producer D Smoke, the singer-songwriter Syd and the cellist and singer Kelsey Lu. Noah Humes and his mentor Maurice Harris, two artists who worked on the mural in front of the Tower Theater inspired by the spirit of Creative Studios LA, will also be teaching a virtual session. Register for these events at apple.com.