Milan Central & The Original “Dukestir”

The Milan Central Train Station is undergoing restoration. There’s not too much mention of this being an architecture of political statement. A looming Fascist monument. Designed in scale beyond anything human. It took more than 7 years to complete. A cavernous mountain of concrete and marble adorned with power icons. Ferocious beasts, Muscular men, angry gargoyles.
I was approached by an Italian gentleman while shooting pictures. He asked me if my interest was in the distinctive advertising displayed.
I replied it was the architecture.
He said this was a pet project of Benito “Duce” (“Duke”) Mussolini. A statement to the world about Milan’s importance as the railway hub for all of Europe. A show of Italian power.
The marble interior and barrel vault ceilings are impossibly high. A hall that breathes power. Loudspeaker announcements are like a frightening voice of God.
Yet amidst the hustle and bustle (train travel seems no less busy now than ever) there is a quiet. Sound radiates through the vast space and vanishes. The filtered sky lighting eases your senses.
Overall, an approach to architecture that occurs when a head of state is in love with the pomp and circumstance surrounding his bloated ego.

Pan Pacific

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Pan Pacific Auditorium, Welton Becket, architect. Surrounded by barbed wire and cyclone fence, circa 1988.

Before Los Angeles had a commerce and population requiring such indoor venues as The Staples Center, The L.A. Sports Arena, and the L.A. Convention Center, there was the venerable Pan Pacific Auditorium. The nearly endless list of events there included Ice Capades, Harlem Globetrotters, Wrestling, UCLA basketball, Political rallies, and concerts of all musical genres. In fact, Elvis had left the building…following his concert there in 1957.
The striking streamline moderne facade of that multi functional hall made an impression on me at an early age (1960’s) when Dad took me on his tropical fish store route. Later during my years at UCLA I liked to drive by and admire it. But the old beauty by then was neglected and left behind by the newer, larger, exhibit halls. Talk was afloat for years about restoration. But the only result was more crumbling and decay. It is a scenario all too familiar, especially in San Diego with the California Theatre and the La Jolla cottages, Red Roost and Red Rest.

While I was taking this photo from behind the post office, a resident of the neighborhood said “It’s a fire waiting to happen.” Sadly he was right.

http://www.lafire.com/famous_fires/MajorIncident-index.htm

“Even vanished Becket buildings have left an indelible after-image: the Pan Pacific Auditorium remains a part of the mental landscape of L.A. long after the actual building burned and crumbled.” –Alan Hess

Historical photographs of this and other L.A. landmarks, go here:
hollywoodphotographs.com/search….