Bonaventure Adventure Side Trip

Side Trip - Bonaventure Adventure

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Side Trip to Bonaventure adventure! Explore the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Bunker Hill.

If you pay attention, this journey will add about 30 minutes to your tour. If you don’t, and you get lost in the hotel, not to worry, you’ve got food to eat and a place to stay.

This Side Trip is not wheelchair accessible.

–> Enter the Westin Bonaventure Hotel from the Figueroa Street entrance, about midway up the block.

A) Westin Bonaventure Hotel. Despite stepping in off the street, you’re on the 2nd level – not the first, confirming the need to pay close attention here. If you’d like, step up to the balcony – it’s just one floor down the Lower Level where registration and check-out take place. Directories, signs, arrows – and lost guests – are everywhere in this hotel. Your destination, should you need to ask for directions, is Level 6 – the ARCO Garage/YMCA bridge.

The building’s a favorite of Hollywood, having appeared in at least a dozen major motion pictures, including “In the Line of Fire,” “Rain Man,” “True Lies,” “Nick of Time,” “Blue Thunder,” “Forget Paris,” and “Strange Days.”

–> Find the bank of escalators to your right and take them (not the elevators) to Level 6. On arriving at Level 6, follow the balconies around to the left heading for the “ARCO Garage/YMCA” – a fairly long and circuitous route.

Along the way, look down, up, across – and take in the complexity of the atrium. Look for the “exercise pods” – machine workout stations for exhibitionists. Actually, they’re all part of the hotel’s gym and spa and the set-up even includes a circular jogging track. Restaurants lining the outer walls lean toward Asian and Pacific Fusion.

If you’re visiting after 5:00 pm and want to check out the views from the revolving 35th floor Bona Vista Lounge, use the Red elevator bank. (Tour Tip: If you’re doing your WalknRideLA tour in the afternoon, return here and toast the sunset and your tour!) Otherwise, continue on to the ARCO Garage/YMCA exit.

–> Exit the hotel and cross the “sky bridge”  to the plaza adjacent to the Ketchum YMCA.

B) Morgan Adams, Jr. Sculpture Garden. Views from the bridge are excellent so don’t rush your way across. Once within the plaza’s Morgan Adams, Jr. Sculpture Garden – named for the prominent member of YMCA’s Board of Directors – stroll around the grounds until you feel at home.  The themes here are the fit human form, acheived through wellness and exercise. All are identified by sculpture, name and date. Be sure to check out the human forms seeking wellness through exercise; the cardio machines within the Stuart M. Ketchum YMCA (AC Martin Partners, 1986) overlook the park.

–> Continue through the park to Hope Street.

C) Bunker Hill. Welcome to Bunker Hill! The hill is best seen on the WalknRideLA “Pershing Square, Part 2” and the “Civic Center” tours; here we’re just doing a run-through.

Six of the ten tallest buildings in downtown Los Angeles are here on top of or tight alongside Bunker Hill: the U.S. Bank Building, Two California Plaza, the Gas Company Tower, Bank of America Center and Wells Fargo Tower. The four others you’ve already seen (Figueroa at Wilshire, the twin towers at the City National Plaza) or will soon see (Aon Center and the 777 Tower) on this tour.

A century ago, Bunker Hill was a tony neighborhood. Here, the city’s rich and famous lived in Victorian and Queen Anne homes overlooking the growing metropolis. Within a decade or two, those rich and famous had moved west to Hancock Park, then Beverly Hills and beyond. Bunker Hill homes were subdivided into apartments and those apartments, by the 1940s and 1950s, were showing their age. A downtown  redevelopment push began in the 1960s and coupled with the removal of building height limits, the eyes of city boosters and developers turned to Bunker Hill.

Clearly, Bunker Hill had become an embarrassment to the city; today it stands as a showcase. Whether Bunker Hill sold its soul to urban redevelopment remains a fair question but there’s no disputing this: the makeover was dramatic and complete. Nothing of the original buildings – the homes, the hotels, the apartments or stores – remains. Not even the two Victorian homes that were cut from their foundations and towed to new sites at Heritage Square, just north of downtown, survived. They were soon burned to the ground, likely the victims of arsonists.

From where you stand, to the left, you should be able to get a glance of the Walt Disney Concert Hall through the buildngs in the distance.

D) Bank of America Building. Immediately to your left (pictured right) rises the Bank of America Building (A.C. Martin Partners, 1974) with its distinctive, orange sculpture out front designed by Alexander Calder (“Four Arches,” 1975). Across Hope Street rise the two buildings (pictured left) that comprise the Wells Fargo Center (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, 1983) beyond them, the two California Plaza (Arthur Erickson, 1985  & 1992) buildings.

Directly across the street is the Mellon Bank Building (Welton Beckett Associates, 1982). Though separate from the Wells Fargo Center, its brown granite blends well with its neighbors.  The sculpture out front is “Ulysses,” another “Alexander” work but this one by Alexander Liberman (1988).

–> Turn right and walk to the top of the Bunker Hill Steps.

E) Bunker Hill Steps. This outdoor staircase provides a pedestrian connection between Bunker Hill and the city below. Only 102 steps separate top from bottom yet the pace changes from the relative quiet of Hope Place (the little cul-de-sac near where you now stand) and the always-busy Fifth Street below.

Straight ahead, beyond the pyramid peak of the Library is the 62-story AON Center (Charles Luckman, 1973), tallest in the city when completed. You’ll get a closer view later in the tour.

The Source Figure” (Robert Graham, 1992) is the title of the bronze sculpture in the fountain. The female figure symbolizes human fertility; water symolizes nature’s fertilty. “Water” runs a common theme in local art here in LA, no doubt because we have so little of it in our semi-desert clime. Look for the crabs at the Source Figure’s feet, bringing some to call the sculpture, “Woman with Crabs.”

F) Citibank Center. The building off to the right is the Citibank Center (Albert C. Martin, 1981). If it looks familiar mabye it’s because it opened the weekly drama, “L.A. Law” some 20 years ago. Despite the building’s relative boxiness, it features a substantial amount of public art and some comfortable gardens that are real hits for the lunch-time crowd of office workers who converge on the area each weekday.

G) US Bank Building. To the left is the 75-story (73 for offices, 2 mechanical floors up top) US Bank Building – tallest in the U.S. west of Chicago. You can’t see it from the street but up on its roof is the world’s highest helipad.

OK, so maybe you’re wondering: “Hey, what happens if there’s an earthquake?” What happens, according to its designers, is this: special seismic “curtain-walls” allow each floor to move somewhat independently without compromising the building’s structural strength. Built by its architects (Henry N. Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, 1990) to withstand a quake of 8.3 on the Richter scale, it survived the 1994 Northridge quake (6.7) in fine shape. Notably, it didn’t survice the alien attack in the 1996 movie, “Independence Day.”

–> Take the esclators  or steps down to Fifth Street. Cross Fifth at the mid-block crosswalk to the L.A. Central Library. Turn right and continue to the corner of Flower and Fifth Streets to re-join the main tour.

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