Union Bank Plaza Tower

Union Bank Plaza Tower
  1. About the Union Bank Plaza Tower in Los Angeles
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Union Bank Plaza Tower is an International Style skyscraper designed by Albert C. Martin & Associates, in association with Harrison & Abramovitz, and built between 1965 and 1968 in Los Angeles, CA.

Union Bank Plaza Tower is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The Union Bank Plaza Tower is also known, or has been known as, UBC Plaza, Union Bank of California Building, or Bunker Hill Square.

Its precise street address is 445 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA. You can also find it on the map here.

The Union Bank Plaza Tower is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Los Angeles and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the International Style style. Because of that, the Union Bank Plaza Tower was officially included in the Los Angeles Register of Historic Places on February 26th 2020.

The tower is surrounded by a landscaped plaza whos ground, like the tower itself, features a grid-patterned pavement scheme aligned with the steel columns of the building. The plaza is divided into different usage zones distinguished visually by various types of trees and vegetation.

The building underwent a major restoration between 2019 and 2021. The architect commissioned to undertake this restoration was HLW.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
1965
59
Construction completed
1968
56
Added to the Los Angeles RHP
2020
4
a
Restoration
2021
3
years ago
2024
  1. 2019 to 2021 - The restoration included improvements to the lobby, elevator cabins, interior updates with high-quality finishes, a renovation of the commercial level and improvements to the outdoor seating plaza with fire pits, work spaces and comfortable seating. Additionally, 8 high-end suites were added.. The architect in charge was HLW.

Architect and team

Albert C. Martin & Associates was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design, in association with Harrison & Abramovitz.

Albert C. Martin & Associates was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline involving many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Union Bank Plaza Tower a reality:

  • Turner Construction as the Main Contractor
  • in charge of Facade Consultancy
  • Connecticut General Life Insurance Company as the Main Developer
  • Jaros Baum & Bolles in charge of MEP Engineering
  • Garrett Eckbo in charge of Landscape Architecture

Architectural Style

The Union Bank Plaza Tower can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The Union Bank Plaza Tower was completed in 1968. By 1968 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the Union Bank Plaza Tower was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Union Bank Plaza Tower reaches an architectural height of 515ft (157m). It has a total of 40 floors, served by 19 elevators, which combined offer a total of 737,596 sqf (68,525m2) of usable space.

In regards to parking space, the building has a total of 914 spots available, which roughly equals 23 spots per floor (above ground), or one parking spot per every 807 sqf (75m2) of usable space.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1968, the Union Bank Plaza Tower has mainly been used as Commercial space.

515ft (157m)

Materials & Structure

The Union Bank Plaza Tower uses a frame structure made of steel columns and concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade of the building however, is load bearing. This doesn't imply that it is a traditional load-bearing wall. Rather, it means that the structure's exterior pillars have been pushed to the very edges, becoming integrated with the facade, and therefore, technically, a part of it.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a grid accentuated by the pronounced expression of the steel structure and the texturized concrete spandrels. Both the steel structure and spandrels are painted in white, with the retracted windows featuring a contrasting dark tint.

The tower rises above a two-story rectangular base at street level, with integrated parking and a retail area.

Sources

  • planning.lacity.org