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A world landmark site – for tourists from around the globe Comment on this post ↓
May 2nd, 2013 by Warren Swil

Hollywood & Highland Center could have been better conceived

The Hollywood & Highland complex, which opened Nov. 9, 2001 and where Lucky Strike Lanes has one of its premiere venues, was meant to be the lynchpin of redevelopment for the entire blighted area

Official web site of the Hollywood & Highland Center

when it was conceived and developed in the 1990s.
If nothing else at all has made it a world landmark site, the AMPAS event also known as the Academy Awards did!
While it is a magnificent edifice, it is lacking in a few vital respects.

THE street-facing façade is devoid of human scale. There are few store-font windows, no sidewalk level entrances – in fact, its outward appearance is totally uninviting.
The main entrance to the 640,000 square-foot retail complex from Hollywood Boulevard, a few feet east of the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, is indeed a grand staircase, just right for the grandest of the stars of stage and screen.
But us mere mortals?
I don’t know.
The main courtyard reached at the top of the grand staircase is imposing, indeed. Circular, it surrounds a quite pretty but unremarkable little fountain. The sound of the water is soothing, but the visual, dull.
The structure, square on the outside and circular on the inside, is an interesting architectural concept.
The interior rises about five stories from the plaza level, and all the store-fronts face the shoppers once they’re inside the “mall.”
As Jim Pekkala explained last night, the ornate elephant mural in the southeast corner, facing inwards, is based on some obscure movie

Three close friends with me in the plaza courtyard of Hollywood & Highland, as we were leaving after the party on Wednesday evening. Brent S., left, James A., Jim P., and yours truly. Don’t we look like a sober bunch after a fabulous party? We were!

produced in the 1890s. It is imposing, but how many visitors could identify with something so obscure? Surely the Cowardly Lion or StarShip Enterprise would have been a better way to allow the audience to identify?
Then, there’s the signage – or lack of it.
Last night, I parked my motorcycle in the designated portion of the underground parking structure drivers can enter only from Highland Avenue. I was running a tad late (punctuality is, in my view, an essential virtue: at my hourly rate, every 15 minutes costs quite a pretty penny) and it took me about 15 minutes to find my way from my parking spot to the Lucky Strike lanes.
First, I asked the Valet Parking attendant. Took an escalator up two floors to the plaza level, as instructed, and emerged next to the bubbling fountain.
Then I was lost. A bright neon sign for “Lucky Brand Jeans” store caught my eye; it was close, but no cigar.
Nowhere could I see anything pointing me to my destination.
I asked a server in one of the fast-food joints. She was friendly, and told me to head east, look for a down staircase and proceed down it. I did as instructed, but all I could find was an UP staircase. I knew it would he hopeless to ask any of the visiting tourists for help. It was 8 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, but there was not a single official “guide” of the facility in sight to ask for directions.
I explored. Not here, not there … but hidden, around the corner, finally I found a DOWN staircase leading out of the plaza down to Highland Avenue. At the top of the staircase, luckily and finally, I spied a sign pointing to “Lucky Strike lanes.”
Whew!
I rushed down the stairs, outside, turned right onto the sidewalk … and there was the red carpet entrance to my destination.
The signage could be better.

This billboard is seen from the entrance to Lucky Strike lanes on Highland Avenue, Hollywood, California. It is on the northeast corner of the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, facing southbound traffic on Highland.

One final note. The formerly named Kodak Theatre, venue for the Oscar’s since the Hollywood/Highland complex opened, is perhaps the best feature of the entire facility.
Its marble grand staircase entrance from Hollywood Boulevard must have been designed specifically with the “Red Carpet” in mind. It truly works, every winter, for the “perp walk” by the glitterati as they arrive for the event.
It rises about three stories – I’ve never counted, but there must be at least 100 steps – so folks like Betty White or Barbra Streisand must be breathless when they reach the top. But it does afford the cameras dozens of angles, even though the main “Red Carpet” action takes place on the blocked-off street at the bottom of the staircase, outside the Hollywood & Highland complex.
While this is a must-see Hollywood attraction for visitors and residents alike, it’s a pity the designers, architects and money-men didn’t give more thought to the overall purpose and utility of the multi-million dollar development before they broke ground.
It could have been done better.



3 Responses  
  • one who knows writes:
    May 2nd, 2013

    Very interesting critique, Mr. Swil.
    Where did you say you got your degree in Architecture from?
    Must have been National University, or some other diploma mill.

  • Bjorn Palenius writes:
    May 7th, 2013

    The giant elephant sets and murals are from D.W. Griffiths’ film “Intolerance” made in 1916.
    It was, at the time, the world’s most expensive movie, with enormous sets and thousands of extras.
    That is perhaps why the architects and designers of this site chose what they did.
    From 1905 to 1956, the Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue area was home to the famous Hollywood Hotel. Old Hollywood had so much more charm than today.

    • One who knows writes:
      May 7th, 2013

      No one could say you are not a history buff, Bjorn. Such detailed knowledge … you must have a Ph.D. in history … or maybe an MFA in fine art?
      Very nicely done.
      Seen any good movies recently?


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