Inside Los Angeles’ Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building is an architectural landmark in Downtown Los Angeles and is also an ‘icon’ of Hollywood places, featuring heavily in Blade Runner. Since we just finished watching Blade Runner 2049, I figured it’d be a good time to finally post about this historic place in California.

First, a bit of background. The Bradbury Building dates to 1893, when the five-story office building was constructed. It’s best known for its labyrinth interior atrium of access walkways, stairs, and ornate ironwork, all of which is beautifully illuminated by a large skylight. The Bradbury Building was commissioned by Los Angeles gold-mining magnate Lewis L. Bradbury, constructed by George Wyman based on designs by Sumner Hunt. (It’s full design/construction is a bit convoluted, as documented by the Los Angeles Conservancy.)

The Bradbury Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, and is a crown jewel (among many gems) of Los Angeles architecture. The Bradbury Building has featured in many films, television shows, and music videos–most notably, the aforementioned Blade Runner. As a result, the free-to-visit atrium remains a popular spot with tourists, and is something we recommend on our 1-Day Downtown Los Angeles Walking Itinerary

In terms of design and architecture, there are many influences that can be found in the Bradbury Building. The exterior is fairly nondescript. Various sources suggest a Roman-esque or Italian Renaissance Revival style, but if you didn’t know what was inside, you’d quickly pass by the building, as it looks like fairly mundane. A lot like other older office buildings.

By contrast, the interior and atrium features a variety of styles, all of which come together to form something wholly unique. There is so much detail and intricate design-work, all of which appears to be from a bygone era. There’s a maze of catwalks, stairways, and elevators, all of which have an incredible amount of symmetry.

I’d go as far to say that the symmetry is the highlight. (This also makes it frustratingly difficult to photograph, and I’m not really satisfied with any of my photos.) I could stare at this interior for hours; it’s just so fascinating and different–really captivating. Tons of character, texture, and warmth that really pull you into the design.

As can be inferred by its inclusion in our above-mentioned DTLA Itinerary, a stop at the Bradbury Building is something we highly recommend. If you’re already in Downtown Los Angeles, there’s a strong chance you’re going to be in the neighborhood, and it’s a free thing to do.

Located across the street (more or less) from Grand Central Market, so you can get your Eggslut on, and then spend 15-30 minutes inside the Bradbury Building. It’s also near-ish to the Flight of Angels, Central Library, and other interesting architecture in Los Angeles, making for a good option for an architectural walking tour, if you’re into that sort of thing.

There’s not much more that I can really say about the Bradbury Building than that. So, in the absence of more substance about the landmark, I’ll turn to Blade Runner. Let’s be real–that was my whole excuse in writing this post. If you don’t really care about these movies (or my opinion of them), you can safely stop reading now. Then again, if you don’t care about Blade Runner, you can probably skip Bradbury Building completely. It’s the film that makes it interesting, in my estimation.

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the original film, but I own the 5-disc collector’s set and have seen every version of the original film. (For those who care, my favorite–and the best version worth seeing prior to the new film–is the Final Cut. The U.S. Theatrical version is also worthwhile.)

Personally, I did not have high expectations for the sequel. The original is so good, but I worried that its sequel would lean too heavily on CGI and lack the thematic nuance and subtlety of the first film, content instead on being a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. Fortunately, that is not the case. Blockbuster it may be, but it does not lean into the usual tropes; instead, it’s a provocative and thoughtful film.

Blade Runner 2049 picks up where Blade Runner (Final Cut) left off. Well, except for being 30 years later and basically a stand-alone film. Much like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 has stunning visuals, thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins, who should earn a long-overdue Oscar for this. The cinematography is incredible, and there should be decades’ worth of fodder for the @OnePerfectShot Twitter account. Some truly breathtaking scenes in this film.

One thing I appreciate about Blade Runner is how gracefully it has aged. There are a few tells as to its vintage, but it has fared very well. My concern with regard to the CGI was that Blade Runner 2049 would look like a circa-2017 film two decades from now. It’s entirely possible that will be the case, but the sense of overriding realism and use of light, color, and texture place it squarely within the same world as the original.

As with all good science fiction, there are also deep moral and philosophical questions about humanity in Blade Runner 2049. These are deftly weaved into the narrative, without trying to beat the audience over the head with either these themes or its Biblical motifs. Equally as important, they’re largely left open-ended, posing questions rather than forcing answers upon viewers.

The story itself is satisfying–albeit secondary to the imagery–and never devolves into fan service for the original. The plot is engrossing and the characters are engaging. Despite fits of action, the narrative is mostly a slow-burn, with a tension-filled 164-minute runtime. All of this culminates in a film that is, if I had to sum up in a single word, chilling.

In other words, I highly recommend a visit to the Bradbury Building, as well as a viewing of Blade Runner 2049. (If you somehow haven’t seen the original film, that’s a given/must, as well.) It’s an iconic landmark at the intersection of Los Angeles and Hollywood history, representing the best of both worlds.

If you’re planning a trip, check out our Ultimate Guide to Los Angeles or our California category of posts. For even more things to do, The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas is an exceptional resource, which is written by other locals. If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!

Your Thoughts

Have you been to the Bradbury Building? If so, what did you think of it? Any additional tips to add that we didn’t cover? Thoughts on the Blade Runner films? Questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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7 replies
  1. Jody
    Jody says:

    I think the primary reason the original holds up is because it was all through the lens. CG of that time has NOT aged well.

  2. Paul
    Paul says:

    Have you been to Catalina Island? Or do you plan on going, it seems there is a ferry near you. I can’t find anything on your site about it.

    • Tom Bricker
      Tom Bricker says:

      We actually bought tickets for the ferry on Groupon last year during the off-season…but forgot to use them before they expired. It’s very high on our list, but after getting burned (or rather, burning ourselves), we’re waiting a bit so the sting wears off before buying tickets once again. Stay tuned!

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:

      FWIW, you should still be able to redeem the Groupon for the cash value that you paid for it. So it won’t be good for 2 tickets, but you won’t be out the money you paid. (I may have done this to myself before…)

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