I've been thinking a lot about reinvention lately.
I tried reinventing myself in 2009 when I quit my job in the music industry and applied to join the Peace Corps. When I didn't get in, I settled for a new career at a dot-com. When I got laid off from that career-changing position, I ran back to the music industry with my tail between my legs.
I gave it a year, but it was clear I no longer belonged at a record label. I had changed too much. Although I had the opportunity to help a musician with his humanitarian efforts, I was still very much in a for-profit business, and I just wanted to do more with my life than make money – or, rather, than make other people money.
I've just been scraping by since then, but what keeps me going is the prospect of reinventing myself, eventually. It's taking a long time, but I think it's going to happen. I'm not sure what I'll become, but it will be something...else. I'm already so different than what I was before.
And whatever I change into next, it doesn't have to be the final version of me.
I get inspired by reinventions in architecture, especially those cases of adaptive reuse – when some old building (a factory, warehouse, theater, church) gets a new life as a hotel or a nightclub or live/work lofts or whatever some developer imagines. Some old buildings, after all, are worth saving – no matter how bad they've gotten, or how neglected they've been.
The Elysian in Echo Park is such a case.
Originally built as the headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District...
...it consisted of two components:
...a low-rise (1963), and an 8-story high-rise tower (1973)...
...the latter of which has recently been converted into residential units...
...after standing vacant for nearly 20 years.
Its steel and concrete structure is gorgeous to admire from the outside...
...and, inside, a photo montage pays tribute to the building's history, showing it in various stages of construction.
The Elysian has a tremendous architectural pedigree, designed by William Pereira...
...the architect best-known for his design of buildings like the Geisel Library, and (a favorite of mine) the LAX Theme Building (formerly the "Encounter" restaurant, recently vacated as well).
But now? Perhaps the Elysian is better-known for its views of Downtown LA and City Hall...
...as it looks down upon Echo Park and Chinatown, across the street from Angelino Heights.
How many people who move into their new penthouses will actually notice the building?
Or will it just provide a glass shell with a balcony from which to peer out into the world?
Regardless of how it's being used, or how much those units cost, or how they are tiled and floored and upholstered and painted...
...what's important is that it's no longer empty, that it's finally being used and enjoyed again...
...after waiting so long for someone to pay it some attention. (Now, onto the adjacent vacant church...)
It took some time, but it was worth the wait.
I hope that holds true for the rest of us.
What Have I Become?
A New Version of Me?