June 30, 2016

Photo Essay: Transforming the View of LA (Updated for 2021)

Update 1/7/21 6:54 PM PT—In July 2020, OUE sold the U.S. Bank Tower to Silverstein Properties of New York City.  Skyspace had closed earlier in the year for COVID-19 and announced its permanent closure in October 2020. There are currently no plans to reopen it under the new owner. 

I've been fascinated with the U.S. Bank Tower for a while—and it wasn't just because it's the tallest building west of the Mississippi (for now).

It's also the tallest building by far in LA, a city not necessarily known for its skyline, given height restrictions that kept our City Hall looming above the rest of Downtown LA for years.

It's kind of our Empire State Building, with crown lights that change depending what significant event might require a special color scheme.

And now, with the opening of the OUE Skyspace observation deck, it's even more like other skyscrapers in other great cities like New York, Chicago, Seattle, Toronto, and even Baltimore.

With the scenery we've got, it's hard to believe that the only other observation deck of its kind has been the small, little-known one at City Hall.

But, of course, since this is LA, we had to make an even bigger show of it by installing a glass slide that wraps around the outside of the building...

...allowing visitors to plummet to the floor below rather than taking the stairs.

It seemed like the kind of thing that couldn't possibly be around for long—if it became damaged or injured somebody—so I went within its first week of opening to pull a flimsy magic carpet over my feet...

...and slide my way into oblivion.

In typical fashion, I was giggling the whole time.

The thing about the carpet is that it's flat, so you sit at one end of it and then fold the other end over your feet, grabbing a loop with each hand. It makes it hard to hold a decent camera.

But if you don't hold the loops tight, that's when you end up banking on the glass sides of the slide and having a really raucous ride.

That must be what happened to me (either that, or I blacked out), because the next thing I knew, I was flipping upside down at the bottom of the slide, on top of a squishy blue mat—with no photos of the journey on my camera.

The whole adventure is a bit pricey ($33 for the Skyspace / Skyslide combo + $10 parking) and takes longer than you'd expect, with strict security screenings and two ear-popping elevator rides.

But this city! Those mountains! The smog! It was all so beautiful from up there.

The observation deck isn't quite at the top of the building, but it's pretty close to that lighted crown...

...and the helipad on the roof.

From up there, you notice how many helipads there are on those flat-topped buildings of Downtown LA...

...which are now a dying breed, since LA softened its requirements back in 2014.

Since spires and other pointy architectural elements will now be allowed, the Wilshire Grand Tower is set to dethrone the U.S. Bank Tower as tallest building, once it's completed next year.

In the meantime, a visit to the Skyspace (whether or not you slide) gives a postcard view of LA that's about to go extinct—a snapshot in time that future architectural historians will talk about but may have never seen themselves.

When you live in a city that's always changing, the time to appreciate it is always now.

OUE Skyspace LA is permanently closed. Plans for the U.S. Bank Tower are TBA.

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