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Superior Oil Company Building
Superior Oil Company Building, Los Angeles.JPG
The former Superior Oil Company Building, 2008
Location 550 S. Flower St., Los Angeles, California
Built 1955-1956
Architect Beelman, Claud; Simpson, William
Architectural style Modern
NRHP reference No. 03000059
Added to NRHP February 28, 2003

The Superior Oil Company Building, currently The Standard Downtown LA and previously the Bank of California Building, is a 12-story marble-clad highrise building located at 550 S Flower St in Downtown Los Angeles. The office building was refurbished as a hotel in 2002.

History

Construction and office building

The marble-clad Superior Oil Company Building was constructed in 1952 as an office building by the Keck family to serve as the headquarters for Superior Oil Company. Completed in 1955, the Modern architecture 12 story structure was designed by Claud Beelman and builder William Simpson. It was given distinctive marble, granite, and stainless-steel surfaces. According to the Los Angeles Times, it became "one of the area's most significant examples of the postwar modernism style popular in corporate architecture during the 1950s."

In 1963 it became the southern California headquarters of the Bank of California, and for a time the building was called the Bank of California Building. The Bank of California later merged into Union Bank of California, and by 1980, it was officially known as the Union Bank of California building. The building became empty in 1992, after the bank was merged into Union Bank of California.

National Register and hotel

By 2000, the office building was empty, and local preservation groups had expressed worries that it would be gutted and used as a telecommunications switching station, like other office buildings in the area. In January 2000, it was reported that the building's owner, the Union Bank of California, had sold the building to Columbia Development, "a Manhattan Beach-based hotel investment and development firm." The sale price was not disclosed at the time. With backing from local preservation groups, it was to be the "central city's first major new hotel in nearly a decade." The Standard, part of Andre Balazs properties, had first opened a boutique in Hollywood in 1962. William Gustafson and Mark Neumann of Columbia Development Group, in partnership with Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Partners and Standard Holdings, converted the office building into The Standard Downtown LA, operated by Standard Hotels.

In 2002, The Standard opened the building as a boutique hotel, putting in a rooftop pool with a dance area, German beer garden, and space for DJs and pool parties on the 12th floor. The 2002 renovation was designed by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc. and was constructed by Sam Martel of Taisei Construction. Christy McAvoy of Historical Resources Group was the historic preservation consultant.

In 2003, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places based on its architecture, particularly its moderne style and engineering. Also in 2003, The Downtown Standard Hotel was awarded the Los Angeles Conservancy's preservation award, for "bringing a youthful buzz to a 1955 modernist skyscraper on Flower Street downtown."

Architectural features

The 1953 tower was designed by Claud Beelman, and the tower shows "how the oft-overlooked Beelman advanced the type and style of mid-century office buildings."

According to the LA Conservancy website, the building is "one of the finest examples of the Corporate Moderne style in Los Angeles and stands out as one of the strongest designs of architect Claud Beelman’s later career." The architecture represents a "simplified, abstracted redefinition" of Beelman's earlier explorations in the Late Moderne styles, also incorporating Modernist principles to "create a refined new corporate idiom." The building uses steel framing and a "pier and spandrel system" similar to those pioneered by Louis Sullivan. In a twist, however, the piers are clad in white marble and the recessed spandrels are ribbed stainless steel between window spaces, emphasizing the vertical nature of the architecture.

The building's design featured motifs particular to Superior Oil, including stylized "S" door pulls for the entrances and a bas-relief-style metal sculpture of an oilfield and refinery landscape above the Flower Street entrance interior.

As a hotel

The building was rehabilitated in 2002 by Koning Eizenberg Architecture, Inc. It was remade into a hotel with 207 rooms, a rooftop pool and bar, space for DJs and pool parties, a rooftop beer garden, a ping pong club, and a 24-hour restaurant and lobby lounge. In 2011, Los Angeles Weekly included the building's rooftop restaurant as number 5 on its "Top 10 Restaurants in Buildings Designed by Significant Los Angeles Architects" list. The pool on the roof has three "water-bed cabanas housed in plastic pods that resemble something out of a 1960s sci-fi movie."

Film appearances

The building entrance and exterior served as the fictional Brent Building in the television series Perry Mason (1957–1966) wherein Mason's office was located in Suite 904.

In the 1987 film Robocop the building can be seen in the 6000 SUX car commercial.

In the 2015 film San Andreas, the building collapsed during an earthquake.

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