Pasadena City Hall


Pasadena City Hall

(text from the ItalyArtLA APP)

The importance of Pasadena’s civic center was already very apparent when its foundation was laid in 1923. It was surely no coincidence that in the plan designed by the firm Bennett, Parsons and Frost of Chicago, City Hall appeared as the central element between the Pasadena Public Library to the north and the Pasadena Public Auditorium to the south. What we face now is a truly majestic building that on Garfield Avenue appears as the undisputed ruler of a city that has always been home to buildings of impressive architectural value.
What makes it even more interesting is that the architects of San Francisco’s Bekwell and Brown were inspired for the design of City Hall by both the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice (another reference to the same architecture) and the works of Venetian architect Andrea Palladio and of his successors. And as we begin to look at the facade of the building we can almost take a short trip to the famous Italian city… The very name “Salute”, which in English means “health”, tells a story that begins in the year 1630.

At that time a terrible plague swept the region, and the Venetians, who had remained fairly unscathed by the epidemic decided to build a church in honor of the “Health” Virgin Mary, whom they believed had saved the city from the pestilence.

The winner of the tender for the construction of the building was young architect Balthasar Longhena, who chose a unique architectural style halfway between the cleaner shapes and lines developed by Palladio in the previous century and the innovative and dynamic ones of the baroque style. And it is precisely this latter lively and ornate touch that influences one of the elements of the Pasadena City Hall.

As you turn your gaze up you’ll see the large circular structure of the tower, which rises in the center of the building at 206 feet above the ground.The property is set over six floors and topped with a large dome, not too dissimilar from the Venetian church of S.Maria Della Salute. As we now take in the structure of City Hall as a whole we find ourselves once again immersed in an Italian atmosphere, surrounded by a rich décor that is reminiscent of the Florentine Renaissance’s masterpieces and the austere and elongated shapes of the Gothic cathedrals.

While we can definitely sense the Italian presence in the design of the building many other styles have influenced the design of the Pasadena City Hall; from French palaces to English cathedrals, and even californian missions. An eclectic and lively mix that made City Hall one of the most prestigious public buildings in the United States, so much so that in 1980 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

more about the this piece in our APP, the tour: “Pasadena: an Italian Journey”

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