James C. Coppedge

The Six Twelve Medical Center

High-Rise Look Comes to Arcadia. That was a headline in Dec. 27, 1964’s Los Angeles Times. “The profile of Arcadia, which has changed from a community of chicken ranchers to a city of homes and apartments in two decades, is on the threshold of high-rise building.”

Apparently the first building in Arcadia to reach eight stories was this one, the “Six Twelve Medical Center” from 1965, designed by the partnership of Fleming & Coppedge (two Oklahoma-bred architects operating out of Arcadia in the 1950s and 60s).

It’s the kind of building — hidden, as it is, behind a number of tall Canary Island pines — that’s easy to ignore from the street. But when you park your car in the expansive lot and approach it from the south, there are no trees to obfuscate what is surely one of the strangest buildings for miles around: a steel-and-glass tower surrounded on all sides by a latticework of shallow concrete patios, piers, and panels meant to block out the harsh summer sun — a design strategy that recalls most clearly Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseilles, though I keep wondering: is it really possible that this unassuming medical office building in Arcadia was inspired by Le Corbusier’s proto-brutalist masterpiece?

650 Duarte

On the south side of Duarte Ave. in Arcadia, just east of Baldwin Ave., there’s a stretch of four corporate midcentury mid-rise moderns, each with a different take on how to block the summer sun. I’m hoping to photograph all four, but this time it’s the most straightforward of them all: a four-story, totally square office building built in 1958.

How does it break the sun? While the northern and southern elevations are fully glazed, the eastern and western elevations are completely opaque — “self-shading” articulated brick bond walls suspended from the concrete-and-steel frame. “Self-shading” here means the header bricks project from the stretchers and (the thinking went) allow the sun’s heat to dissapate more quickly than it would from a completely flush brick wall. Unclear if this is true at all, but it’s a fascinating, pseudo-decorative look, especially when you see the zig-zag of bricks up close where they end just above the first floor of office suites.

Isn’t it lovely?