Over a hundred people turned out Monday night, Sept. 24 to hear renowned architect and historian Alan Hess lead tours through Fullerton’s Hunt Branch Library before his evening presentation about the building and its architect next door at Pacific Drive Elementary School. The free program was organized by SaveTheHunt, a community group dedicated to keeping the currently closed library in public hands. The library is normally closed to visitors because the building and grounds are leased to neighboring Grace Ministries International (GMI), but access was arranged through the Fullerton Public Library. The large number of attendees necessitated two successive tours led by Mr. Hess, who spoke about the structure’s integration of indoor and outdoor spaces and other mid-century modernist design strategies employed by the library’s architect William Pereira.
Mr. Hess is a co-founder of Preserve OC a non-profit dedicated to preserving Orange County’s architectural and cultural heritage. He is the author of more than twenty architecture books, the latest entitled The Ranch House, copies of which he later signed for the public.
The program continued next door in Pacific Drive’s Multipurpose Room, where SaveTheHunt organizer Jane Reifer welcomed the audience to the presentation. Following brief remarks about the history of the Hunt Branch, Fullerton Public Library Director Judy Booth spoke about the Library Ad Hoc Committee, of which she is an ex-officio member, charged with formulating a recommendation for the facility’s ultimate use to Fullerton’s City Council. (The Ad Hoc meets next at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center on October 10 at 5:30 p.m.).
The presentation by Alan Hess traced the varied career of William Pereira from architecture school days in Illinois to Hollywood, where he became an art director who won an Oscar for Best Special Effects in the early 1940’s. Eventually returning to architecture, Pereira formed a partnership with classmate Charles Luckman. Mr. Hess noted that the team’s landmark 1953 CBS Television City in Los Angeles was the first studio designed specifically for television production, and, thanks to good planning, is still operation today. The prolific team also designed the original Disneyland Hotel and the iconic “Theme Building” in the center of Los Angeles International Airport.
Later, Pereira’s own firm designed San Francisco’s Transamerica Tower and the original buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Mr. Hess emphasized that good planning and individual architectural character were the keys to Pereira’s success in designing not only buildings, but entire campuses, like the University of California, Irvine, and the master plan for the City of Irvine itself. He cautioned that, although Pereira’s 1973 wing of the L.A. Times complex just received Landmark status, many of William Pereira’s buildings have been lost, and that the LACMA buildings are threatened by that museum’s new master plan. Mr. Hess stressed the importance of protecting buildings like the former Hunt headquarters building, now own outright by GMI, and its companion Hunt Branch Library both as important local structures and internationally significant buildings to serve future generations.