Charlotte B.

Historical Background

Richard Rowley, 1986. 22' x 22'. 655 S. Hope Street
One of the most unusual construction projects undertaken during the rapid expansion of office space in downtown during the 1980s was the transformation of a small post-World War II office building at the corner of Hope and Seventh Streets. The architects, Gensler & Associates, enlarged the building by adding five stories to the original twelve, and encasing it in a new, more contemporary facade. A public art component was planned for the building from the beginning of the project.

The architect initially wanted to install art work on the building's corner at 7th and Hope, but discarded these plans when the area was designated as a portal for the subway. The architect next proposed embellishing the building's columns. However, the developer rejected this, which left the hallway leading into the building's Hope Street entrance as the only viable site for the art.

Gensler and Associates then retained Lonnie Gans, an art consultant who organized exhibitions at the firm's office and who worked with the firm on a project in Orange County. After reviewing slides of artists' works, Gans and architects from Gensler made an initial selection of ten artists. They then met with the developer and narrowed the field to Richard Rowley, Michael Davis and Rafe Affleck. Each artist prepared sketches and a maquette, which Gans presented to the developer and architect. Pam Palmer, the Gensler architect, preferred Michael Davis' proposal but the developer felt it would have made the building appear to be a Roman ruin. Palmer and the developer, who wanted something contemporary but not trendy or far out, compromised by selecting Rowley.(1)

Rowley executed the work during a difficult time in his life--his mother died, he broke his arm and could not do the work on time, and his Malibu studio almost burned down during one of the frequent fires that sweep through the area. Compounding his personal problems, a further delay occurred when Rowley had to recut the material for the piece because he initially failed to measure the space where it was scheduled to be installed.

The work is composed of two overlapping triangular aluminum shapes, one flush with the side wall to the building's entrance and a door to the fire control room, and the other two inches from the wall. Each panel is polished, and acid and hand etched. A galvanized steel pole, inches off the surface of the triangle that is flush with the wall, extends vertically from the floor to the ceiling of the entryway. Rowley named the work in memory of his mother, Charlotte (who called herself "B"-after the initial of her maiden name).(2)


1 Interview with Pam Palmer by Michael Several, June 16, 1987.

2 Interview with Richard Rowley by Michael Several, July 22, 1989.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, December 1999.

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