At the corner of Broadway and 3rd Street, in Los Angeles’ historic theater district, the Bradbury Building endures as an epicenter for architecture enthusiasts and film buffs. Opened in 1893, its expansive Victorian atrium—with marble stairs, open cage elevators, elaborate iron railings and plentiful natural light—continues to draw visitors and elicit gasps. It’s so beautiful that Hollywood has used it as the dramatic setting for scenes in acclaimed films including Chinatown, The Artist and Blade Runner.
Previously, the only viewing spaces for curious visitors have been from the ground floor, with two one-story landings (for slightly higher viewpoints) also accessible. If guests did not have a meeting in one of the offices, then the layers of iron-work, tile floors, brick walls, carved-wood window panes, and the full splendor of the Bradbury Building remained hidden away.
NeueHouse, the collaborative workspace organization, serves as an accelerator for creative performance, cultural progress and innovative ideas. Now, those ideas will be hatched at their newest location, along the entire second floor of the Bradbury Building. Members either climb the staircase or ride the cage elevator up to DTLA‘s NeueHouse Bradbury.
NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt can hardly contain his excitement about the new location. “It’s an uncut gem,” he says, looking out from one of their atrium seating areas—observing original woodwork and brick. “It is all so beautiful. It really inspired us.”
Wyatt worked with Anwar Mekhayech of DesignAgency to plan the interior design and the layout. “We studied the natural light and how it came into each room,” Wyatt explains. “That affected the decisions of where the communal areas went. We put in solid oak parquet flooring. And wide plank flooring in a light and natural color to brighten up the space and complement all of the window frames.”
“With NeueHouse, in general, the design is meant to be timeless,” Wyatt adds. “It’s about a feeling. It’s about emotion. And calmness.” Wyatt loves the emotional reaction people have when they open the building’s doors and look up to see the majesty of it all. The biggest design challenge they faced was to continue that sensation into the second floor and throughout all of their NeueHouse spaces. Their goal was to create an oasis with natural light and it drove their approach to the dramatic structure.
Mekhayech had already worked with Wyatt for years, developing Generator Hostels and other projects. He approached building a NeueHouse location in the Bradbury Building with enthusiasm. “We started with space planning and figuring out the flow of the building,” Mekhayech says. “Thinking about the light from morning to night and about when people are going to be working in the space. Mostly 8AM to 5PM.” They also refer to 5-8PM as the golden hour for NeueHouse programming and cultural curation of events and speakers.
Mekhayech’s first steps into the Bradbury Building, for planning, were emotional. “It was unprecedented awe. It is a beautiful building. It is a heritage project. Adaptive reuse,” Mekhayech says. “We felt lucky that we were going to be given the whole second floor to create the bricks and mortar for NeueHouse to play with.” Mekhayech had been in the Bradbury Building once before. He knew then that “It’s a really special building, on a global scale, and the fact that it is smack dab in the middle of downtown LA” adds even more value.
“There are so many layers to this story. We wanted to be respectful of heritage and feeling and emotion,” Mekhayech says, noting that he learned about how the Bradbury Building was originally commissioned. “Bradbury hired the architect Sumner Hunt. Then he rejected the design and was walking through the architect’s office. There was a draftsperson that had sketched out this ornate building. He saw the sketch and asked about it, then he hired the draftsperson, George Wyman, instead of the architect.”
DesignAgency’s focus became to complement the materiality of the building’s original design. “You don’t need to overcomplicate things. You have a beautiful café, you have a gallery. Meeting rooms, a boardroom, shared workspace, and cultural curation. It’s like creating a painting but with furniture and color and art. And books,” says Mekhayech of the creative process. “The design will continue to evolve.” For lighting, DesignAgency worked with Rich Brilliant Willing from New York. For furniture, they parented with Brooklyn’s Uruhu. Orior designed the custom studio, gallery and conference desks and additional furniture pieces.
Meredith Rogers, head of programming for NeueHouse, helms the art programming and partners with LA-based curators and galleries. Currently on view at the new NeueHouse Bradbury, Dave Muller’s “Self Portrait” from Blum & Poe, Steve Hash’s concrete and white Italian marble pieces, Carmen Argots’ avocado paintings on linen, Sayre Gomez’s acrylic paintings depicting cacti and color fields, Kelly Akashi’s chromogenic photogram, David Alekhuogie’s pigment on canvas, and Peter Shire’s “Night Sky: Pyxis,” made with wood polychrome paint, and neon.
To pay tribute to the legacy of films shot at the Bradbury Building, stills from Blade Runner by set photographer Stephen Vaughan are displayed. “We wanted to acknowledge the history of the building,” says Wyatt. “Vaughan’s widow approached us and offered stills from the set that had never been seen before. She said that she wanted us to have them and show them.”
In addition to honoring the story of the building, Wyatt and NeueHouse’s leadership support the community. This directly translates to financial and spatial donations to the Los Angeles Poverty Department, John Malpede’s groundbreaking non-profit arts program that is made up primarily of homeless people. They also support The Ghetto Film School with a non-profit membership and assistance with mentors and event planning.
“We want people to be inspired and stimulated, in a space to make people feel mentally and intellectually safe. I want everyone to feel safe to be able to share ideas,” says Wyatt. “We are supportive of the creative community and want to be a platform for leadership.” Wyatt and his team are making decisions that support such honest ambitions.
Images courtesy of Nikolas Koenig