I hadn't visited Pasadena City Hall since its restoration and retrofitting, completed in 2007.
In fact, I had never visited Pasadena City Hall until this week. Shame on me.
From the exterior, it's one of Southern California's most dramatically beautiful structures, a prime example of the West Coast's slightly belated embrace of the City Beautiful movement.
The imposing six-story tower with its arches, dome, lantern, and finial, dominates Pasadena's Civic Center and the city's skyline in general.
The exterior is enhanced with restrained Renaissance-style neoclassical detailing worthy of Inigo Jones or Chris Wren (well, I call him Chris).
But the full effect of the ingenious design is only fully apparent once you enter the building.
The play of indoor and outdoor spaces—a signature characteristic of Southern California architecture—has perhaps never been better captured than in this "porous" building, designed by San Francisco architects Bakewell and Brown in a style that successfully marries late-Renaissance Palladian influences with the California Mission style.
Interior spaces open onto wide, cool, shaded loggias and open stone staircases, which in turn flow out in to the central courtyard, designed in a relaxed, not-quite-symmetrical pattern centered on a cast-stone fountain surrounded by trees.
The restoration cost was $117 million, while the original cost of the building, completed in 1927, was $1.3 million. The sensitive work, by San Francisco-headquartered Architectural Resources Group, included the installation of 240 seismic isolators to protect the building from earthquakes.
A major shout-out to whoever designed the excellent "facilities." Not only are they attractive, but the dedicated staff keeps them smelling sweeter than a rose garden.
All in all, one of the most rewarding architectural expeditions I've undertaken recently, including my stop in the men's room.