Lessons from the Bradbury

Blogger: Tom Vandeveer, Director of Professional Services | Los Angeles, CA
June 20, 2013

Walking along Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, you might not notice one of my favorite buildings. On the corner of Third and Broadway is the Bradbury building. Built in 1893, the five-story brick building is relatively nondescript from the outside. But walk inside and you step into another world and back in time over a hundred years.

From the entrance, with its low ceiling and minimal light, you pass into an expansive atrium space, bathed in natural light from above and ringed with ornate cast iron railings, glazed brick, marble and polished wood. It’s a delightful surprise and has been referred to as "one of the great interiors of L.A.”

This exceptional building has been included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, designated as a U.S. National Historic Landmark and an L.A. Historic-Cultural Monument. If you like movies, you may recall seeing the interior featured in the Ridley Scott's futuristic film Blade Runner. The rooftop was also used in the final climactic scene (where Harrison Ford’s character is saved by his adversary played by Rutger Hauer).

The designer of the Bradbury building, George Wyman, had never designed a building before. Wyman was born in Dayton, OH. He moved to Los Angeles in 1891 and joined the office of Architect Sumner P. Hunt as a draftsman. Lewis Bradbury, a mining millionaire, initially commissioned Sumner Hunt to construct a landmark building in Los Angeles. Inexplicably, Bradbury took the surprising step of asking Wyman to design the building.

Although Wyman had no formal training as an architect and no experience in designing buildings, he produced an exceptional design. As I stand in the atrium, taking in the refined proportions and scale of the space, watching the gently filtered light from above spill down marble walls and across the tiled floor, I am inspired by what Wyman has accomplished. It reminds me that within every individual, there is the opportunity for greatness.

That greatness exists in all of us is an easy thought to forget, overcome by the daily grind of deadlines, meetings, phone calls, e-mails. But take a moment to observe and reflect; you will find that our lives are enriched by ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

My visit to the Bradbury Building inspires me to continue to challenge myself: to demand more; to set a higher standard.  It is the nature of the human spirit to excel beyond what the rational mind determines to be our limitations. Set the bar high and, more than likely, you will accomplish your goals.

After all, if a draftsman who never designed a building before can produce a national historic landmark, who’s stopping you from achieving your dreams except you?

The Bradbury Building inspires me…what’s your inspiration?

View more images of the Bradbury, here.