Beverly Hills Waterworks Building / Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study
This marvel of engineering helped a young Beverly Hills keep its independence as a city.
Places that have survived threats of demolition or excessive alteration.
Beverly Hills, California 90211
The former Beverly Hills Waterworks Building, now the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study, played an important role in maintaining Beverly Hills’ cityhood despite earlier pressure to consolidate with Los Angeles for a steady water supply.
Completed in 1928 as Beverly Hills’ water treatment plant, the structure was designed by civil engineer Arthur Taylor, of Salisbury, Bradshaw & Taylor, in the form of a Romanesque-influenced church. What appeared to be a soaring bell tower of Moorish design was in fact used to house the water purification spraying system.
The true industrial nature of the building was only evident upon closer inspection, with machinery visible through the great rose window above the main entrance. Along with a carefully devised landscaping plan, the property resembled a beautiful park.
About This Place
About This Place
The Waterworks was one of the largest of Beverly Hills’ civic buildings at the time of its construction and was considered an innovative engineering marvel on the West Coast. Many referred the building as Beverly Hills’ Independence Hall for the role it played in allowing the city, with its own water source, to remain independent of Los Angeles.
The Waterworks Building served as Beverly Hills’ water treatment plant until 1976. Though proposed for demolition in the 1980s, the distinctive building was adaptively reused in 1991 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a library and film archive. It is known today as the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study.
From 1986, when the Waterworks Building became threatened to 1991, when the building reopened as the Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study, the Los Angeles Conservancy and the Friends of the Waterworks worked tirelessly to save this threatened Beverly Hills landmark.
To successfully save the Waterworks Building, a new use and tenant were needed to rehabilitate the venerable structure, considered an engineering feat when completed in 1928.
A lawsuit jointly filed by the Conservancy and Friends of the Waterworks blocked the demolition of the structure and gained more time for adaptive reuse proposals to be submitted. Ultimately, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences submitted a proposal to adaptively reuse the structure for their research library, which opened in 1991, following a $5 million rehabilitation. The effort to save the Waterworks Building demonstrated the importance of adaptive reuse in revitalizing historic structures whose original use is no longer viable.