Union Bank Square
Significant for its Corporate International style design and Garret Eckbo landscape, Union Bank Square was the first completed Bunker Hill Urban Renewal development.
Los Angeles, California 90071
Designed in the Corporate International style, Union Bank Square is significant for its architecture and its status as the first building completed in the Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project. At the base of the 40-story office the tower sits a landscaped plaza designed by modernist landscape architect Garrett Eckbo of Eckbo, Dean, Austin & Williams.
A 2019 proposal to renovate the building spurred the L.A. Conservancy to nominate the property as a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) and collaborate with building owner KBS to ensure that renovations maintained the building’s integrity. Designated in 2020, it was the first Downtown skyscraper to attain HCM status.
About This Place
About This Place
Union Bank Square is an impressive sight, featuring a Modernist tower soaring forty stories above the Harbor (110) Freeway and a landscaped plaza nestled at its base in downtown Los Angeles.
The Union Bank tower was the first high-rise built in the Central Business District after the 1920s and was briefly the tallest building in Los Angeles. It was also the first structure to be completed as part of the Bunker Hill redevelopment project that began an era of skyscraper building in the Central Business District.
Renowned landscape architect Garrett Eckbo designed the three-acre paved plaza in 1967, siting it three stories above street level atop the complex’s parking garage. The resulting design intersperses regimented rows of trees (including ficus, jacaranda, sycamore, and coral) in round concrete planters with organic, undulating islands of grass and pools of water.
The plaza’s juxtaposition of soft green foliage and hard concrete paving and edging offers a modern update on an ancient rooftop garden. Eckbo created the landscape with an eye toward two distinct user experiences: one for pedestrians enjoying the park at ground level, and one for employees viewing it from their offices in the tower above.
Artist Jerome Kirk’s fin-like metal mobile sculpture “Aquarius” was added to the landscape in 1970. Union Bank Square is accessed by small staircases near the freeway, a large staircase and elevator at Fifth Street, and a pedestrian bridge from the neighboring Bonaventure Hotel. It is a hidden piece of 1960s Los Angeles, calling for visitors to come take a peek.
The announcement of a proposed $20 million renovation of Union Bank Square sparked concerns about the future of Union Bank Square.
In response, the Conservancy submitted an application to designate the tower and plaza a Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). The Cultural Landscape Foundation also included Union Bank Square as part of their endangered Landslide feature.
We worked closely with the building owner, KBS Realty, and who did not oppose the nomination of this significant place. In April, 2023, KBS sold Union Bank Plaza to Westbridge Capital.