Columbia Savings and Loan
The Columbia Savings and Loan building at 8942 Wilshire Boulevard is a testament to both the confident opulence of the 1980s and the humbling crash of the 1990s. Columbia Savings CEO Tom Spiegel hired architect Richard Keating, who had recently moved to Los Angeles to run the local Skidmore Owings & Merrill office, to design its new headquarters. Keating was thrilled to work with an “enlightened client” like Spiegel who gave him “a chance to really show our paces,” and no expense was spared in the creation of the office building.
The architect designed multiple buildings for Columbia Savings at the same time, including the three-story building at 9320 Wilshire. This mixed office-retail property is smaller in scale than the main headquarters but very complementary in style. The main Columbia Savings building, completed in 1989, is only three stories in height, but occupies an entire block. It features a grandly scaled central entry under a stack of three large metal arcs spaced along a vertical column. The entry opens to an inner courtyard serving as a refuge from the busy thoroughfare with a reflecting pool, expanses of paving, and sculptural motifs.
The building is most notable for its “floating” front façade of limestone supported by a partially exposed, copper-clad structural frame with its corners left open to provide articulated views from all angles.
Columbia Savings and Loan invested heavily in the market for high-yield junk bonds and went bankrupt when that market failed, losing its flagship office to the bailout agency for the savings and loan industry. This reminder of limitless expense accounts was vacant for years before it found new owners—who purchased it for $2.5 million, a small fraction of its construction cost.