Pasadena Police Department
Pasadena's Postmodern Police Department building rose at a divisive moment for contemporary architects. To many, the Police Department seemed to relate only to the city's past and not enough to its future. Designed by self-described "modern traditionalist" Robert A. M. Stern, the building was intended to complement the historic feeling of Pasadena's civic center. Pasadena has always taken pride in its crown jewel, the 1925 Beaux Arts-style City Hall. For the Police Department, located directly across from City Hall, Stern was told to create something that expressed the formidable quality of law and also invited people into the building. City officials wanted something different from the bunker-like police stations of the 1970s and '80s. Stern interpreted their desires by creating a building that directly referenced the magnificent 1920s and 1930s buildings of the civic center.
Critics were quick to deride the Police Department's fifty-foot-high tower with its exaggerated scrolled buttress supports. They said it was an obvious imitation that detracts from the dome of City Hall. Though formidable and inviting might seem as odd bedfellows, Stern designed a solution that was community-oriented and sensitive to the historic surroundings. The beige stucco walls, arched windows, terra cotta tile roof were meant to echo the 1920s-era themes of the civic center. The community-oriented features of the interior included open access to restrooms, no iron bars, and an airy, chandelier-adorned lobby. The property was landscaped with a giant sycamore tree and drought-resistant plants. Though the architectural critics of the era were skeptical, the Police Department and city officials were pleased with the result and its presence in the civic center.