Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was inaugurated in June 1958 and quickly became one of the region’s most notable multi-purpose civic auditorium facilities, both for its technological innovations and its cultural associations. Designed by Welton Becket & Associates, the Civic Auditorium was recognized by the AIA with an Honor Award in 1960. The Corporate International Style structure is boldly sited at the south end of Santa Monica’s Civic Center, aligned on axis with Main Street and facing southbound traffic before the street veers to the west. The dramatic entrance features an unobstructed canopy supported by parabolic pylons rising 72 feet in height. The entire façade is shielded by a concrete brise soleil (sun screen) of interlocking geometric forms.
The Civic Auditorium was hailed for its technological innovations, including its unique hydraulic system that can transform the main floor from a flat surface for convention purposes to a raked floor for theater productions. At the time of its completion, it was the nation’s third, and largest, installation of a floating floor of this type. Internationally renowned acoustical engineer Vern O. Knutsen, who was a professor and Chancellor of UCLA, was responsible for the building’s remarkable acoustics. The venue’s versatility enabled it to function as a theater, concert hall, trade show and convention auditorium.
The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium functioned as a vibrant cultural and community hub for several decades, playing host to leading artists and events of the day. In the late 1950s, top performers headlining at the Civic Auditorium included Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. From 1961 through 1968, the venue hosted the Academy Awards ceremonies, and from 1964 through the 1980s, rock concerts were part of the offerings, with singers including Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Elton John and David Bowie. Other events have included symphony concerts, live theater and film screenings, sporting events ranging from basketball to boxing, and exhibits and trade shows.