The third of Edward Durell Stone's buildings constructed on Wilshire Boulevard, the Wilshire Colonnade (originally called the Ahmanson Center) is at once a tribute to its namesake, financier Howard F. Ahmanson, and to the classical forms of Roman architecture. Ahmanson, an active client and instrumental in the planning and design of the complex, died in 1968; the building, completed in 1970, became a monument to him and his contributions to Los Angeles finance and culture. It was Ahmanson's vision that the imposing complex of two, eleven-story buildings includes a central plaza with fountains and sculptures in the tradition of some of the great plazas of Europe.
Stone, who traveled often to Italy, drew upon European precedents in his work, making him an early pioneer of the New Formalist style. New Formalism is often seen as a reaction against the stark minimalism of the International Style, turning instead to the beauty and lushness of classical architecture. As a result, New Formalist buildings are often monumental in appearance, constructed of precious materials, and feature abstracted classical ornament.
The Ahmanson Center is no exception; the buildings are clad entirely with travertine and the walkways are paved with Italian Carrara marble. The symmetrical, curving buildings form a broken horseshoe shape, recalling the curved colonnades in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. A lasting landmark on Wilshire Boulevard, the Wilshire Colonnade is one of Stone's finest achievements in Los Angeles and a worthy tribute to a great patron of Los Angeles arts and culture.