Monday, May 20, 2013

Stargazing // Griffith Observatory

I count Griffith Observatory as one of my most favorite places on the planet. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with all the nostalgia I have wrapped up in it's exhibit halls and views of our beloved city. Truth be told, the grounds overlook some of the most incredible views of Los Angeles to be found. But from a design perspective, the combination of finishes that went into first building and then renovating this remarkable building, well, I imagine they rival some of the great monuments on this continent or any other. It's truly a marvel - there is no other word to describe it. 

On Saturday afternoon, The Mister and I headed up to Griffith Observatory for it's monthly "Star Party". I had been anxious to share a place I have such a fondness for with him for so long. He's a native Angeleno and yet had never been up to see it- blasphemy!

The "Star Party" hosted each month by the Observatory draws an atypically large crowd. Parking stretched down the road for nearly a mile... which translated into a mile hike upward for most attendees.  But once to the top, it truly was a party, complete with amateur astronomers that bring their prized telescopes out onto the lawn and offer the curious a glimpse into galaxies far, far away. Ok, maybe that is hyperbole, but for our own viewings, we saw close ups of our own Moon, Jupiter, Venus and the Rings around Saturn for the very first time. We look up to the night sky every night, but I'll be damned if we weren't a little dumbstruck seeing it all through the lens that night. 

Amateur astronomers setting up telescopes on the lawn. Here you see the Planetarium dome (center), flanked by the East and West domes of the building
The South view from the Planetarium balcony. On a clear day, you can see straight through the city to the Pacific Ocean.

Little bronze doorways lead into the domes from adjacent balconies.
Deco embellishment set right into the famous concrete walls around the West dome.
A view of the Hollywood sign from a recently renovated area over the Observatory's restaurant
 If I'm being totally honest though, I was equally captivated by all the architectural details and finishes throughout and outside the building. Bronze, copper, brass, leather, concrete and marble all work together in spectacular fashion in the Deco-style design with moderne and modified greek influences and a beaux arts influenced plan. While history tells us that the drop in cost during the Great Depression allowed the Griffith Trust to indulge in more luxurious building materials, I have a slightly more romantic perspective on it. It's as if the original architects were more influenced by the stars themselves and made sure to highlight all of the natural elements found within our own star when planning the design.

There is also the greek key and scalloped detailing cast directly into the stark white concrete on the building's facade.  
The famous Hugo Balin Murals in the Rotunda ceiling just as you walk in the front entrance. This hangs right over the Foucault Pendulum, the first exhibit to be built at the Observatory in 1935. The Pendulum boasts a 240 pound brass ball and demonstrates the Earth's rotation.
Ceiling details
A glowing interior hallway
More finishes and details

The Gunther "Depths of Space" Exhibit

You can read up a little more on the Observatory's history and the extensive renovation process that took place in 2002 here

The Observatory hosts a monthly "Star Party". The full schedule and details can be found here. From our own experience, be advised that the grounds are quite crowded during this time so browsing time among the exhibits is not optimal. Plan to arrive by 4pm and stay the evening- but be sure to purchase tickets for the Planetarium shows right away, as they are first come, first serve with no reservations. Comfortable, layered clothing and shoes is a must, as parking will likely be quite a ways down the hill. Tram service is unfortunately not available.



Kristen said...

How have I not been here?! It's always been one of those places that we saying we are going to visit but never do. Def needs to happen this summer.

Albertina M. Cisneros said...

Oh wao!! Seems amazing! I would love to look through such a telescope! The whole galaxies, stars, planets intrigues me so much! Sounds like a perfect date!

Anonymous said...

AWESOME!! I'm going to LA in July and my husband has never been and I think we need to go here!!!! Cool pics. xoxo

Trissta said...

HOLY SHIT. That's amazing! This place is now at the top of my places to go. Seriously, this place looks amazing! I love star gazing and art deco, put the two together and it's serious love! Thanks for sharing all the gorgeousness!!

Much Love,

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