The Rise of Hercules
L.A. Conservancy offers tours of the Playa Vista tech campus born from the remains of Hughes Aircraft Co
By Joe Piasecki
When the Los Angeles Conservancy first offered tours in 2011 of the former grounds of Hughes Aircraft Company that would become Playa Vista’s Hercules Campus, the condition of the place could be described as raw at best.
“Everything was derelict. There were holes in the roofs and water on the ground. Rust everywhere. It had been more or less empty since the 1980s, except for film companies that used the big spaces to shoot in,” conservancy program manager Annie Laskey recalls.
On Saturday, Laskey and her team return to Playa Vista to once again offer public tours, this time of a thriving creative campus with renovations that reflect the original architecture’s historic purpose and significance.
The Los Angeles Conservancy’s 90-minute “From Hughes to Hercules” tours offer rare access to the massive wooden hangar where the reclusive business tycoon built his Spruce Goose (aka the H-4 Hercules), the former aviation warehouse that is now YouTube Space L.A. and two former administrative buildings that now house the digital advertising firm 72andSunny.
About 2.5 football fields in length and as tall as a six-story building, the hangar is about to undergo adaptive reuse renovations — meaning this is just about the last time visitors will be able to see it in the raw.
In 2011, hangar visitors saw peeling blue and white paint and non-original drywall divisions. Now the structure’s skeleton has been stripped down to the original wood and the drywall is gone, offering a unique glimpse of its original state and aesthetic potential.
YouTube Space L.A.’s fully functional video production facility and the two buildings that are 72andSunny’s L.A. headquarters demonstrate the visual impact of careful adaptive reuse efforts.
72andSunny’s steel-sided Building 1 features a whole wall that opens up to create an indoor/outdoor space, and when closed represents pretty much what the wall looked like back in 1951, Laskey says. The mahogany-paneled walls of former Hughes executives remain in what are now conference rooms.
The firm’s Building 2 features additional highlights, including wood flooring that was repurposed from the original playing surface of UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and a small portion of the building that has yet to be renovated.
Tours start between 10 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., but most morning tickets have already sold out. Tickets are $35 each, or $15 for students and $10 for children 12 and under. Meeting and parking locations are provided with purchase.