The Zipper on a Pants Suit: Harmony Gold Theater & Offices, 7655 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood
7655 Sunset Boulevard stands as a dated throwback to Hollywood's swinging mid-to-late century heydey, and just like exposed chest hair and copious gold chains, the "Harmony GOLD" signage out front really completes the look on this groovy geezer. (Blink too fast and you might mistake the sign for the classic "Solid Gold" logo).
Built in 1965 in the midst of an experimental building explosion by a handful of local architects (namely Gin Wong's LAX Theme structure in 1961, John Lautner's Sheats/Goldstein house in 1962, Welton Becket's Cinerama Dome in 1963, and Irving Shapiro's Columbia Savings bank in 1965, to name a few), 7655 Sunset maybe tried to play along with the bold formal gestures, colors and artful engineering of its peers by offering an overly obvious asymmetry and swoopy, scale-less plain stucco skin that burrito-wraps the theater. The fused-on, straight-laced, other half of the building fills out the lot to the corner of Stanley Avenue.
The "Harmony Gold" building is actually a multi-purpose complex that houses offices for the distribution and production wing of Harmony Gold's movie, TV and animation business (they are the sole license holder of the 80s Robotech anime franchise and all its spinoffs, and co-produced the epic Shaka Zulu TV mini series circa 1986), offices for the strangely, and seemingly un-related property management side of the Harmony business, offices for lease for anybody else, and a state of the art, 350-seat theater for DGA & SAG screening, plus adjoining spaces for private events. All of it sits on top of a subterranean, structured parking lot.
As for the heavy-topped, toupé-shaped theater block on the left side that recalls Donald Trump's cast-in-place coiffure, we get it -- they show movies inside and windows don't work in a screening space. But take Westwood's now-demolished National theater (built in 1970) for a better example of a successful design in a similarly functioning space. Yes, from a certain angle the beloved National looked like a brown stucco-blob eating a window facade, but the place opened itself up to the street so drivers and pedestrians on Gayley and Lindbrook could look up into the upper and lower lobbies at all the movie goers mulling around inside. Kind of like an ant farm. The National really accentuated its corner location and turned itself into a public show. Despite its primo location, 7655 Sunset gives nothing back to the street. Instead, Harmony Gold's 30-foot-tall stucco smear going right straight down the front face of the building just sits there like a giant zipper on a pants-suit, gingerly holding the whole ensemble together.