Located in Los Angeles’ beloved Griffith Park, the iconic Greek Theatre was recently rehabilitated and restored by the architects and historic preservation experts at Page & Turnbull. The 5,900-seat outdoor music venue was built 90 years ago into the base of a canyon within Griffith Park, the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the U.S.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has forced its closure through the 2020 season, the Greek Theatre, which opened its doors in 1930, is still worth a socially-distant visit to view its meticulously restored decorative entrance doors, plaza, and glazed terra cotta tile roof. California-based design firm Page & Turnbull provided historic preservation services for the rehabilitation project beginning in 2015, in collaboration with the City of Los Angeles and architecture firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios.
According to Page & Turnbull architect and principal John Lesak, AIA, LEED AP, FAPT, the Greek Revival-inspired architecture had begun to lose its historic luster.
“Over the years, the site had accumulated a disparate collage of signage, advertisements, and additions that obscured the original Neoclassical features,” said Lesak, one of the project leaders. “We focused attention on conserving the iconic patron doors, and restoring the signature green-glazed clay tile roof .”
Since “The Greek,” as it’s known affectionately to locals, is usually an active music venue hosting top-tier acts like Tony Bennett, Sheryl Crow, and Gladys Knight — Neil Diamond recorded his legendary live album Hot August Night there — the restoration work and updates were performed in phases during the winter off-season over several years. Phases 1 and 2 included the removal of alterations to the site that obscured the historic character, and complete restorations of the iconic entry gates, which were badly corroded.
According to Lesak it was the final phase, which focused on the roof and skylights, that required the most labor. Only able to salvage about 10% of the original tera cotta roof tile, the team undertook a major effort to custom fabricate new ones using slip-casting and glazing, a painstaking process that provides subtle variations in the texture and color for an authentic look.
To ensure a lasting future for the Greek Theatre, the architects added carbon fiber wrap to the concrete roof deck for seismic strengthening, and restored the existing skylights while updating them with high-performance glass.
“While it’s a shame that the 2020 season is canceled, the Greek Theatre is worth a visit anyway,” says Lesak, who lives in L.A. “The architecture and the land are a sensational marriage, making the venue a true American treasure, even when it stands empty.”
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