A Vision for Los Angeles: John Parkinson, Architect of the Metropolis


The Historic Resources Committee and special guest, author, and TV producer, Stephen Gee, explore the legacy of master architect John Parkinson. Parkinson’s buildings have provided memorable backdrops for Hollywood blockbusters, played center stage for two Olympic Games, and welcomed presidents and royalty. He designed more iconic buildings in Los Angeles than any other architect, living or dead. As historian Kevin Starr explained, “John Parkinson was the greatest public architect of Los Angeles at a time when Los Angeles was inventing itself.” Consider that among more than four hundred buildings in the City of Angels that carried his architectural imprimatur, John Parkinson designed: City Hall, the most iconic building in California, famously “destroyed” in the 1953 film War of the Worlds; Union Station, the last great train station built in the U.S.; the Memorial Coliseum, site of both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games; Bullock’s Wilshire, a 1929 Art Deco masterpiece as well as many structures on the University of Southern California campus. Not bad for the son of mill worker who grew up in Bolton, England, left school at age 13 and bounced between menial jobs before being hired as a builder’s apprentice when he was 16. With some experience under his belt and looking for a short-term adventure, Parkinson first arrived in North America in 1883 with $5 and a toolbox. Stephen Gee’s books include Iconic Vision: John Parkinson, Architect of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Hall: An American Icon. He will guide you through Parkinson’s remarkable career.

Learning objectives

  • Gain insight into the career of John Parkinson, described by Architectural Record as “one of the great, overlooked architects of the 20th Century.”
  • Examine of the early development of Los Angeles
  • Explore of John Parkinson’s role introducing new technologies to Los Angeles
  • Discuss the history behind some of LA’s most iconic structures

This course was recorded live on September 25, 2020.

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 $45  non-member
 $30  member
1.00 LU
  • RIBA


  • Stephen Gee

    Writer and Television Producer

    Stephen Gee is a writer and television producer based in Los Angeles. He is the author of Iconic...