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Architecture

The Bank That Looks Like a Del Taco: 6348 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys

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Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 12:19 PM
click to enlarge WENDY GILMARTIN
  • Wendy Gilmartin

You can walk in and ask for a "Del Fargo" burrito at this Wells Fargo branch in Van Nuys but, sadly, you probably aren't gonna get one.

Built in 2007 where a Mobil gas station used to sit at the corner of Victory and Sepulveda Boulevards, this fairly new, ketchup and mustard-colored building could fool any stoner cruising for munchies late at night through the San Fernando Valley.

In the '50s and '60s (and, with a few exceptions, into the '70s), Los Angeles' banks built modernist, monolithic neighborhood branch buildings that stood out solidly among a variety of other types and scales of commercial developments like strip malls and car washes, etc. Certain banks, like California-based Home Savings, even commissioned local artists to create murals and sculptures that are considered by some conservationist groups to be local, historical artifacts that deserve protecting.

These mausoleum-like financial institutions were heavy on the outside, silent and too-cold with air conditioning on the inside -- they were discrete environments of hushed seriousness where, upon stepping inside past the heavy metal and glass doors, and leaving the hum of the traffic on the street, you knew there was important business going on in there.

These days, whatever the branch or franchise-based corporate business -- be it a McDonald's, a Starbuck's drive-thru, Verizon, Blockbuster (yes, they still exist), Bank of America, Wells Fargo or Del Taco -- it seems the primary-colored stucco box is every suit's first choice when it comes to showing their brick-and-mortar face to the public. What gets communicated to the public is this: cheaper is better, and L.A. gets one more fugly building in an increasingly homogenous landscape of other Del Taco banks.

We're guessing the red and yellow palette here at 6348 Sepulveda is derived from the Wells Fargo logo -- although this building sports a brick red and whimpy shade of custard more than a crimson and gold. The signs and stucco have faded so unevenly that what's left is a pinkish/burnt orange mess, not that it was ever beautiful to begin with. The building gets no help either from the strangely hovering red boxes above each window and doorway (which contain downlighting), or from the pathetic metal trellises that grow nothing on the south and westsides of the building, because they're baking in the scorching valley sun all afternoon.

Follow me on Twitter at @fugly_buildings, and for more arts news follow us at @LAWeeklyArts and like us on Facebook.

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