ON THE OUTSIDE, ONE WILSHIRE is an ordinary-looking 30-story 1960’s office tower in Los Angeles, located at a prestigious address: the point where Wilshire Boulevard, the city’s grand west-heading avenue, meets downtown. On the inside is quite a different story: One Wilshire is a telco hotel, said to be the “most interconnected building in the west.” The interior is packed full of telecommunications equipment, connected to the world through dozens of major fiber optic conduits that spill into the building’s below-grade parking garage, from conduits running under the streets outside, and rise through the tower like an infestation of electronic vines.
The busting of the telco boom has put the owners of the building (the notorious, privately-held investment comapny The Carlysle Group) in the position of eager real estate agents, seeking tenants to plug into their new fiber terminal rooms, which offer more bandwidth interconnectivity, especially for direct Asian links, than nearly anywhere else in America. This new posture of publicity enabled the Center to have an unprecedented look inside this remarkable building, and to glimpse some dramatic physical and architectural manifestations of the often invisible, expanding global infosphere.
Equipped with digital cameras and video recorders, the CLUI, led by urban historian Kazys Varnelis, toured the facility with the building’s manager, Chris Pachall. While a few floors have lawyers offices, most of the building is sectioned into rooms with corridors of server and telecommunication switching racks, often protected by cages, and strung together with coaxial and fiber optic cable, bulging from ceiling-mounted raceways. The resulting exhibit was mounted at the CLUI’s Los Angeles exhibit space within a few weeks, and Kazys Varnelis, who teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, delivered a talk, Towers of Concentration, Lines of Growth, on Friday August 29, 2002.