14 May 2011

2600 Wilshire, Santa Monica

Home Savings of America, 2600 Wilshire

At 2600 Wilshire in Santa Monica is a building designed in 1970 by California artist Millard Sheets as a branch of Home Savings of America. Sheets, a muralist active in Works Progress Administration projects in the 1930s, had by the late 1960s branched out into designing entire buildings for Howard F. Ahmanson’s banking empire. 2600 Wilshire features one of the largest mosaics Sheets ever created:

Millard Sheets Mosaic

The mosaic is sixteen by forty feet, and depicts families enjoying the nearby beaches of Santa Monica. In an interview Sheets admitted “I would never do it again. It’s too much mosaic. It’s too much in a rectangle. It’s like an over-sized painting. I wince every time I go by it.” The mosaic was fabricated by Nancy Colbath and Denis O’Connor.

Overkill or no, a sculpture by Richard Ellis stands in the center of the plaza, contributing to the family theme of the building’s ornament. Originally a fountain, the bronze work depicts a mother, father and child twirling around in a circle:

Family Fountain Group by Richard Ellis

Sculptor John Edward Svenson contributed a piece to the side of the building, featuring a young child cavorting with two dolphins:

Dolphin Sculpture

Inside, a stained glass window by Susan Hertel provides the only source of natural light. The current occupant, a shoe store, has worked to tone down the colorful effect of the window from the inside, but a view from the back of the building gives a sense of her design:

Exterior of stained glass by Susan Hertel

The best chronicling the work of Sheets and other artists and architects of his era is “The Art of Home Savings.”