Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Los(t) Angeles: Tarzana Ice Rink by Richard Bradshaw and Carl Maston


Tarzana Ice Rink, Richard Bradshaw and Carl Maston, 1960. Julius Shulman Job No. 3031, July 17, 1960. (Modernism Rediscovered, Pierluigi Serraino and Julius Shulman, Taschen, 2000, p. 287).

The Tarzana Ice Rink (seen above) constructed in the 18300 block of Ventura Blvd. in 1960 is emblematic of Southern California's rapidly disappearing architectural past. The building was a collaboration between renowned structural engineer Richard Bradshaw and noted mid-century modernist architect Carl Maston. 1960 was a milestone year in the career of Bradshaw as he played a key role in the design and construction of the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) completed the same year. (See below and my The Kindred Spirits of Deborah Aschheim and Richard Bradshaw for more on Bradshaw's bio and Theme Building design work). 




From left, Joe Kinishita, Jim Santiago, Richard Bradshaw, Don Belding, Welton Becket, Paul Williams and Don Wilcox, ca. 1959. From A Symbol of Los Angeles: The History of the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport 1952-1961, p. 85. Photographer unknown.

This was also a very productive period in Maston's career. He was routinely winning AIA and other awards for his single family residences and apartment buildings which were widely published with Julius Shulman's now iconic images. Shulman photographed over 60 Maston projects between the late 1940s and early 1980s and undoubtedly played a major role in his awards success. Similarly, Bradshaw did most of Maston's structural design work.

Maston had never done a project quite like a skating rink before but was knowledgeable of Bradshaw's previous work designing structures to span large spaces evidenced by the below King Cole Market design for A. Quincy Jones in 1950. Jones's papers at UCLA include Bradshaw's structural calculations for the market and an invoice for the "outrageous" sum of $400.00. Bradshaw related to me in an interview last year how the market had a problem keeping the kids from riding their bicycles up and down the rather shallow arches. The original King Cole market in Whittier, CA (pictured below) was featured in the 1967 movie “Divorce American Style” with Dick Van Dyke but like the Tarzana Ice Rink has also since been demolished.

King Cole Market exterior, Whittier, 1950, A. Quincy Jones. Julius Shulman Job No. 1333, August 19, 1952. (A. Quincy Jones by Cory Buckner, Phaidon, p. 173.

ing Cole Market interior, Whittier, 1950, A. Quincy Jones. Julius Shulman Job No. 1333, August 19, 1952. (A. Quincy Jones by Cory Buckner, Phaidon, p. 175.

Another notable project Bradshaw designed for Jones & Emmons was the award-winning Shorecliff Tower Apartments on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. The thinness of the floor slabs in this early example of high-rise slip-forming are what give this building its elegance. (See below).

Shorecliff Tower Apartments, Santa Monica, 1963, Richard Bradshaw, Structural Engineer, Jones & Emmons, Architects for Ralph Kiewit. Ernest Braun photo. (A. Quincy Jones by Cory Buckner, Phaidon, p. 141.

Tradewell Market, Burien, Washington, 1958, Richard Bradshaw, Structural Engineer, Welton Becket & Associates, Architect. Charles R. Pearsson photo. ("Lighting is Architecture: Development of Function," Progressive Architecture, September 1958, p. 137).


Bradshaw was becoming well-known for his thin shell designs evidenced in the above and below photos of  his AIA Honor Award-winning wide-span, thin-shell roofed Tradewell Market for Welton Becket & Associates and Windward City Market for Pete Wimberly the year before.

Windward City Market, Kaneohe, Oahu, Hawaii, Richard Bradshaw, Structural Engineer, Pete Wimberly, Architect. Photo courtesy of Richard Bradshaw.

Bradshaw recollected to me in a recent interview that Maston, a steady client, was ambivalent as to how the rink's clear span was to be achieved. Bradshaw recalled that Maston's client for the rink was an Aussie daredevil skater with not a lot of money. The total construction cost for the completed building was $104,000.  Bradshaw, not one to choose a box design when something more exciting could be done for the same price, came up with the creative design and construction process described in detail below while Maston worked on the more straight-forward front (see first photo) and back elevations. 

Interior of rink before gaps were filled in. All photos courtesy of Richard Bradshaw unless otherwise stated. 

Bradshaw employed geometric shapes in his non-rectangular designs to simplify the structural calculations and decided upon a truncated torus as something that could be economically executed for less than a conventional box structure. The corrugations were added to strengthen to the individual sections to enable them to withstand pickup stresses while still enabling their 4 inch thinness.


The torus shape lowered the ends of the building which kept the sun from melting the ice. It also gave the plan of the building an oval shape which, combined with the lowered profile reduced the volume of air which needed to be cooled. (See above diagram).

Four identical dirt molds.

After much thought, Bradshaw developed a very innovative forming process for pouring in place the 36 half-sections needed to build up the roof. With the help of a good field survey, four casting pits were sculptured into the rink's parking lot in the corrugated pattern seen below. This saved the cost of expensive wood forming materials. A two-inch thick waste slab was then poured and screeded with a template to provide the initial smooth surface for the first section's reinforcing steel to be placed. (See below).

Rebar being placed on original 2 inch thick waste slab prior to the first casting of nine in each pit.


Bradshaw decided that poured in place sections could be stacked nine deep and came up with a variable thickness (3-1/2 to 4 inch) cross-section that would simplify the construction. As can be seen above, the screed was designed to provide a standard cross-section with matching radii of both the top and bottom surfaces of each section.

Laborers screeding the last of nine stacked sections in one of the four pits.

The same screed was used to pour all 36 half-sections and to simplify construction for an unsophisticated contractor and crew of laborers. Despite the complexities of the project as seen in the diagrams, Bradshaw was successful in translating his innovative design and never-been-tried construction process into layman's terms which "tricked" the contractor and crew into believing that what they were bidding on and building was very straightforward. This resulted in favorable bids and a relatively non-confrontational construction process




The longer sections were cast first and each succeeding section was slightly shorter and more angled on one end to create the arched toroidal ridge-line and truncated base. (See bottom-left note in above diagram).

Picking up shells, The shells were made 4 inches thick because of pickup bolt embedment requirements. Even so, one pulled out.


After all 36 sections were cast and cured, a pair of cranes were utilized to erect the half-sections upon scaffolding. Once all 36 sections were placed, their rebar was tied together, forms were built under the gaps (see below) and were then filled with gunite to form a solid roof.


The roof was then seal-coated with a reflective, waterproof coating, the specification of which was not Bradshaw's responsibility. Richard recalled that when the rink opened in July 1960 that the outdoor temperature was hot and the ice was soupy and the skaters were wet from head to toe. A better roof coating with more insulation value was found to solve the problem. 

Ice rink interior, Tarzana, Richard Bradshaw and Carl Maston, 1960. Julius Shulman Job No. 3031, July 17, 1960. (Modernism Rediscovered, Pierluigi Serraino and Julius Shulman, Taschen, 2000, p. 288).

The Tarzana Ice Rink went on to win an Los Angeles Chapter AIA Merit Award. ("Honor Awards Given by A.I.A." los Angeles Times, October 16, 1960, p. M1-2). Long-time Bradshaw client A. Quincy Jones was on the awards jury and told Bradshaw afterwards that the panel knew that the rink's design was essentially his but the award had to be given to the architect. Like all of Bradshaw's innovative designs, he lost money on this job. He recalled that his $1500 design fee was eaten up in the first few weeks of construction but it was projects such as this which piqued his interest to continue learning as much as possible about structural engineering. (See article below). 

Los Angeles Times, April 29, 1962, p. IX-2. From ProQuest.


Years later, property values along Ventura Blvd. had risen to the point where a developer wanted to redevelop the land to a higher use and consulted with Bradshaw on the feasibility of moving the rink to a new site. After much thought he came the conclusion that moving the building was not cost-effective so another award-winning piece of Los Angeles's past had a date with the wrecking ball.


My Other Bradshaw Articles


The Towers of Bruce Goff and Richard Bradshaw: Visual Similarities and Structural Differences


The Kindred Spirits of Deborah Aschheim and Richard Bradshaw: Nostalgia for the Future: Deborah Aschheim at the Edward Cella Gallery Sept. 11 - Oct. 23, 2010

See Richard's iconic construction photo of the Theme Building and more at Los Angeles Times Magazine, May 1, 2011

Richard Bradshaw at the Theme Building at LAX. Photo by John Crosse, May 25, 2010.