With its distinct late-modern design, the Sunkist Building in Sherman Oaks CA is one of the crown jewels of San Fernando Valley architecture.
Brooding alongside the 101 Freeway, the building could be described as an example of Brutalist architecture if it weren’t so bright and inviting. Now it’s being transformed into a mixed-use center.
Two new buildings are in the works next to the site, but little change is expected for the aesthetics of the juggernaut office complex if the developer sticks to its publicly visible plans.
The Sunkist Building is expected to be “fully restored and reimagined,” and it will be incorporated into the forthcoming Citrus Commons mixed-use complex, according to the developer’s website. The project started in August 2021 and is expected to include almost 150,000 square feet of creative office space and will be surrounded by an “interactive campus” which is expected to include retail stores, residential buildings and green parkways. An open space is planned along the Los Angeles River on the south side of the building.
By the look of renderings of the future site made public by Sherman Oaks-based developer IMT Residential, the building facade will not change much, if at all.
“The Sunkist property is unique in the market and represents a great opportunity for creative placemaking that will complement and serve the Sherman Oaks neighborhood,” said David Tedesco, Principal of IMT Capital, in a 2013 statement when IMT acquired the building. “Our talented development team looks forward to working on this project with the community and to conserving this iconic building for future generations.”
Looking southeast across Hazeltine Avenue.
What’s Behind the Building Design
According to LA Conservancy, the Sunkist Building is a “symphony in concrete, declaring its presence on Riverside Drive to all who drive past on the 101 Freeway.”
With its iconic upside-down pyramid shape, the building was designed by A. C. Martin and Associates and is made primarily of reinforced concrete. While it embodies much of the Brutalist style, its atypical pearly surface and recessed windows give it that distinctly Los Angeles airy liveliness seen in the work of SoCal’s great designers like Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler.
History of the Building
If you’ve spent any substantial amount of time in the San Fernando Valley, you’ve probably heard someone say, “I remember when all of this was orange orchards.”
So you could say the building’s history starts back when the Valley was dominated by orange farmers. Yet, when the building was created in 1971, most of the Valley’s orange growing land had been developed, and the orchards were gone.
So when Sunkist moved its headquarters from Downtown LA to the Valley-based offices, the move was seen in many ways as an homage to the citrus heritage of the region. Perhaps it was with this in mind that the current developers are calling the new project Citrus Commons. Sunkist headquarters moved once again in 2014 to Santa Clarita.
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