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We Were Lost But Now We're Found
A number of architecturally historic buildings reside along Wilshire Boulevard, many of which don't serve their original purposes anymore, having been converted into restaurants, boutiques, or office supply stores. One such example is the newly remodeled MetroCustomer Center on Wilshire.
Housed in an understated yet elegant building originally designed by Welton Beckett's firm, Metro Customer Center functions as an information and pass distribution center as well as the Lost and Found for the entire Metro system. Beckett's studio engineered some of the city's most admired and culturally valued structures such as Capitol Records' Hollywood headquarters, the Pan Pacific Auditorium, and the Cinerama Dome at the Arclight Theaters.
The building was formerly home to Tilford's Restaurant & Lounge and reopened as a Metro Center in 1987 after a long period of disuse. Initially coated in a drab "institutional grey", the Center sat nearly invisible, though set in one of the most prominent corners in the city, Wilshire and La Brea.
The remedy: Hire artist Jim Isermann to add some pizazz to the drab facade. The Palm Springs-based artist adorned the exterior of the building in bright green and added a layer of cubic panels in a nod to Op Art sensibility. Who would have thought such a modest little building could stand out amidst a bevy of better known edifices? Though it closely resembles a giant Q-bert game, the exterior treatment is actually inspired by Southern California Modern architecture's penchant for using sun screens to lower interior temperatures and add privacy.
The best was saved for last as we were given an exclusive tour of the new Lost and Found room. Each year, thousands of Metro riders lose an obscene number of personal items in the form of cell phones, keys, books, bags, and the occasional set of dentures. Stored in the back are countless cubbies and bins filled to the brim with lost items, each meticulously cataloged and labeled. Among the oddest items recovered from Metro: a personal oxygen tank, a church donation box, and of course cremated remains.
And, in a room rivaled only by the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark, sit a bounty of bicycles recovered from Metro's various vehicles and stations. As you can see, it's a mighty daunting collection of two-wheelers. We doubt the National Archives has anything on Metro's Lost and Found.