Architectural Spotlight

Film & TV / On the Lot / Posts / April 30, 2019

Let’s shine a light on the architectural history of LA Center Studios.

When architect William Pereira originally designed the Union Oil Center, there was a ban on tall structures in downtown. A municipal ordinance intended to give the city “harmonious lines” and prohibited the construction of buildings taller than 13 stories.  This allowed LA’s City Hall to tower over the rest of the city until the late 1950s. The Union Oil Center added its twelve stories to the site upon a hill in 1958 and became the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles.

As Union Oil vacated their headquarters in the late 1990s, construction began on the studio: a new 20-acre entertainment campus that would include 10 buildings and 3 streets. The successful adaptive reuse of the Union Oil Center, including the “vertical backlot” of its original tower, paved the way for new uses of historic buildings.

The iconic facade of the main office building has served as the fictional location in numerous popular films and tv series. The exterior has been the Philadelphia Police Department on the CBS hit show Cold Case, which ran for 156 episodes. It played an FBI Office in both CBS’ Numb3rs and TNT’s Legends. And it has gone on to play a bank (NBC’s Life) and a hospital (Warner Bros’ Constantine with Keanu Reeves).

Several of the surrounding Downtown LA buildings were inspired by the Union Oil Center and now provide a major industrial office presence to the neighborhood. Our downtown view has had on-screen cameos in over a hundred productions that have shot in the area over the last two decades.

The future of the studio is as bright as the nighttime downtown lights that surround it. Our evolving property’s story has only just begun. Learn more about our facilities on our main website,

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