Located in the northern part of downtown Los Angeles between Bunker Hill and the old Pueblo, this governmental complex has the nation’s second largest concentration of public sector buildings and workers after Washington, D.C. As early as 1900, public officials, based on a plan from city planner Charles Mulford Robinson, conceived of a City Beautiful-style civic center. In 1917, landscape architect J. S. Rankin submitted a site plan for the center’s current location, but only the construction of City Hall (in 1928) occurred before World War II.
Following the War, extensive urban renewal led to the razing of many of Bunker Hill’s historic buildings and the construction of the Santa Ana Freeway, which separated the area from the city’s historic core. The civic center axis was reoriented and by 1956, there were numerous proposals for a Modernist complex centered on a twelve-acre mall designed by Cornell, Bridgers and Troller. The mall was built over a subterranean parking garage and lined with Functionalist-style buildings, with the Los Angeles Music Center and Department of Water and Power anchoring the northern terminus. In 1972, a master plan by landscape architects Wallace, McHarg, Roberts & Todd re-designed the area to include a greater proliferation of pedestrian-friendly amenities, including the Los Angeles Mall, a multi-level civic and retail space with parkland spanning both sides of Temple Street. In 1998, a master plan by a team led by Suisman Urban Design established a governmental district with City Hall and the Civic Center as the central nexus uniting the surrounds.