Millard Sheets, Architect

Yesterday, Devi wrote about Millard Sheets. Most of us know him as the artist from the 1920s and ’30s whose work offered gritty yet expressive depictions of Bunker Hill in downtown L.A.—LACMA has several of his works in our permanent collection. Less known, however, is that Sheets’s abilities as an artist had a profound influence on the architecture of L.A.

Washington Mutual Bank, Sunset and Vine

Though he had no formal training or credentials as an architect, Sheets owned a design and architectural firm called Millard Sheets Design Inc., for which he oversaw all of the design and construction of the buildings they worked on, which included more than forty Home Savings of America bank branches (currently Washington Mutual) in Southern California.

Sheets’s guiding principle in architecture was to conceive “buildings that will be exciting seventy-five years from now,” according to the artist in an interview given for the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. Each building was unique, site-specific, and often adorned by large-scale mosaics, meant to reflect California history, the progress of mankind, family life, and local landmarks.

His most famous structure was completed in 1968 on the corner of Sunset and Vine. Built on the original location of Hollywood’s first full-length motion picture, the building is adorned with a mural depicting legendary movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Taras W. Matla
Curatorial Administrator, Prints and Drawings

4 Responses to Millard Sheets, Architect

  1. Netrogena says:

    I love Millard Sheets! I once drove all around LA County taking pictures of his banks and other public art. It’s amazing what an impact he had on the LA landscape. I even wrote an article about him that I was going to publish in a zine (still might). He deserves recognition, for sure.

  2. Maria Gilbert says:

    How fascinating. I had no idea Millard Sheets was involved architecture. The building at Sunset and Vine looks like a real jewel. Thanks for the info, Taras!

  3. Lawrence says:

    I wish they would restore the fountain in front of the bank at Sunset and Vine. That intersection has a lot of pedestrian traffic now and a fountain would draw more attention to Sheet’s bank building on the corner, which is now surrounded by a new and up and coming Hollywood.

  4. This is a bit off topic, but I thought it would be the best way to address the bloggers here at Unframed.

    I made a post today, and anted to send you the link:

    I received an email from the Getty last week listing their activities for December, which included events in conjunction with World AIDS Day, December 1. After checking out some other L.A. museum’s calendars, I saw that the Getty was the only one that had events listed. I can remember ten or fifteen years ago when it seemed that every museum or gallery had something happening.

    This got me to think that the blog-o-sphere would be an ideal way to resurrect the tradition. I thought about some of my artist friends who died before the advent of the internet, and how little of their work or lives are represented online.

    To remedy that situation, and to mark “A Day Without Art,” I’ll be posting a short tribute to a former CalArts classmate and video artist. I thought it would be a great idea if I could get other bloggers to post on December 1 anything they’d like on artists they admire who died of AIDS.

    Since Unframed is read by so many other bloggers, I thought it would be an ideal place to pass along the word.



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