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6 places that remind us LA is the 'Capital of Science Fiction'

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The claim that LA is the "capital of science fiction" is the topic of the first talk of this weekend's Science Fiction L.A.: Worlds and World Building in the City of Angels, a two-day conference sponsored by USC. (For more discussion on that claim and its merits, click over to KCET.) Science Fiction L.A. will include a screening of the film Her in Hollywood tonight and a day of panels and discussionsWitness and Celebrate: Ray Bradbury’s Los Angeles and Philip K. Dick in Southern California, to name a couple—at USC on Saturday.

Whether Los Angeles is the capital of sci-fi or just one of the humble villages on the road to it, we can say with confidence that LA is firmly linked to the genre through movies and literature. For a few tangible examples, look no farther than its buildings.

Curbed spoke to one of the conference's organizers, former Los Angeles Times book critic David Ulin, and to Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who will be introducing the film Her at the screening tonight, for their picks on architecture that reminds us of LA's sci-fi connections.

Ulin and Hawthorne's picks include some structures that are likely in most people's top 10 for spacey buildings (the Westin Bonaventure) and some that should be (Donald J. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant).

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1. Bradbury Building

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304 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013
(213) 626-1893
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Yes, this building figured prominently in a little modern noir film from the 1980s called Blade Runner, but the structure's sci-fi connections run deeper than the Ridley Scott film, says David Ulin. After all, the building was inspired by "the architect’s reading of a utopian novel from the 1880s that takes places in 2000." The book was published and the building was built before the name science fiction existed, says Ulin, but if the genre had been around, this book would have fit the bill for the genre. (The Bradbury also has some very cool occult associations, too.)

2. Clifton's Cafeteria

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648 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014
(213) 627-1673
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The link to sci-fi here is in not that the recently redone cafeteria was the setting for a fantastic novel or book, but that it was a favorite and even an official meeting place for a group of science fiction writers and enthusiasts as early as the 1930s. Clifton's was the first place where Bradbury showed his stories to people, says Ulin. Many of the club's members, such as Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein, went on to become some very big names in science fiction. When Clifton's reopened last year, it did so with Bradbury's favorite booth restored.

3. Fox Plaza

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2121 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067
(310) 282-0047
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Century City's Fox Plaza stars in the original Die Hard movie. It’s not a sci-fi flick, but the action/thriller aired concerns about the present while taking place in the future, which is very sci-fi-esque. In the movie, the Fox Plaza tower is named Nakitomi Plaza. It's used as vehicle for expressing anxieties about the future. Die Hard was made "at a moment when we were worried about all this Japanese money pouring in and how [that money] was changing the skyline.”

4. Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant

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6100 Woodley Ave
San Fernando Valley, CA 91406

This futuristic administrative building for a water reclamation plant was built in the 1980s and played many a role in various Star Trek movies, including that of the StarFleet Academy. Designed by Anthony J. Lumsden of Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall, the structure is cantilevered out over an artificial lake; alongside it, there's a Japanese garden that's watered by the plant’s reclaimed water. In addition to looking like it was pulled straight out of a movie about the future, the building is "one of the great and underrated LA buildings from the 1980s," says Hawthorne.

5. Ennis House

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2607 Glendower Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

Another structure with Blade Runner connections, the Ennis House doesn't try to look like it's from a space-age future–instead, it's the attempt of architect Frank Lloyd Wright to connect to a kind of "mythical Mayan architecture." In that way, and in the literal sense that it sort of started to slip down the hill once it was complete, the structure was always kind of a ruin from the beginning. The air of ruin over the Ennis House gives it (and the Bradbury Building) a kind of “worn futurism," says Hawthorne, making the movie unusual and memorable.

6. Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites

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404 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90071
(213) 624-1000
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Built in the mid-1970s and designed by architect John Portman, the Westin Bonaventure is "kind of the prototype space-age building," says Ulin. Outside, the glassy structure has pedestrian walkways that connect the hotel to the area that surrounds it without having to descend to the street; inside, it's all curving concrete walkways. And lets not forget those glassy elevators that move up the outside of the building. Ulin notes that sci-fi was quick to recognize the futuristic hotel, especially dystopian ones—the Bonaventure has appeared in Interstellar, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and 1975's Rollberball, a movie Ulin describes as being about "corporate brutality" that involves regular people playing a violent sport for the amusement of their corporate overlords. Rollerball supposedly takes place in 2017.

1. Bradbury Building

304 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Yes, this building figured prominently in a little modern noir film from the 1980s called Blade Runner, but the structure's sci-fi connections run deeper than the Ridley Scott film, says David Ulin. After all, the building was inspired by "the architect’s reading of a utopian novel from the 1880s that takes places in 2000." The book was published and the building was built before the name science fiction existed, says Ulin, but if the genre had been around, this book would have fit the bill for the genre. (The Bradbury also has some very cool occult associations, too.)

304 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90013

2. Clifton's Cafeteria

648 S Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90014

The link to sci-fi here is in not that the recently redone cafeteria was the setting for a fantastic novel or book, but that it was a favorite and even an official meeting place for a group of science fiction writers and enthusiasts as early as the 1930s. Clifton's was the first place where Bradbury showed his stories to people, says Ulin. Many of the club's members, such as Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein, went on to become some very big names in science fiction. When Clifton's reopened last year, it did so with Bradbury's favorite booth restored.

648 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90014

3. Fox Plaza

2121 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Century City's Fox Plaza stars in the original Die Hard movie. It’s not a sci-fi flick, but the action/thriller aired concerns about the present while taking place in the future, which is very sci-fi-esque. In the movie, the Fox Plaza tower is named Nakitomi Plaza. It's used as vehicle for expressing anxieties about the future. Die Hard was made "at a moment when we were worried about all this Japanese money pouring in and how [that money] was changing the skyline.”

2121 Avenue of the Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067

4. Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant

6100 Woodley Ave, San Fernando Valley, CA 91406

This futuristic administrative building for a water reclamation plant was built in the 1980s and played many a role in various Star Trek movies, including that of the StarFleet Academy. Designed by Anthony J. Lumsden of Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall, the structure is cantilevered out over an artificial lake; alongside it, there's a Japanese garden that's watered by the plant’s reclaimed water. In addition to looking like it was pulled straight out of a movie about the future, the building is "one of the great and underrated LA buildings from the 1980s," says Hawthorne.

6100 Woodley Ave
San Fernando Valley, CA 91406

5. Ennis House

2607 Glendower Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027

Another structure with Blade Runner connections, the Ennis House doesn't try to look like it's from a space-age future–instead, it's the attempt of architect Frank Lloyd Wright to connect to a kind of "mythical Mayan architecture." In that way, and in the literal sense that it sort of started to slip down the hill once it was complete, the structure was always kind of a ruin from the beginning. The air of ruin over the Ennis House gives it (and the Bradbury Building) a kind of “worn futurism," says Hawthorne, making the movie unusual and memorable.

2607 Glendower Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027

6. Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites

404 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Built in the mid-1970s and designed by architect John Portman, the Westin Bonaventure is "kind of the prototype space-age building," says Ulin. Outside, the glassy structure has pedestrian walkways that connect the hotel to the area that surrounds it without having to descend to the street; inside, it's all curving concrete walkways. And lets not forget those glassy elevators that move up the outside of the building. Ulin notes that sci-fi was quick to recognize the futuristic hotel, especially dystopian ones—the Bonaventure has appeared in Interstellar, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and 1975's Rollberball, a movie Ulin describes as being about "corporate brutality" that involves regular people playing a violent sport for the amusement of their corporate overlords. Rollerball supposedly takes place in 2017.

404 S Figueroa St
Los Angeles, CA 90071