Gin D. Wong LA Architect 1922-1917

California architect Gin Wong said a few years ago, “I happen to believe in simplicity. Certain things call for certain materials; we stick to that and do not add any more to it. I don’t believe in embellishment.” Though not well known to the general public, Gin Wong, who died this month at age 94, was the creative eye behind several iconic postwar Southern California buildings.

One is the 1960 Beverly Hills Union 76 gas station with the soaring triangular roof invoking a futuristic jet. (top photo at left) Mr. Wong, who immigrated to the US from China as a child, served as an Army Airman in WWII, then studied architecture at USC, meeting the professor there whose firm he would later join - William L. Pereira.

The ex airman remained interested in aviation his entire life. He led the design team for the original Los Angeles International Airport in the 1950s utilizing an innovative system of spokes and satellites for smoother terminal operation. He was on the team that designed the airport’s Theme Building (it wasn’t the control tower) that has been called part spaceship and giant spider. (2nd photo left) He also designed the airport’s two-level roadway upgrade that was preparation for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. By then he was heading his own firm. 

Wong had helped found William L. Pereira & Associates as a designer, then director of design, and eventually president. He was essential to the design in 1952 of CBS’s Television City on Beverly Boulevard, which was state-of-the-art,  one of the few complexes built expressly for television production. A modernist flat roof design using plain stucco and glass, it provided the flexibility of movable walls that was required in the new age of TV production. All this and the magic of presets on the new light board were touted on a two part CBS special with Edward R Murrow in 1953. 

Gin Wong was president of Pereira’s firm during the designing of San Francisco’s landmark Transamerica Pyramid; (3rd photo left) he also worked on the original buildings of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with William L. Pereira & Associates. After establishing his own firm, Wong designed the Arco Tower in 1989 in downtown, (4th photo left). But after many decades of highly praised work, his legacy for many will be the red swooping roofline of the gas station at Crescent Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard.