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World Cruise Terminal Golden Anniversary

October 15, 2013

By Nicholas Beyelia

The Los Angeles Harbor World Cruise Terminal, located at Berth 93 in San Pedro is among the most unique architectural structures located at the Port of Los Angeles.  Upon its completion, the structure was heralded as a masterpiece of mid-century architecture and was featured in the August 1963 edition of Arts and Architecture magazine, the September 1963 edition of Architectural Record Magazine and the January 1964 edition of the German architectural periodical, Der Baumeister.  The design team responsible for the structure would be the recipients of several awards for their vision including a 1963 Architectural Award of Excellence from The American Institute of Steel Construction and an American Institute of Architecture outstanding aesthetic design award.  The terminal, conceived in collaboration with AIA award winning architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A., turns 50 this year.

In December, 1958 the Los Angeles Harbor Department entered into a contract with architect Edward H. Fickett, F.A.I.A., the architectural firms of Kistner, Wright & Wright Architects and Engineers, S.B. Barnes & Associates to develop, as a joint venture, a concept for a modern passenger and cargo terminal that would be both visually appealing to cruise passengers and functional amongst the commerce along the main channel.  Plans for the structure were submitted to the Harbor Department as early as 1959 and approved shortly thereafter.

Joyce Fickett 009 - CopyEarly Concept for the Terminal. Image Courtesy of Joyce Fickett.

Construction of the terminal complex began in 1960 and was scheduled to conclude in 1963 (including the corresponding cargo terminal). Anticipation was high for the completion of the structure with The Los Angeles Times reporting on its progress in October, 1961. The Times explained that construction required approximately 5,200 tons of steel to be erected by the U.S. Steel American Bridge Division over a 455,530 sq. ft. framed area. The structure required 600,000 high-strength bolts and 1800 machine bolts “to connect the various steel beams, girders and columns.”

CruiseTerminalplansArchitectural Plans of the Exterior, Los Angeles Harbor Department Engineering Collection.

The terminal was finished on time and a dedication ceremony for the complex was held March 19, 1963. The final cost was reported to be $16 million and the terminal would ultimately become the Los Angeles home to three of the premier passenger cruise lines: the American President Lines, the American Mail Line and the Pacific Far-East Line with Consolidated Marine Inc. managing and operating the facilities. The terminal is often referred to as the “APL Terminal” and the “CMI Terminal” in many periodicals and Harbor Department publications.

Joyce Fickett 003 - CopyThe World Cruise Terminal upon completion. Image Courtesy of Joyce Fickett.

0106-O watermark 2Interior of the terminal at completion. Los Angeles Harbor Department Materials Testing Laboratory Photographs Collection, 0106-O

The style of the Los Angeles Harbor Cruise Terminal stood in stark contrast to other cruise terminals at The Port of Los Angeles, particularly the Matson Cruise Terminal in Wilmington. The Matson terminal, built only ten years earlier, had a distinctly Mediterranean flair that could be seen mirrored throughout architecture in the area; the mid-century modern chic of the Harbor Cruise Terminal was relatively unique to the Harbor region and remains an exceptional piece of modern architecture at the Port of Los Angeles.  Architect Edward Fickett, in particular, became closely associated with a mid-century “California modern” style and would be responsible for some of the most remarkable examples of modern architecture in the Los Angeles area.  Fickett was dubbed “The Frank Lloyd Wright of the Fifties” by Better Homes and Gardens and left an equally innovative legacy of design throughout Southern California. He passed away in 1999. The Los Angeles Harbor World Cruise Terminal stands as one of his outstanding contributions to mid-century modern design.

By the year 2000, exposure to the elements had taken a toll on the façade of the building; interior amenities had become worn and many of the features did not meet modern safety standards.  In 2010, the terminal was given a makeover that included an installation of solar panels and new gangways that complied with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The cobalt blue light fixtures were replaced with ones that were more energy efficient and both the interior and exterior of the terminal were given a fresh coat of paint. The World Cruise Terminal remains in operation today and it is estimated to currently handle anywhere from 400,000 to 1 million passengers per year.

Nicholas Beyelia is a Student Professional Worker at The Port of Los Angeles Archives. He holds an M.A. in History from California State University, Los Angeles and is an M.L.I.S candidate at San Jose State University.

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