Aerial Views


William L. Pereira

Marineland's Master Architect

Text and selected photo images taken from the book William Pereira published by the Architectural Guild Press, University of Southern California, School of Architecture, 2002

Artist's Rendering, Pereira & Luckman, 1953
September 6, 1963

Few architects have made the cover of Time magazine: Frank Lloyd Wright, Philip Johnson, IM Pei and William Pereira are among this select group.  Of these four, only Pereira seems to have been forgotten; denied the status now conveyed upon the others by the profession and the public. 

At the time of his death in 1985, William Pereira led one of the largest and most influential architecture and planning firms in the world with a resume of incredibly diverse projects.  These projects run the gamut from private homes, department stores, television studios, research facilities, high-rise office towers, and airports to entire cities, such as Doha, Qatar, Los Angeles, and Irvine, California.  The dry statistics of such a litany, however, fail to convey the extent to which this work has, by extrapolation, affected the lives of millions of people, the impact it has subsequently had on the careers of all of those involved in helping to create it and make it a reality, or the countless number of people on the periphery who have been touched in some way or another by his contribution. 

A Key Transitional Figure
William Pereira is a key transitional figure in this paradigmatic shift and perhaps its most legible symbol.  There was never any question who was in control when he was in charge, but he exercised that control modestly and judiciously, rather than autocratically in the manner of other leaders of the Modern Movement.  Yet, his early work shows that he began as a strictly principled, Minimal Modernist, even if he repressed The Fountainhead Roarkian ego that went with it.  The CBS Television City studios and his own vastly under-appreciated house in Los Angeles are irrefutable proof of those principles, but expressionistic tendencies in some of the domestic accoutrements, voyeuristically revealed by the keen eye of Julius Shulman, hint at change to come. 
Pereira (far left) on movie set at Paramount Studios
By the age of 25, his designs for the movie theater chain of Balaban and Katz, controlled by Paramount, gained him the recognition of that studio, which hired him as both architect and art designer and asked him to move to Los Angeles.  His first assignment, after moving west in 1938, was to design a new studio for Paramount.  He prepared for the commission by immersing himself in the history of film, which set a pattern for background research he would always follow afterward.  His zeal impressed the studio head who made him Paramount's art director. His innovative approach to photography won him an Oscar in 1942 for Reap the Wild Wind by Cecil B. De Mille.  He later was the producer of two films for RKO.
Los Angeles International Airport
After World War II ended. Pereira began teaching at the University of Southern California School of Architecture while his own practice continued to expand, involving him in projects as diverse as department stores, medical centers and government projects such as Edwards Air Force Base.  News that Charles Luckman, whom he had met while they were both students at the University of Illinois, had left his job as president of Lever Brothers, prompted Pereira to offer him a partnership in 1950.  By 1955, Pereira and Luckman had 400 employees and more than $500 million in projects in progress, including the NASA Space facility at Cape Canaveral, the Los Angeles International Airport master plan and the CBS Television City studio.  Pereira and Luckman split in 1958 due to their different personalities and approaches, and Pereira started up on his own again and was approached by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation to master plan a $50 million research center; the beginning of an extraordinary portfolio that included, to name only a few, the 5,000-acre Bishop Ranch for commercial and residential use, the Hunt Foods Headquarters in Fullerton, California, the Los Angeles Art Museum, The University of Southern California master plan, the University of California San Diego preliminary master plan and library, the Malibu campus of Pepperdine University, Marineland of the Pacific on the Palos Verdes Penninsula, the Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco, and the Irvine Ranch master plan, which was reportedly his favorite project. 
The following text and photos are from the October, 1955 issue of Progressive Architecture, volume XXXVI, No. 10.  Published monthly by the Reinhold Publishing Corporation in New York.  Photos courtesy of Erwin Long and schematic diagrams courtesy of Pereira & Luckman. 

This remarkable group - "Marineland of the Pacific" - is constructed on a lofty promontory overlooking the ocean.  The three main elements are a zoo for fish and other marine creatures; a bar and restaurant; and an inn.  Key unit is the fish zoo - or Oceanarium, as it is called. 

Basically, the Oceanarium consistes of two huge steel salt-water tanks, one round (80' in diameter), the other, oval (50' x 100').  Continuous, double-glazed viewing windows of heat-tempered polished plate glass occur around the sides of the tanks at three levels of their 22-ft height.  Visitors reach the various levels by any one of four exterior ramps that wind around wing partitions.  This novel scheme, involving several trips in and out of doors, also allows great variety, depending on which ramp is used.  Furthermore, at each turning point as the visitor rounds the ramp partition, a view of the specatular surroundings bursts upon him from a fresh angle.  On the rooftop, one looks down into the fish tanks, and a grandstand beside the round pool allows leisurely observation. 


In addition to the two enormous tanks, there are numerous smaller aquaria or "jewel" tanks, at various locations, for specimens requiring special conditions.  Even in the big tanks, different environmental conditions are provided.  In the round tank that holds 600,000 gallons of sea water, drawn fresh from the ocean by pumps through a specially filtered source, the water temperature is left to fluctuate with the weather, to accommodate fish and marine life native to the region.  In the oval tank, (500,000 gallons) water will be maintained at 72 degrees F at constant temperature by means of a hot water heat exchanger immersed in a supply tank adjacent to sand filters located at the rear of the building.  Thus marine life of a migratory nature are made happy the year round.  For octopi and fish accustomed to lower temperatures, special tanks are served by refrigerating equipment. 

The sea water supply is obtained by means of a subterranean collecting drain.  A perforated cement-asbestos pipe, buried in the beach below the tide level, empties into a sump where it is pumped up the hill to the tanks.  The collection pipeis about 2500 ft from the Oceanarium building, and the water is lifted 125 ft by two, 100-hp pumps.  After the sand-filtering process and a chemical treatment to retard growth of algae and other plant life, the water is introduced into the large tanks at the bottom through four jets that cause the water to rotate in the tank at velocities adequate to provide self cleaning.

From the rooftop, visitors not only can peer down at the marine life within the tanks, but also enjoy the vast seascape, which, on clear days, includes a view of Catalina and the Santa Barbara Islands.  Three of the five approach ramps terminate at the 1500-seat, circular stadium, where one may sit and watch some of the mammals, such as the porpoises, being fed and playing. 
The Marineland Restaurant and Porpoise Room
The Marineland Restaurant and Porpoise Room cocktail lounge crown one of the most dramatic headlands, with unhindered views of the Pacific and adjacent coastline.  Basically, the plan consists of two separate circular buildings linked by a lobby and coffee shop.  Within the radial framing stemming from central columns, are air-conditioning ducts, wiring, and roof-drainage piping.  Webb Coleman was the interior decorator.
Restaurant Menu Cover
Cocktail Lounge Napkin
Restaurant Exterior
Restaurant Interior
Marineland Inn

According to the Opening Day VIP brochure, the "Marineland Inn is a smartly appointed Inn being built at Marineland to afford hotel accommodations at the project.  Construction will be in steps down the cliff.  The first section, of 10 units, is expected to be ready for the opening of the Oceanarium in the summer of 1954.  It will lay on the crest of the mesa, while succeeding levels are planned on gradual descents from the cliff towards the sea where it pounds on the rocky shore below.  This construction will afford each unit a provate patio and an unobstructed, unsurpassed view of the blue Pacific...truly an attraction in itself that is destined to become world renowned!" 

The first unit of the Marineland Inn adjoins the Marineland Restaurant building and shares the spectacular view.  Projecting wing walls provide private porches for each of the rental units.  The room charge for a single will be $8.00, and $10.00 for a double.