Story at a glance:
- A historic Southern California building gets a new lease on life with APV Engineered Coatings.
- The building was painted over in the 1990s and again in 2009. Portions of the original aluminum base layer began to pit and corrode.
- NeverFade contains Kynar Aquatec®, can be used on a variety of substrates, and is extremely weather-resistant.
Spending a half-century in the blazing Southern California sun without proper protection can do some serious damage. That’s true for people and buildings alike.
In the case of a historic property in Hawthorne, California, what was once sparkling and eye-catching upon completion in 1972 had grown dull and unremarkable in the ensuing years.
Fortunately APV Engineered Coatings and its longtime restoration partner Stuart Dean Company were able to restore the structure—one of the nation’s most significant examples of 1970s late modernism, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy—to its former glory.
But before we get to that, a bit of history about the project, plus a closer look at how it shines with restoration coatings today.
Formerly the Federal Aviation Administration’s West Coast Headquarters, this six-story rectangular building (described by the Los Angeles Conservancy as “one of the nation’s most significant examples of 1970s late modernism”) had lost its revolutionary mirrored glass “skin”—a look that went on to become widely popular in 1970s and ’80s corporate architecture.
Having been painted over in the 1990s and again in 2009, the 40,000-square-foot anodized aluminum and glass facade was covered by a matte silver-gray aluminum-colored paint that began flaking and delaminating. Unguarded from the elements, portions of the original aluminum base layer began to pit and corrode.
In 2018, a few years after the building was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the federal government decided to sell it. Before that could happen, though, the LA Conservancy worked with the government’s General Services Administration to obtain a conservation easement that would compel the next owner (Santa Monica-based Worthe Real Estate Group) to follow nationally recognized preservation standards in maintaining the property. In simpler terms, it means the next half-century will be far kinder than the last one.
With the preservation details squared away and a thorough NACE inspection completed to better pinpoint specific damage, APV and Stuart Dean began what would be a five-month-long restoration process. Meticulously planned and executed, it first involved multi-stage mockups to determine the best approach, then careful preparation of the building’s substrate—including pitting and corrosion repair.
But while the work went smoothly, it was sometimes tricky. “It’s difficult to work with a historical building,” says Erin Neff, director of marketing and business development for APV. “Most of the labor involved is prepping the surface properly and making sure you have a good foundation to start from. And because this was a historic structure, they couldn’t be too aggressive in removing the previous coating or in handling the pitting and corrosion issues. It’s not an exact science, and every building we do is on a case-by-case basis. Doing a pre-job inspection and coming up with a game plan that incorporates all of the different variables is the best way to be successful.”
Besides removing decades-old layers of paint, Stuart Dean also stripped away 60,000 square feet of metal-to-metal and metal-to-glass sealants from around the glass panels and window frames, replacing them with far more durable silicone.
A primer was then applied (APV’s W-1650), followed by APV’s NeverFade® Metal Restoration topcoat. Because NeverFade contains Kynar Aquatec®, the water-based polyvinylidene fluoride resin can be used on a variety of substrates and is extremely weather-resistant—so much so that APV guarantees premium performance (little or no film chalking, fading, or erosion from harsh UV exposure) for more than 20 years.
Just as important, the ultra-low VOC content and water-based nature of APV’s products means very low odors that can be bothersome to tenants and neighbors. And since both the primer and topcoat were brush-applied, nearby cars were safe from damage by airborne particles.
During the final stage, Stuart Dean Company applied a custom-colored NeverFade formulation that APV engineered to emulate the building’s original metallic look. The result: a former beauty resurrected to life.
“This project was unique and exciting,” says Michael Couchie, APV’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The inspections, scope of work plan, and execution was challenging but imperative. The Stuart Dean team are truly experts at their craft. We were pleased with the outcome and felt privileged to extend the life of this beautiful historic architecture for another 20-plus years.”