Herman Ruhnau, AIA

| | Comments (0)

Last month, one of Southern California's notable post-modern architects, Herman O. Ruhnau, passed away at the age of 93 in Riverside, a city in which he left a distinctive architectural legacy.

A German by descent, Mr. Ruhnau was born Sept. 1, 1912, in Santa Barbara, eventually moving with his family to Pasadena before permanently relocating to Riverside. Ruhnau studied architecture at USC and served as an architect in the Navy during World War II, returning to Riverside following the war.

Riverside County
Administrative Center (1975)

Riverside City Hall (1975)

Original model of City Hall

In 1950, Mr. Ruhnau was a founding partner of the Riverside architectural firm now known as Ruhnau, Ruhnau & Clarke. Among the buildings designed by Ruhnau's firm are two of the city's most prominent buildings: Riverside City Hall (1975) and Riverside County Administrative Center (1975):

When architect Herman Ruhnau was commissioned to design a new City Hall for Riverside in the early 1970s, his initial vision was of a sleek white concrete and recessed-glass building whose six-stories rose like alternating layers of vanilla cake with chocolate filling.

"Then we heard the cry: 'We want arches.'"


(On Riverside County Administrative Center) ...initial plans drafted in the mid-1960s called for an eight- to 10-story concrete and steel vertically striped tower on a solid two-story concrete base. But before the tower could be erected...Ruhnau says county officials asked for an additional two or three stories.

"We had only designed the foundation to hold 10 stories," he explains, "and the only way we could add the extra space was to redo the foundation, which was impossible, or to find some light building material that the foundation could hold."

Mirrored glass became the answer.

The Press-Enterprise (April, 1984)

Ruhnau's firm specialized in public buildings and built numerous schools throughout Inland Southern California, including La Sierra High School (1969), Norte Vista High School and Sherman Indian High School, all in Riverside. Ruhnau also designed the city's Marcy Branch Library (1958) and worked on the designs for Corona Naval Hospital in Norco.

Probably the most unique feature designed by the firm for Riverside that remains today is the downtown Main Street pedestrian mall (1966). Designed in response to the suburban exodus of retailers for large shopping malls -- including Riverside Plaza (1956) -- the pedestrian mall is making a comeback today as both residents, retailers and businesses alike rediscover its uniqueness and charm in the heart of downtown Riverside.

The non-vehicular, park-like mall stretches for 7 city blocks (Tenth to Third streets) with only one interruption (Fifth to Sixth streets) and one yet to be fully developed portion (Fourth to Third streets). Major anchors along the mall include the Mission Inn, California Tower, UCR/CMP, UCR/Culver Arts Center, Riverside Marriott as well as two civic buildings: Raincross Square Convention Center and the aforementioned City Hall.

Although a number of similar pedestrian malls were created as a response to the suburban phenomenon that deserted many downtowns during the post-war years, only a handful remain intact today, something residents and city leaders alike should remember when major changes are proposed.

In 1974, Mr. Ruhnau was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. He received a lifetime achievement award from the Inland Chapter of the AIA this past April.


Pedestrian Mall
City Hall
City Hall
Riv. Co. Admin
Riv. Co. Admin

Sources: City of Riverside, Riverside Public Library, Rhunau Ruhnau Clarke, The Press-Enterprise, Los Angeles Times

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Yearly Archives: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 |
RXSQ Home | Master Archives | ^^Top of Page

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by RXSQ published on July 5, 2006 4:50 PM.

Then & Now - County Courthouse was the previous entry in this blog.

New interchange partially opens is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the RXSQ Main Index or look in the Master Archives to find all content.

Follow Us

Make Custom Gifts at CafePress

Powered by Movable Type 4.35-en
version: 4.35-en
  • Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feeds: Atom






Got Riverside? RaincrossSquare is now on CafePress! We are offering a limited number of products -- such as framed prints, postcards and calendars -- using locally-themed images and graphics. Please feel free to browse our online shop.

Photo Request: We're looking for iconic shots and city views taken between 1940 - 1990 in and around Riverside, especially those where the landscape has significantly changed. Read more...


Photo Galleries
Downtown | City

Photo Pool
items in Raincross Square View/add photos: Raincross Square photo pool

Of Interest

Local Links