Tunnel Visionaries

Times Staff Writer

North Hollywood simply could not look like any other subway station.

That was the goal architect Virginia Tanzmann and her husband, designer Carl Davis, had set for themselves. They sought to leave not only their imprint, but also a reflection of the community.

"It was a great challenge, to encompass everything together into one," said Tanzmann, 54. "I mean, can you imagine the responsibility and pressure we felt? But we could not move on until we knew the community well."

The pair explored the streets of North Hollywood, talking to residents, shopping and eating in storefront businesses. They concluded that North Hollywood is an area of contrasts, with all ages, backgrounds, races and social classes represented.

Observing that this diverse populace shared one thing--aspirations for the future--they seized on a "California Dream" theme.

They were given stacks of paperwork with instructions and guidelines. The design had to be easy to clean, safe and in compliance with building codes, but at the same time the subway station had to be unique and artistic--and cost less than $68 million to build.

The result: Three arches--orange, yellow and blue--that seem to absorb visitors. Once inside, riders are greeted by murals with images of folkloric dancers, North Hollywood streets and pilot Amelia Earhart, who had made Toluca Lake her home. These features give the station a dreamlike feel, Tanzmann said.

"We visited Paris about seven years ago and saw arches that inspired us," Davis said. "We saw the arches as a way to create something that was futuristic and simple at the same."

And, he added, "We resurrected the hippie colors."

After somehow maintaining creativity through seven years of long days, headaches, pressure and deadlines, Tanzmann said that when the public arrives, she will just sit back from a distance and quietly watch people walk in and out of the station.

"To think that I will be able to leave such an impact in the city, it's such a great feeling," she said. "I love my job."

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