Pierre Cabrol dies at 84; architect was lead designer of Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome


Pierre Cabrol, an architect with Welton Becket and Associates who was the lead designer for the Cinerama Dome and other projects, died Oct. 8 at his home in Los Angeles, his family said. He was 84 and had dementia.

From 1957 to 1987 Cabrol worked for Becket, the noted Los Angeles architect whose designs include the iconic Capitol Records building in Hollywood and the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Cabrol, who had worked for innovative architect R. Buckminster Fuller while attending graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used Fuller’s geodesic dome concept for the modernist movie palace that opened on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood in 1963.


Most geodesic domes are aluminum or glass; the Cinerama Dome is the only one made of concrete. The landmark theater (now operated by ArcLight) has 316 interlocking hexagons that form its dome shell and, when it opened, could accommodate 959 patrons who viewed an 86-by-32-foot curved screen.

“As a simple feat of engineering, it’s extraordinary,” Chris Nichols, chairman emeritus of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee, said in an interview last week. “And as a piece of sculpture, it’s really unusual.”

Cabrol also was the lead designer on other significant projects by Welton Becket, including the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, the General Electric Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, where he designed a 4,400-seat theater on a 369-acre site in 1974.

Born May 1, 1925, in Aix-les-Bains, France, Cabrol had a gift for drawing and earned a degree in architecture at the Beaux Arts in Paris in 1955. He received a scholarship to continue his graduate studies at MIT and spent two years there.

In 1957, Cabrol headed west on a cross-country road trip and when he reached Los Angeles he met Becket, who offered him a job in his office. He remained at the firm until 1987, just before it merged with Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Inc. to become Ellerbe Becket.

He worked independently as an architect and landscape architect from 1988 to 1995.

Cabrol, who never married, is survived by two brothers and two sisters.

His family requests donations to the Los Angeles Conservancy or Alzheimer’s Assn.