City Council Chamber & Murals

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The Project
The 2001 City Council-approved Chamber renovation project was completed with an eye toward comfort and modern technology, while, at the same time, respecting the original art deco decor of Burbank City Hall. In addition to the Chamber renovation, the project included the restoration of two murals by Hugo Ballin: "The Four Freedoms" in the Chamber and "Burbank Industry" in the rotunda.

The Council Chamber
Chamber oldThe Council Chamber is located in the west wing of the second floor of City Hall. Its teakwood-panelled walls and striking "Four Freedoms" mural provide the backdrop where the business of the City is conducted weekly. The Council Chamber has built-in rails and tables.

In a 1978 remodel, the Chamber’s original carved wooden pew seats were replaced by padded theater-style seating. The checkered tile floor was carpeted.

During the 2001 renovation, the lowered ceiling in the Chamber was removed. Returning the ceiling to its original height revealed the top of The Four Freedoms mural which had been covered for decades. Other work included: refinishing the teak paneling on the walls; installing new carpeting and new theatre-style seating; and installing new brass lights similar to the original fixtures.

‘Burbank Industry’ mural
burbindust_oldThe large, 8 feet by 24 feet, mural in the Rotunda -- Burbank Industry --is by the artist Hugo Ballin. The mural features Burbank-built airplanes, the motion picture industry, agriculture, a power plant, and scenes of Burbank family life, all representing the economic and social base of the community.

In 1964 the bottom third was removed to make way for a bridge to the then-new Municipal Services Building behind City Hall. It was kept in storage for 37 years.

The mural was restored in 2001 and the two sections were reattached by fine arts conservation experts.

‘The Four Freedoms’ mural
BrbIndustry_wholeThe 11 feet by 22 feet mural by Hugo Ballin was inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 "Four Freedoms" speech given at the signing of the Atlantic Charter. It is one of Ballin’s masterworks. The mural depicts scenes and figures symbolic of the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. Located on the Council Chamber wall directly behind the Council seats, the mural was in place when the City Hall building was dedicated February 12, 1943.

In a letter to Burbank city officials, Ballin noted "the mission of a mural is to enhance the architecture and to give a harmonious unity to the room in which it is placed. The painter must take into consideration a design which best fits the requirements. Scale, light and color are all equally important and a painter who knows mural painting gives these things paramount consideration."

About the Artist
Hugo Ballin (1879-1956) painted both of these City Hall murals : "Burbank Industry" and "The Four Freedoms." He is well-known for his many murals around the Los Angeles area, including those at the Griffith Observatory and the Times-Mirror Building. He was a skilled painter, writer, stage designer, muralist and motion picture director. Born in New York on March 7, 1879, he studied art in New York as well as in Paris, Rome and Florence. In 1913 he decorated the Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Mahballindison.
In 1921, Ballin came to Los Angeles to work as a studio art director. He went on to direct and produce over 100 silent films. With the coming of talkies, he returned to mural painting and painted many murals for area buildings. In 1932 he designed the commemorative medallion for the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Hugo Ballin died in Santa Monica on November 27, 1956.



Four Freedoms Mural 1 city council chamber hugo balin four freedoms history historical painting dais portrait

The Four Freedoms
by Hugo Ballin

This is a description of the mural by the artist, from a 1948 letter he wrote to the City.

"The mission of a mural painting is to enhance the architecture and to give a harmonious unity to the room in which it is placed. A building is better for a good mural and a mural is better for a well designed building. The painter should take into consideration a design that best fits the requirements. Scale is vital. By scale is meant a system of proportions by which definite magnitudes serve as agreeable and proper. The question of light and color are equally important and a painter who knows mural painting gives these things paramount consideration.

"Designing THE FOUR FREEDOMS, Hugo Ballin incorporated a modern tendency as influenced by the spirit of the past. He did not want the decoration to be vague and incomprehensible. He felt that the work must be in the spirit of the building. An extreme modern trend would have shocked and been aesthetically irrelevant.

"The decoration measures 22 feet long and eleven feet six inches high. The theme of the mural was taken from the ideology of the Second World War. The Four Freedoms are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear.

"The large figures that occupy the upper half of the painting are symbolic. The lower section of the mural depicts these freedoms put into practice in everyday experience.

"The large left hand figure holds a disc showing lips as illustrative of the spoken word. In the woman’s lap are a number of books -- the printed word in various languages. Behind the woman are the letters of the alphabet. Below, several speakers are haranguing. People are looking up at them. The woman at the desk is the next to speak. The man at the typewriter is preparing his talk. Above him there are several Legion flags.

"The second panel shows Moses deep in contemplation. He is holding the tablets of the Law. There is a crucifix with some saints at the terminals of the cross. A Pope in the regalia of office is reading from the New Testament. Three old Jews are standing at a table. One man is blowing a ram’s horn. Another is holding a Torah. Below them a clergyman is at a lectern. An American Indian is protecting a flame and in front of him on their knees are four people in prayer and supplication. A savage back of the Pope is learning to pray.

"The third figure represents Plenty holding fruits and flowers. Below her is a modern market. A woman with a basket on her arm is about to receive a bag from a grocer while a little boy on his velocipede is asking for something to eat. Behind this group a man is loading a donkey. Below the donkey a sow is rooting for food. In the background a man and woman are working at a farm machine.

"Freedom from Fear is symbolized by a strong man holding a tablet which is a symbol as opposed to instruments of war and aggression. Below him is a family partaking of their evening meal. A Negro is reading his paper. Close to him is a cat and a rooster while at his elbow a child is playing with a dog. A mother and child and a rancher occupy the right corner of the composition. In the background two figures are dismantling guns while above hover protectors of the skyways.

"It was the intention of the painter to have the entire mural serve to illustrate the spirit of democracy."

(signed) Hugo Ballin

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