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04.21.2014
Building by the Rules
Broadway tower in Los Angeles is first built under new design guidelines.
Courtesy HansonLA

Though Los Angeles’ Broadway Theater and Entertainment District Design Guide has been in the works for years, it had never been applied to a new high-rise—until now. The $150-million Broadway @ 4th, a 35-story, 450-unit residential and retail complex, is the latest project from downtown developer Izek Shomof. Architects HansonLA worked closely with the department of City Planning to design a structure that fit within what principal Douglas Hanson describes as “a very prescriptive envelope.”

Per the design guidelines, the building’s lower stories, clad in terra cotta, glass, and metal, nestle up against the sidewalk. The corner of Broadway and 4th Street is marked by a broad curve. The upper floors are set back in a rectangular tower faced with cementitious panels.

A sharp curve marks the building's base when seen from the street.
 

“As we looked around, we just weren’t that interested in making a historic building per se,” explained Hanson. Instead, the firm identified two features of the streetscape to echo in modern architectural language. First was the texture of the historic facades. “We were able to give it this great texture by pushing the balconies in and out” and by installing corner windows in most units, said Hanson. Second were the windows. “A lot of people think old buildings have punched windows, but when you look around [they don’t],” said Hanson. The architects opted for large windows, though “[we] kind of hide it behind the balconies for a much more painterly, articulated facade.”

While Hanson describes working with the planning department as a good collaboration, he questions the strictness of the Broadway guidelines—and the setback provision in particular. “I don’t necessarily agree. There’s something about the street wall but it doesn’t have to be that literal,” he said. “I think there’s other ways to achieve the same thing. If you have good architects you can get beyond that.”

Anna Bergren Miller