Conventional Wisdom

The new convention center would bridge over Pico Boulevard.
Courtesy Populous / AEG

As The Architect’s Newspaper first reported on our blog, on February 2 sports and entertainment behemoth AEG shared plans for yet another piece of downtown Los Angeles’ South Park neighborhood: a replacement of the LA Convention Center West Hall, called LACOEX (Los Angeles Convention and Exhibit Hall). The unveiling took place at a meeting of the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Proposed Downtown Stadium and Events Center.

The $275 million project, designed by Populous (formerly HOK Sport) with Gruen Associates, would not only be a flashy new presence in the city, but it would substantially expand LA’s convention space and unite the center’s two wings. AEG already owns the Staples Center and the adjacent LA Live mixed-use complex, and it is hoping to build a new football stadium—the Gensler-designed Farmers Field—which would sit just north of LACOEX. Both the convention and stadium projects require the city to attract a new NFL team to move forward.

While materials for the pixelated, glassy facade are still beind developed, the color scheme will be inspired by existing buildings.

“We are from an image standpoint the most important city in the world. Yet if you look at our ability to capture tourism and conventions, we’re not there yet,” pointed out AEG chairman Tim Lieweke in a previous interview. “The convention center is the biggest change that will create a downtown you won’t recognize 20 years from now.”

Populous senior principal Todd Voth said the firm is about halfway through schematic design for the project. The current West Hall, designed in 1971 by Charles Luckman and renovated several times thereafter, has long been outdated and undersized.

A site plan shows the proposed addition connecting to the existing convention center and the proposed Farmer’s Field (left) and a plan for the redesigned Gilbert Lindsey Plaza (right).

The new hall would be built on the West Hall’s site and bridge over Pico Boulevard, connected on multiple levels with both Farmers Field (allowing for convention events to take place in the stadium itself) and with the South Hall, which was designed by Pei Cobb Freed in 1993. The South and West halls are now connected via a narrow passageway and have little connection to surrounding streets. The new facility would become one contiguous convention center, instead of two wings.

LACOEX’s glassy green and white exterior (the materials have not been finalized, said Voth) would take its chromatic cues from the South Hall. The project would also emulate Pei Cobb Freed’s large glass lobby with a giant “Grand Hall,” a multi-level glass atrium that will serve as the focal point for the convention center at large.

The building’s other elements will include a huge multi-use space; connections to the street, including the “Pico Passage,” leading people in from Pico Boulevard; and the expansion of the center’s Gilbert Lindsey Plaza from a narrow, unprogrammed strip into a multi-purpose space accommodating up to 1,000 people.

A conceptual view of the convention center’s interior.

The new facility will include 195,000 square feet of what Voth called “A-class” exhibit space, and 48,000 square feet of multi-use space, increasing the convention center’s total size to about 1.1 million square feet. The center now holds a little over 700,000 square feet.

In designing the new facility Voth said his team brainstormed words that described Los Angeles, zeroing in on a few like iconic, dynamic, glamorous, influential and immortal.

“We’re trying to put LA even more on a global platform,” said Voth. Schematics are expected to be completed by March. After that AEG must finish an Environmental Impact Report and LA will have to play the waiting game to see if a new NFL team will get the ball rolling.

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