The Wilshire Grand, a 73-story tower under construction in downtown Los Angeles, hasn’t yet risen out of the ground, but it’s already in the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s thanks to a February 15–16 event promoters called the Grand Pour, in which construction crews poured 21,200 cubic yards (82 million pounds) of concrete in 18 hours—the largest continuous concrete pour in history.
Why all the fuss? The idea for the event originated with AC Martin’s design itself. Unlike most of Los Angeles’ other high rises, the Wilshire Grand will be built around a concrete core rather than a steel frame. “As we worked through all of those things,…[AC Martin CEO Christopher Martin] realized this was going to be an absolutely huge technical event. It involves a lot of coordination and almost theater in terms of getting [the trucks in and out],” said design principal David Martin. “Then everybody really got behind that [and said], ‘let’s get a marching band and have a parade with the concrete.’”
“There was really a buzz downtown about the whole thing,” added project manager Tammy Jow. The parade included 100 members of the USC marching band, representatives of the building’s owners, Korean Airlines, and, of course, the concrete trucks. “Whenever you have the Trojan marching band there you can’t go wrong, they’re all about the party,” said Jow.
“What was really incredible [was that] as it got dark there were these huge spotlights, and it almost looked like a stage set,” said Martin. “So we were all having this huge party in the plaza next door, and these big trucks would go through the background.”
The Grand Pour was only the beginning of the Wilshire Grand story. “I think what comes next is even more exciting,” said Jow. “Now that the mat is successfully in place we’re going to start seeing vertical.” At 1,100 feet in height, the $1.1 billion building is projected to be the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River.
Its office and hotel floors will be covered in floor-to-ceiling glass, another feature that sets it apart from its granite-clad neighbors. For the skyscraper’s crowning sail, as well as on portions of the east and west facades, AC Martin will use an ultra-clear, low-reflectivity glass. On the north and south sides, a radiant coating will boost performance and give the facade a more mirror-like aspect. The designers experimented with new coating technologies to ensure that hotel guests will be able to see out at night without glare from interior lights.
The building’s other highlights include its unusual roofline, which was made possible by negotiations with the fire department regarding helipad requirements. “That allowed this building to be different, and hopefully will leave a legacy so that buildings can get back to being more interesting,” said Martin. The designers also worked to maximize the connection to the outdoors, and to tailor the mechanical systems to Los Angeles’ hospitable environment.
Finally, the Wilshire Grand prioritizes urban design. “The lower parts of the building reach out and really embrace the city,” said Martin. “There’s a lot of ballrooms and big windows and terraces that reach out to the city.”
For Jow, one of the best parts of working on the Wilshire Grand has been the people involved. “We were able to create a team in our office of fresh talent out of school, with skills some of us older people couldn’t dream of.” She pointed to the design of the tower podium, which was generated parametrically using Rhino and Grasshopper. The younger architects’ digital prowess meshed well with the older designers’ experience in construction, said Jow. “We’re able to work together and rationalize forms to make it affordable and buildable.”