The Playa Vista neighborhood on Los Angeles’s west side is quickly becoming Southern California’s answer to Silicon Valley, as it plays host to a growing contingent of technology-focused companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, and WeWork. And as capital, brainpower, and new residents flow into the area, so too have big-name architecture firms with high-minded designs.
The Playa Vista tract was originally owned by airline mogul Howard Hughes, who used the ocean-adjacent expanse as the manufacturing facility and airstrip where he built his famous Hercules (Spruce Goose) airplane. President Bill Clinton designated the 1.3-square-mile area as one of six national pilot projects of the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing in 1998, and the property began its redevelopment as a mixed-use neighborhood in 2002. In the years since, the 460-acre area, partially master-planned by Los Angeles–based Moule & Polyzoides, has seen its population boom to over 10,000 residents. In recent years, the area has gained the moniker “Silicon Beach,” as technology companies originally based in the nearby communities of Venice and Santa Monica have outgrown their initial outposts, expanding the technology industry’s footprint southward.
Last year, Google signed on to lease 319,000 square feet of space in the Hercules Campus, a complex redeveloped by Brenda Levin and Associates and EPT Design for the Ratkovich Company, including the 200- by 700-foot Hercules building in which Spruce Goose was designed. The team restored the building, adding pedestrian-oriented amenities to the complex while also converting the historic structure into a series of soundstages and tech-friendly offices.
Michael Maltzan Architecture, which designed the eight-acre Playa Vista Central Park in 2010 with Office of James Burnett (OJB), is adding a new 425,300 square foot office complex called The Brickyard. The Brickyard is also beind developed with OJB. The new complex, currently under construction, will feature partially-sunken landscaped parking areas that aim to extend the park outward into the office zones. The office structures, articulated as a maze of stacked, shifted, and offset volumes, are made up of two principal masses: one long office block that bends at two elbows in order to frame the aforementioned parking deck and a singular, six-story office tower. Both buildings feature punched openings as well as a variety of delicately-articulated access points that connect the parking and ground-level areas with what’s above. The complex will include a 9,000-square-foot daycare facility and will help fulfill Playa Vista’s goal of becoming a full-service neighborhood.
Gensler has also been busy at Playa Vista, undertaking the architectural repositioning of four existing office spaces in its Playa Jefferson complex. Vantage Property Investors has announced a tech-focused project dubbed “Building E,” which will encompass another large office structure designed for creative collaboration. The structure, undertaken with 360 Construction Group and AHBE Landscape Architects, will bring 200,000 square feet of open plan creative office space to the district, with large expanses of glass, terraced floor plates, and a cantilevered anchor office space. Li Wen, design director and principal at Gensler, detailed several key aspects of the design, including “side-core configurations that allow open floorplates, direct access to and abundance of private outdoor space, operable windows, sawtooth skylights, thinner floorplates for natural ventilation and deep penetration of natural light, and flat slab construction that provides for 13-foot ceiling heights.” The ocean-oriented project is located adjacent to the “lifestyle amenity-rich” Runway at Playa Vista Apartments by Johnson Fain.
Last but not least, Shimoda Design Group and OJB completed work in 2015 on The Collective, a 200,150-square-foot, LEED Gold office park complex designed for Tishman Speyer that features five two-story buildings clad in distinctive, tilt-up concrete panels (seen at the top of the article). These panels, interspersed with expanses of glass, are topped by zigzagging, metal-clad roofs. The campus connects the humdrum of office life directly to the adjacent outdoor areas via a series of landscaped paths, bringing in the sensitive Ballona and Bluff Creek wetlands that run alongside Playa Vista’s northern and southern edges. With new lease agreements being signed almost by the day and the careful, meticulous process of filling in the district’s vacant parcels fully underway, Playa Vista looks more and more like a sure bet for L.A.’s growing roster of creative offices spaces.