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Just Don’t

Los Angeles is at a crossroads—don’t let it become New York
Makin’ my way downtown, I zip along on my Lime® scooter through the ersatz Japanese village of Little Tokyo, past taxis, buses, and Prii, to a bustling, small-scale warehouse district on the fringe of Los Angeles’s central core. The whirlwind of scales, land uses, languages, and people is dizzying, but I finally land at my destination: Sonoratown, a lively taco spot famous for its soft tortillas, which are made with flour driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in small batches by the owner’s mom. This delirious, quasi-urban experience is one that could only happen in the messy, diverse urban fabric of Los Angeles. You are free to grab whatever pieces of the kaleidoscopic surroundings you can, and the faster you are moving, the more there is to take. Somehow, this frantic energy and free movement seem unaffected or held back by the past. The cultural critic Sean Monahan called LA the capital of the 2010s, describing it as:
...a city whose attributes anticipate collapse: flat and amorphous, rather than vertical and defined; kitsch and pop, rather than avant-garde and tech; individualistic and mass, rather than institutional and elite. You can suggest San Francisco, HQ of disruption, or New York, backdrop for protest movements (#OWS, #BLM). But both places fail to capture the spirit of the age, because they are fighting so hard to change it. They are relics of empire, unsure of themselves after a decade in which success was indistinguishable from failure… Built on celebrity, media, and lifestyle, L.A. doesn’t presume to be building the future, merely inhabiting it. It’s a pick your poison kind of place. [Go wild] at Chateau Marmont. Spend half your paycheck on inscrutable health food at Erewhon. Commute four hours so you can live in a Riverside McMansion. Drive Uber every day, write screenplays every night. Sell out, drop out, suck up, fuck up. There is no right or wrong way to do L.A.
Monahan accurately describes why Los Angeles encapsulates the present, and why it’s the most exciting place in the US right now. However, it is also important to note where the city is moving in the 2020s. With the 2028 Olympics as a finish line, Los Angeles is at a crossroads, on a path to become a different place in the next decade. But with the city already at the forefront of global media culture (The Kardashians, Moon Juice, Goop, etc.), it doesn’t need global architecture to maintain its position as a worldwide force. How it defines itself as a physical place is still up for grabs, and it should learn lessons from other hyper-globalized cities, namely New York. Tomorrow’s Los Angeles is one of layers. Moving on from its days as a bastion of mythological American modernism centered around mobility (cars), individuality (single-family homes), and triumph over nature (lawns), it will add new collectivities on to itself. These layers will arise from the constant flux of the new: Technologies and emerging social patterns meld nicely into the loose, still-codifying culture and its corresponding urban forms. It is the flickering of new, communal, car-free, publicly subsidized lifestyles against the old, car-centric, low-density, low-regulation, “libertarian” bones of the urban landscape that make it such an interesting place for urbanism today. The oft-bandied-about claim that the city is libertarian is also not entirely accurate, as California is a sea of regulation and red tape, continually votes to raise its already high taxes, and both California and Los Angeles are leading on climate action. The city is quietly building public infrastructure at a pace that vastly outpaces New York. New York’s Second Avenue Subway took somewhere between 10 and 100 years to complete three stations, and the next phase will be three stops and will be completed by 2029 at the earliest. Meanwhile Los Angeles is (optimistically) on course to build 28 new lines by 2028. This includes an airport-connection line that will allow a direct link from LAX to the city. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA is in a worsening crisis with crumbling stations and delays only getting worse, and New Jersey’s NJ Transit recently gave up on accounting for the traffic expected to reach the American Dream Mall, instead calling on private industry to complete the line, citing none other than Los Angeles’s electric rail airport connector as an example. That’s right—L.A. is leading the way in public transit. Meanwhile, Uber, a municipal car share and micro-mobility options such as scooters have already altered how people get around (many young people don’t have cars at all) and where they live, partly due to an explosion in transit-oriented development around the new metro lines. It is unclear exactly how successful, affordable, and sustainable this will be, but change is certainly underway. New transit networks both public and private, along with lower parking requirements for new construction will profoundly impact development and housing typologies in the future. But it is no secret that Los Angeles is careening toward a New York–like affordability crisis (if it isn’t there already) that goes hand-in-hand with the urban whitewash of global capital. Homelessness is at record levels and only getting worse. In response, architects are working to develop new housing typologies, from affordable prototypes and accessory dwelling units, to larger, multi-family schemes that continue to evolve with new regulations and design challenges. The L.A. River and the L.A River Greenway in the San Fernando Valley are also emerging sites of urban experimentation and reclamation/rehabilitation of greenspace. Los Angeles has a unique architectural culture and urban fabric, but red flags are emerging. First, Bjarke Ingels Group and Herzog & de Meuron, international firms that are both very popular with the New York development community, have projects downtown. Related Group (of Hudson Yards fame) has moved in and is developing a large Frank Gehry project across from Gehry’s own Disney Concert Hall. It perfectly illustrates the lower design quality of developer-led construction and echoes Related Companies’ other project, Hudson Yards: “The project is anchored by a central plaza wrapped with shopping areas and public art.” The biggest red flag might be the shortlist for the La Brea Tar Pits project. In Miracle Mile’s Museum Row, a neighborhood that already has been marred by architectural globalists—once by KPF and twice by Renzo Piano—the shortlist for the La Brea master plan is New York establishment firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, along with Danish firm Dorte Mandrup. It is a truly odd and troubling list. All three are talented firms, but their selection signals the wind turning toward a placeless architecture where, in California terms, “there is no there there,” reflecting classic donor-class aesthetics. Don’t even get me started on what director Michael Govan and the LACMA board are doing to push through their new building. Joseph Giovannini said it best:
In a sleight of hand that still has serious consequences for LACMA and Los Angeles, Govan introduced [Peter] Zumthor, the architect who presumably could achieve this world-class building, to his Board of Trustees. There was no competition, no public review or discussion, no transparency, just a shoo-in of the architect who had arrived in Los Angeles in Govan’s back pocket. “It won’t be the seventh Renzo Piano building in the country,” Govan explained to me in an interview. “We’ll have the only Zumthor.” …Had he even made it into a normal architect selection process, the jury might have concluded that he was mismatched and dangerously underequipped for the commission.
Some Angelenos say that local architects should get their due. L.A. has been defined in many ways by outsiders such as Neutra and Schindler, but also by local legends like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, as well as a younger generation like Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and a host of others who can deliver top-notch design. Los Angeles doesn't need the continental, polite, same-as-everywhere architecture that plagues institutions around the world. The architecture scene has always valued experimentation and allowed younger, more avant-garde approaches and diverse practices to gain ground, outside of the institutional weight that plagues places like the East Coast. It is not “provincial”—as some claim—to want to preserve this well-established local flavor while moving forward. In fact, what would be provincial is thinking that it is necessary to look outward for world-class architecture, or that a mythical global culture needs to be imported for the city to become a world-class place. Nothing defines the periphery like the center, and nothing makes one more provincial than defining oneself against New York. Of course, outside architects can come in and add to the culture; it just takes a bit of judgment. For instance, Spanish firm SelgasCano’s bright, breezy, kit-of-parts style seems to fit with L.A.’s pop modernist aesthetic, and Arata Isozaki’s MOCA has also become an iconic part of L.A. architecture. So let L.A. be regional and different. Don’t let it succumb to the pressures of global capital and “global architecture.” Don’t let Boyle Heights—a strong Latino neighborhood under development pressure, with several buildings already being renovated—become Hudson Yards. New York City has been ruined by capital, which was weaponized to take away the grittiness of places like Times Square, a project of Ed Koch and eventually of Rudy Guiliani. Later, technocrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg finished the sanitization of the city with sloppy rezonings of Williamsburg, West Chelsea, and Long Island City most notably, which ushered in the era of bland office towers and mega mall-like sterility. Developers like President Donald Trump and Related Companies, along with their elected enablers like Bloomberg and Guiliani have shared class interests that threaten the small-scale, local and regional urban landscapes where artists, immigrants, and the working class foment culture. How can Los Angeles be a laboratory for resisting the entropic, hegemonic cancer that is global capital, the global donor class, and the donor-class aesthetic? One tactic, and to be fair, something that the Bloomberg administration got right in places like Brooklyn and Staten Island, is downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. This is also tricky and can lead to NIMBYism, which L.A. has certainly had its share of recently. In a similar vein, Thom Mayne provocatively suggested clustering development on the Wilshire corridor in order to protect other areas. The Wilshire area has seen some development, but not at the scale Mayne has suggested. Additionally, serious and innovative criticism is needed. Critics must not fall into 20th-century modes of operating; they have to get out in front of these debacles rather than react to them. There are a host of critics operating in Los Angeles, and no one is better positioned to have an impact than former L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who is now in a unique role as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, a position where he is literally helping craft RFPs (request for proposals). As long as Hawthorne is able to be heard in the government and in the public and can surround himself with good people who will help guide L.A. through this crucial time, there is a real opportunity to have more and more expert opinions in the process that will avoid the disasters that haunt New York. This, along with more equitable and compensated juried design competitions, can help the people who make financial decisions make "better" aesthetic and cultural decisions. Regionalism, when connected to local ecology, provokes more interesting and nuanced design than a totalizing, global aesthetic. In terms of what resistance might look like outside of design review, Los Angeles is already taking on challenges in a unique way. In Boyle Heights, gentrifying art galleries have been pushed out by strong neighborhood coalitions demanding affordable housing and neighborhood services. Los Angeles could also adopt anti-gentrification policies such as rent control or downzoning to prevent the displacement of both residential and retail spaces. Many cities have adopted such plans, while Berlin and other cities have enacted rent freezes and other regulations on the housing market to ensure affordability. Los Angeles in many ways is the logical conclusion of the myth of the American West. Several time zones and thousands of miles in distance from New York and other global cities, it has historically been connected to global culture through mass media, not physical space. This isolation has left it to its own devices as an urban place. This doesn’t need to change as it grows into more of a global force. New forms and ways of living can be cultivated without abandoning what makes it a special place: its resistance to the forces of the outside. In the 2020s, defining a new localism would be quite an amazing achievement.
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It's Real And Rockin'

Guitar-shaped Hard Rock hotel opens in Hollywood, Florida
The world’s first guitar-shaped hotel has officially opened for business. Standing 450 feet tall is the new face of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida—a surprisingly striking piece of architecture considering (or because?) it resembles a giant instrument. The curvaceous building is part of a $1.5 billion expansion on the existing entertainment complex that wrapped up construction this summer. Designed by Hard Rock International’s go-to architect, Steve Peck of the Las Vegas-based firm Klai Juba Wald Architecture, the unprecedented structure took nearly 10 years to design and build. The 36-story hotel is the type of architectural landmark fit for the Hard Rock brand; it even features a rockin’ light show across its reflective glass facade.  Created in conjunction with DeSimone Consulting Engineers, who led the engineering on the project, the tower blends into the dark sky at night. The design team worked with Boston lighting designer DCL and Montreal digital agency Float4 to integrate 16,800 V-sticks (strips of LED video fixtures) on the rim of the guitar and the six vertical strings that run down its middle. Each evening, the hotel becomes a temporary light installation with interactive choreography set to music from Float4 and LED experts SACO Technologies.  According to the Miami Herald, whether it’s day or night, the Hard Rock guitar is the largest physical attraction in the South Florida landscape for miles. This means guests within its 638 rooms have unobstructed views in all directions, including the Hollywood beachfront and downtown Miami, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling glass walls. The interiors of the hotel were designed by Wilson Associates and Rockwell Group In addition to the guitar-shaped structure, the original Seminole Hard Rock Hotel building was fully renovated and a 7,000-seat performance venue was built on site. The existing pool resort area was expanded to 13.5 acres with a surrounding landscape by EDSA The opening of the project comes just days after another Hard Rock Hotel under construction in New Orleans’s French Quarter partially-collapsed and killed three people and injured 30 others. Before recovering all the bodies on-site, engineers used explosives to demolish part of the structure in an effort to remove two dangerous, dangling cranes.
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Morty's Home

Tongva Park in Santa Monica is Californian through-and-through
What goes into a park? We dug into the parts and pieces of landscape design to explore and illustrate the forces, material histories, and narratives that hide beneath the surface. This article is the first of three such deep dives, which includes The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Hunter's Point South Park in Queens, New York. All illustrations were done by Adam Paul Susaneck.

Santa Monica’s Tongva Park is a true product of Southern California. It certainly has a physical connection to its context—its hills and outlooks are packed with soil from construction sites in the area; its irrigation water sourced from the local runoff recycling facility; its plants were grown in regional nurseries—but in less tangible and more sociopolitical ways, too, the park bears the mark of the Golden State.

Tongva, which opened in 2013, was funded under California’s now-defunct tax increment financing (TIF) laws. The first of their kind in the U.S., California’s TIF laws went into effect in 1952 with the passage of the Community Redevelopment Act, which set a precedent nationwide for how infrastructure might be financed. Many states have since imitated the approach to establish the funding mechanisms behind massive—and often controversial—projects, including Chicago’s Navy Pier and New York’s Hudson Yards. Tax increment financing lets municipalities borrow money for developments in areas designated as “blighted” with the assumption that the developments will generate higher property-tax revenue as land values rise. Critics have argued that TIF programs have been abused to subsidize luxury developments that do little to improve the quality of life for local residents, and in 2011, while work on Tongva was well underway, then-governor Jerry Brown dissolved California’s TIF program, making the park part of the state’s final wave of TIF-backed projects.

The park benefits from Southern California’s crazy-quilt approach to urbanism, where the wealthiest communities of the Los Angeles region have remained independent cities, enabling areas like Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, and Santa Monica to invest tax revenue within their borders without sharing with the city of Los Angeles that surrounds them. Cities where the median home price is less than Santa Monica’s, ($1.6 million, more than twice the median home price for Los Angeles) may not be able to spend so lavishly on their parks.

California comes through most tangibly in the park’s siting and the aesthetic decisions by the park’s designer, James Corner Field Operations (JCFO). JCFO incorporated several beloved trees that were already on the site into an arroyo-inspired plan that orients visitors toward spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and a beach that stretches out casually, with an air of West Coast chill, just across the street.

Funding

The park was entirely publicly funded using TIF. The City of Santa Monica bought 11.6 acres of land from the RAND Corporation; besides the park, housing was built on the site and Olympic Drive was extended through it. The city spent $53 million on the property and another $42.7 million to design and build the 6.2-acre park, which includes a small area across Main Street in front of Santa Monica City Hall.

Plants

Tongva hosts more than 30,000 plants of more than 170 species, and more than 300 trees from 21 species, most grown in seven nurseries across the state; the farthest is in Watsonville, less than 300 miles up the coast. Some trees traveled even less distance: Morty, a Moreton Bay fig tree, and the Three Amigos, a group of ficus trees, pictured below, along with several palms, were preserved and rearranged on the site to fit into the new landscape. The park mixes native and non-native drought-tolerant species in zones modeled on three California ecological communities (coastal scrub, chaparral, and riparian), creating a landscape that feels familiar but avoids cliché.

Buildings

The steel cocoon-esque pavilions, pictured below, and play structures were fabricated by Paragon Steel in Los Angeles.

Furniture

Custom furniture was designed using Forest Stewardship Council–certified jarrah wood, a variety of eucalyptus usually grown in Western Australia. Off-the-shelf benches from Landscape Forms were also used.

Art

Weather Field No. 1, by Chicago-based artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, comprises a field of 49 stainless steel poles with weather vanes and anemometers attached.

Hardscaping

Aggregates in the hardscaping came from pits in the nearby San Gabriel Valley. Walls have California Gold rocks.

Water

Plants are irrigated by water from the Santa Monica Urban Runoff Recycling Facility. Stormwater from the park is also collected in bioswales, and water features recirculate potable water in closed systems.

Transit

Tongva integrates into regional transit in some of the usual West Coast ways—there are bikeshare stations and scooter access—but it’s also just a block away from one of the Los Angeles area’s biggest transit initiatives: the LA Metro Expo Line expansion. The nearby Santa Monica Station opened three years after the park and was a part of a broader regional plan, whereas Tongva was part of a separate Santa Monica–specific urban plan.

The region’s ubiquitous car culture is also present. Tongva sits at the southern tip of the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, which extends up the shore to Big Sur, San Francisco, and beyond, and Olympic Drive, a local three-lane street, was extended along the park’s southeastern edge.

Land

The site was previously home to the RAND Corporation headquarters, which have since relocated to a neighboring block. Housing developed by the Related Companies was built on the opposite side of the Olympic Drive extension.

Infill/Terraforming

Before being cleared for Tongva, the site was dominated by the RAND Corporation’s parking lot. To create the park’s lookouts, which rise in points to 18 feet and provide views to the Pacific Ocean, infill soil was taken from construction sites around the city, tested to ensure safety, and sculpted to create accessible slopes for the site.

Project Delivery

JCFO was selected through an international competition in which 24 teams participated. After JCFO won, there were five community workshops over six months, and the scheme was presented to six review boards and commissions before site work began in 2011. Although the scheme began as a design-bid-build project, the city turned it into a design-build project midway through the process to try to speed delivery after California revoked its TIF laws.

Maintenance

The City of Santa Monica spends just under $100,000 annually on basic maintenance, plus about $20,000 annually on tree work and $10,000 annually on custodial work.

Security

Although there is no operational security technology in the park, Santa Monica has used some unorthodox activity-based surveillance strategies. After squatters set up informal camps on the park’s western corner, city agencies arranged for a food truck to occupy that area, which has since discouraged people from living there. And on top of regular maintenance costs, the City of Santa Monica spends about $330,000 annually on “ambassadors” who staff the park, answering questions from visitors and keeping an eye on activity.

As is standard in many U.S. parks, Tongva closes at night; its hours are from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

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Through the Looking Glass

Phillip K. Smith III's 10 Columns of mirrored light forces total immersion
Artist Phillip K. Smith III’s site-specific commission 10 Columns is the inaugural show of Bridge Projects, a former roving art salon turned Los Angeles gallery. Located next to a public storage facility near a burgeoning series of art galleries in Hollywood, Bridge Projects has amplified the intensity of the exhibition by keeping its front windows and doors completely opaque. When the viewer steps inside, the glare of California sunshine briefly illuminates what appears to be an otherwise pitch-black room. Once the door swings shut and one’s eyes adjust to the 7,000 square feet of darkness, the glow of 30 rectangular mirrored surfaces mounted on a series of 10 columns become visible. The slowly shifting colors of the artist’s signature dynamic light program combined with their perpendicular mounting calls to mind not only a desert landscape but a Blade Runner-type dystopia, as well as the joy and terror of our ever-shifting present. The illuminating surfaces are mounted at a height of 42-inch each and arranged into three groupings of 10 with three lengths of 16, 26, and 36 inches. The sheer size of the space, together with the surrounding darkness, creates an outsized feeling of immersion and contemplation. Even when seen with a group of people, it becomes easy to wander out to the far edges of the exhibition like a lone desert traveler. There is no specific beginning or endpoint and the longer one stands in the eerie glow, the easier it becomes to feel unmoored. The lack of signage and explicit directionality makes every viewpoint as valid as the other. Is one witnessing a sunrise or a sunset, a cultural awakening or a catastrophic meltdown? Ultimately, in this constantly changing landscape, the simple act of witnessing becomes its own reward. 10 Columns is on view through February 16, 2020.
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Tinsel Town Facades

Gensler's Michael Volk and Olivier Sommerhalder discuss Facades+ LA and the trends reshaping their city
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From November 14 to 15, Facades+ LA will bring regional, national, and international leaders of the AEC industry to Southern California for the fifth year in a row. Hosted by The Architect's Newspaper and co-chaired by Gensler's local office, the conference is split between a full-day symposium and a second day of hands-on workshops. Conference keynotes include MVRDV principal Fokke Moerel and Rojkind Arquitectos principal Michel Rojkind. Other participants at the conference symposium and workshops will include Access Industries, Belzberg Architects, Christopher Hawthorne, CO Architects, FreelandBuck, Front, Gensler, Griffin Enright Architects, Grupo Anima Mexico, HGA, John Fidler Preservation Technologies, Morphosis, Neme Design Studio USA, Omgivning, PATTERNS, RDH, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, Walter P Moore, Trammell Crow, Sasaki, Shubin Donaldson Architects, Spectra Company, Studio NYL, WJE, and Zahner. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, Gensler principals and conference co-chairs Michael Volk and Olivier Sommerhalder discussed their firm's recent work and the architectural trends reshaping Los Angeles. AN: Gensler is the largest architectural and design practice in the world. How does this breadth of scale impact design at the regional level? Michael Volk & Olivier Sommerhalder: As an integral part of our firm’s philosophy, our 50 global offices practice as though we are one firm, and we have set up our infrastructure to fluidly support this behavior. We bring our global knowledge and a very deep bench to bear on every endeavor, from large scale international work to regional and local projects. Our dimension is such that it allows us to have in-house expertise in many relevant disciplines, including facade experts, and we bring this capability to the table wherever needed, at any time, making us nimble and innovative designers who add value to our client’s projects. What exciting projects is the Los Angeles office up to, and are you demonstrating any concepts tested at your research institute? In our Los Angeles office, as in all our offices, we are extending our thinking on building design to the scale of shaping the future of cities. At the forefront of this is a design that addresses energy, climate, and housing concerns. Like many things in design, we are finding, however, that low tech and simple solutions are most impactful and meaningful in addressing these issues. Projects such as our office building C3 in Culver City and upcoming projects now on the table for mixed-use and residential high rises downtown and in the Hollywood area are returning to simple passive solar and ventilation techniques, as well as significant integration of public and private green space, to reconsider the “First Principles” of their typologies. Living with nature and consuming less energy and water, while at the same time being in closer proximity to intellectual, economic and recreational capital, are among the positive aspects of urban life research shows to be most valuable and sustaining. Los Angeles is in a certain sense maturing as a city. What do you perceive to be the most interesting trends within the region today? Los Angeles is indeed maturing, and at the same time it’s dimension and urban condition make it an ideal city to be a testing ground for new urban innovations. Housing, density, and mobility are the leading topics, alongside climate change and energy considerations. These topics are often seen hand in hand leading to development in the city. For example, with the expansion of Metro-rail corridors, mixed-use and higher density projects are naturally emerging, bringing with them an integrated, urban lifestyle of live/work/play within a short radius that is somewhat new to Southern California. As another example, long-standing neighborhoods now connected by mixed-use corridors and transportation, are evolving into multi-faceted hubs, rather than the single-use bedroom communities they traditionally have been. This has had the consequence of shrinking the typical radius of commuting and the positive synergistic effect of an organic mix of programs supporting a vibrant daily life, increasing economic and cultural offerings within a denser fabric. Another surprising observation that may seem counter-intuitive considering Southern California’s envied climate: Over the past few years Los Angeles’ built environment seems to have rediscovered the connection to the outdoors. The mainstream has adopted outdoor patios for restaurants, the workplace has begun an extension of the workspace to the outdoors, and new apartment buildings and condominiums have generous balconies and roof terraces. This once-forgotten, but obvious, benefit is having a big impact on the design of buildings, envelopes, and landscapes. Which materials do you believe are changing facade practices in terms of design and performance? The most exciting material, surprisingly, is landscape. Projects like Second Home in Hollywood by Selgascano, and our projects for One Westside, Epic in Hollywood and several mixed-use and residential high-rises we are currently working on in the city are (re) introducing landscape as a major building and space-defining element. The notion of biophilia as a driving conceptual element has emerged internationally in the last years in places like Europe, South East Asia and significantly in Singapore. Now, in Los Angeles, we are beginning to see this design thinking taking place. Landscape as a design element is now becoming foreground - as it can and should in our climate, not just background as it often has been. More conventionally, timber and wood are also emerging on the horizon, not only as a primary structure but also as an envelope. Our project for the Headquarters of the company Alexandria in Pasadena includes a unitized curtainwall made of white oak with a second skin of wooden sunscreens. Further information regarding Facades+ Los Angeles can be found here.
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The Price is Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival-style Ennis House finally finds a buyer
The Ennis House, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mayan Revival masterpiece tucked into the hills of Los Feliz, has traded hands more than one can count. After being placed on the market for $23 million last June, the home has once again found an owner in an unnamed buyer for $18 million. Though it went for roughly 22 percent below the initial asking price, the sale reflects a number of records beat: it is both the most expensive property to be sold in the neighborhood and the priciest Wright-designed home in history by more than $11 million (the second most expensive being the Storer House, which sold for $6.8 million in the Hollywood Hills). The 6,200-square-foot home sold for such a high price thanks in part to the completion of a $17 million renovation over six years, initiated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy following the 1994 Northridge Earthquake and severe water damage that incurred in 2005, which required the replacement and repair of nearly 3,000 of the home's 27,000 concrete blocks as well as the creation of a new structural frame. The home’s role in over 80 movies and television shows including Mulholland Drive, The Rocketeer, Rush Hour, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Beverly Hills Cop II, and, of course, Blade Runner, likely contributed to its inflated price tag as well. It is unclear whether the buyer will open the house to the public for tours, as it has been in the past, or if it will function as the buyer’s private residence. The home, after all, does contain a wealth of features fit for a millionaire, including a motor court, a screening room with a wet bar, a koi pond, and sweeping views of Los Angeles accessible via a number of balconies and platforms.
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A Bridge Home

Old Hollywood Mansion transformed into bridge housing emergency shelter
Less than five weeks after the completion of the Gardner Street Women’s Bridge Housing Center, a mid-century library converted into a 30-bed emergency homeless shelter, it was announced that another in the bridge housing program is now open for business. A palatial, century-old mansion on a busy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard has been subdivided into a 42-bed facility designed to serve up to 40 families. The building, known as the Wallis House, is adorned with Corinthian columns set against a series of light pink facades. Formerly a single-family home, it's now being managed by Aviva Family and Children’s Services, a nonprofit group that has provided services and housing for Hollywood’s homeless community for over 100 years. Aviva’s primary goal is to serve 18- to 24-year-old women who have nearly fallen into homelessness or are in the process of transitioning out of homelessness with the aid of related public services. Los Angeles City Councilmember Davis Ryu expressed that “young single mothers face high barriers to making ends meet and are at a far greater risk of harm when living on the street." He said they need housing and services to meet their specific needs. Work on the renovation began on February 28 with the aid of a $2.3 million from the city’s Homeless Emergency Assistance Program (HEAP). A Bridge Home, the nonprofit behind Wallis House and other bridge housing developments throughout Los Angeles County, has placed several bridge housing centers in Hollywood since the area is home to the greatest number of homeless residents aged 18-24 in the country.
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Stick that in your Claw

Morphosis-designed Sunset Strip hotel lambasted by West Hollywood residents
Though the city of West Hollywood gave its approval to a construction timeline for 8850 Sunset Boulevard, an audaciously designed 15-story hotel and condominium by Morphosis that will replace the infamous Viper Room, the city’s residents are loudly singing a different tune. On October 10, several residents of West Hollywood attended a public meeting hosted by the city where they were given an opportunity to voice their opinions. Most participants were concerned that the aesthetic profile of 8850 Sunset Boulevard and its presence on the Sunset Strip would not be considered in an environmental analysis, which is typically state-mandated for all buildings of this type. “It doesn’t belong on Sunset Boulevard,” said Jessica Hancock, a resident of West Hollywood for 47 years, before commenting that the proposal might be more fitting in cities like Dubai or Las Vegas. Another resident commented that the proposal is “too tall, too massive, and the design is grotesque.” According to Curbed, Doug Vu, the city’s senior planner responded to these and other aesthetic complaints by stating that the site’s proximity to a significant transit corridor can legally excuse its design from being subjected to state regulations, and that it “may not be considered an environmental issue per se under the California Environmental Quality Act.” Others were concerned about its treatment of the Viper Room, the bar and nightclub cofounded in 1993 by Johnny Depp which currently sits on the site. Plus Development, the current development manager, plans to demolish the Viper Room, along with every structure on the block, and reconstitute the club into the ground floor of the new building, where its character will undoubtedly be altered. Subsequent public meetings concerning 8850 Sunset Boulevard and other proposed developments along the Sunset Strip are planned to take place in the near future, as the environmental review continues—and as the makeup of the street shifts away from low-rise entertainment venues and towards luxury hotels and housing.
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A Leg Up

One of the last Ricardo Legorreta-designed homes listed for $77.5 million
Joel Silver, the producer behind blockbusters including The Matrix, Lethal Weapon, and Die Hard, has been living large with his family in a 26,000-square-foot-home in Brentwood, a tony neighborhood on the Westside of Los Angeles. As the director is currently seeking a smaller home elsewhere in the L.A. area, he recently listed the home with Judy Feder of Hilton & Hyland and Kurt Rappaport of Westside Estate Agency for $77.5 million. Named Casa de Plata (Spanish for “House of Silver”), the home was built in 2003 and is one of the last buildings designed by Ricardo Legorreta, the late Mexican architect responsible for Pershing Square in Downtown Los Angeles and the San Antonio Public Library. Like the majority of Legorreta’s other work, the design of Casa de Plata is inspired by the colorful, minimalist homes of mid-century architect Luis Barragán, while adding a bit of whimsy and surrealism of his own, including glass brick walls and ziggurat-like ceilings. The home also includes a substantial circular atrium with a retractable skylight, a 30-foot-tall family room with hydraulic doors, and a home theater with tiered seating for 20 people. Many of the materials throughout the home were imported from Mexico, including the dramatic limestone flooring in the entryway. The five-acre property includes an English maze garden, a sunken basketball court, a swimming pool, and an outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven. If the property sells for the listed price, Casa de Plata would nearly double the Brentwood price record of $40 million set in 2014 and would become one of the most expensive properties sold west of the 405 freeway. Silver has invested in other architecturally-significant properties, including the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Storer House in the Hollywood Hills, which the director sold in 2002 for $2.9 Million.
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Industry City

Los Angeles's newest Soho House will soon open in a warehouse
After four years of development, Soho House, the London-based members club aimed at those in the arts and media, has finally completed Soho Warehouse in the southern portion of the Los Angeles Arts District. The private club represents the third Southern California outpost for the company, the first being Soho West Hollywood, completed in 2014, followed by Little Beach House Malibu two years later. Soho Warehouse is set within a seven-story, 110,00-square-foot building completed in 1916, which, as of four years ago, was the home of a rehearsal studio for local musicians (its tenants were reportedly “blind-sighted” by the news that they must evict to make way for the exclusive club). With the aid of Soho House & Co.’s in-house design team, the building’s former loading dock was reimagined as a private garden, its humble rooftop made way for a pool and cabanas, and its hallowed floors were retrofitted with luxury amenities including restaurants, communal areas, and 48 hotel rooms, three of which are “party-sized suites.” The design of its interior spaces was imagined as a mix between the industrial, turn-of-the-century details of the original building and the mid-century design history of Los Angeles, while an 18-foot-wide mural by local artist Paul Davies acts as a centerpiece for the dining area of the rooftop space. The completion of Soho Warehouse reflects one of many transformative developments that have taken place in the Arts District in the last few years—which was an affordable neighborhood for local artist as recently as ten years ago—as luxury developments by architects including Bjarke Ingels Group, R&A Architecture + Design, and Herzog & de Meuron are currently in the works, all within blocks of the private club. Following committee approval and a minimum annual fee of $2,160, one may gain access to Soho Warehouse, set to become officially open to its members on October 14.
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Second Home, Third Space

AN tours the SelgasCano-designed Second Home coworking space in Hollywood
The 21st century’s profusion of freelancers, start-ups, and frequent travelers has ushered in the era of the co-working space. With more than 19,000 such spaces now operating around the world, co-working has become an attractive alternative to renting expensive traditional office spaces and the isolation of working from home. Companies like WeWork, Phase Two, and The Wing have tried to anticipate the needs of a growing nomadic workforce, yet co-working remains a developing phenomenon, and there is still much to learn about the kinds of environments that best support the practice. One company that seems ahead of the curve is Second Home, whose recently opened campus in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, proves that its competitors have some catching up to do. Every seat within the 90,000-square-foot complex feels like the best place to open a laptop and get to work, while a wide range of public services makes the company’s fourth outpost feel especially welcoming. In 2017, Second Home purchased a four-acre property on the corner of North St. Andrews Place and De Longpre Avenue and hired SelgasCano, the Madrid-based architecture firm that has designed its other locations, to develop its first campus outside of Europe in an impressively short amount of time. One of the creative challenges the site presented was an existing courtyard building by legendary “architect to the celebrities” Paul Williams. Completed in 1964, the colonial revival building, which once housed offices and events for the Assistance League of Southern California, is notable for its glamorous exterior, circular staircase, and central courtyard. SelgasCano gutted the building while incorporating these three elements into its design. From the street, visitors pass through the formal facade to enter what feels like a different world: a low-slung, columnless lobby with a dizzying array of tropical plants, extruded tubular furniture pieces, and a mobile coffee cart. Beyond this space is the courtyard, which has been charmingly reimagined as a casual workspace, restaurant, and public event space shaded by a canopy of trees. The space will soon host all events currently held at the SelgasCano-designed Serpentine Pavilion, which Second Home purchased and transported from London to the grounds of the La Brea Tar Pits. In an effort to distance itself from other co-working companies, Second Home has made the lobby and courtyard spaces accessible to the public without membership. But the real showstopper is beyond the perimeter of the Williams-designed building: Sixty office spaces with acrylic walls and lemon-yellow rooftops carpet the rest of the site, connected to each other by pathways that meander through a forest of over 6,000 trees and shrubs. Each office space is lined with outward-facing desks underneath a yellow, steel-braced ceiling festooned with the ductwork of a central air conditioner (it comes as a mild disappointment that the windows are inoperable, ruling out the option of passive heating and cooling). When walking the yard’s labyrinthine paths, one is somehow able to forget just how closely the site abuts a Home Depot and a massive Target currently under construction. Accessed via the original grand staircase, which contrasts with a translucent egg-like chandelier designed by SelgasCano hanging at its center, the second floor of the Assistance League building is divided between an outdoor lounge and 37 additional office spaces. While the rooms here are finely detailed, with orange carpeting that climbs up walls to reach waist height and entirely transparent top halves, they lack the lower-level offices’ immediate connection to the outdoors. From the lounge, one is afforded the most idyllic vantage point on the site: The lush courtyard is visible from one side, while on the other is the sea of office pods in front of the Santa Monica Mountains. Given its commitment to inclusivity and creative adaptation to its site, Second Home Hollywood sets a new standard for the co-working building type; its creators should not be surprised if they feel other companies looking over their shoulders as the industry continues to discover its potential.
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Nickelodeon Lost

L.A.'s historic Earl Carroll Theatre will reopen as an entertainment complex
The Earl Carroll Theatre has gone by a lot of names since it first opened in Downtown Hollywood in 1938: Moulin Rouge, Hullabaloo, Kaleidoscope, Aquarius Theatre, Longhorn Theatre, and Nickelodeon on Sunset, to name a few. Since Nickelodeon relocated two years ago and left the building without a tenant, the theater community has eagerly awaited the renovation of the building to its former glory. On September 25, it was announced that Thaddeus Hunter Smith, one of the former owners of the nearby Fonda Theatre, and business partner Brian Levian, had signed a ten-year lease with the intention of not only restoring the building’s original facilities, but also transforming the site into an entertainment complex, with spaces for concerts, stage shows, movie premieres, and other specialized events. “We’re thrilled to be revitalizing the theatre, returning it to its original Streamline Moderne design, and bringing all kinds of wonderful entertainment experiences to locals and visitors alike,” said Smith. Working in close collaboration with preservationists and Hollywood historians, the renovation of the theatre will include the renovation and recreation of many of the building’s original details, including a 20-foot neon depiction of Beryl Wallace, Carroll’s girlfriend and muse, that once hung above the street entrance. Because it “exemplifies the optimism and grandeur of pre-war Hollywood,” according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, the building was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument in December 2016. It was originally designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann for director and producer Earl Carroll as a supper club and performance theatre, both of which were once world-famous for their over-the-top presentations. According to the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, the theatre hosted shows “on a massive stage with a 60-foot wide double revolving turntable and staircase plus swings that could be lowered from the ceiling,” while the supper club “featured a chorus of 60 girls singing and dancing while patrons dined in style.” The theatre is currently owned by developer Essex Property Trust, which first nominated the building for historic-cultural landmark status and has already begun construction on Essex Hollywood, a mixed-use development with 200 apartment units on the opposite side of the site. The Earl Carroll Theatre is slated to reopen to the public in late 2020.