Search results for "hollywood"

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The Bat Signal For Land Conversation

L.A.’s largest municipal park just got a bit larger
In a move that has likely staved off future residential development abutting Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the nonprofit advocacy group Friends of Griffith Park, joined by community organizations and private donors, have secured two undeveloped hillside lots at the southern edge of the park. The two properties will together add an additional 1.25 acres to the sprawling urban park’s impressive 4,300-acre footprint and were purchased in a half-million-dollar sale that closed in escrow earlier this month. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, a public agency, will hold the newly acquired parkland in perpetuity. Gerry Hans, Friends of Griffith Park president, described the move to LAist as “… a de-facto extension of Griffith Park's borders.” Located off of Canyon Drive, the site, studded with city-protected sycamore and coast live oaks, serves as the habitat for a variety of animals. And because this is L.A., real estate acquisitions in the Hollywood Hills must come complete with a bit of showbiz history, even if just adjacent. The lots in question are directly south of Bronson Canyon, or Bronson Caves, a rugged yet popular section of the park that’s home to the (exterior) lair of a superhero featured in a kitschy live-action 1960s television series; the so-called Batcave is actually a manmade tunnel leftover from an old quarry at the site. As mentioned by the Los Angeles Timesthe Batman associations helped spur fundraising. As detailed by Friends of Griffith Park, the opportunity to buy and conserve the two park-adjacent lots came with a sense of urgency. Both first came on the market last year for a combined $850,00—a sizable drop from the original asking price of $1.15 million. One developer struck a deal but the sale fell out of escrow earlier this year shortly after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In late April, Friends of Griffith Park was offered a reduced price of $500,000 by the seller—“as this is a tough real estate market right now” explained the group—but with a caveat in the form of an abbreviated, 21-day escrow. From there a scramble to raise money to purchase the land commenced. The Canyon Drive Fund campaign, although hurried, was obviously a successful one. The final $35,000 needed to meet the goal was reached on April 30th. Additional funds were then raised for annual maintenance. “When this pandemic is over, Los Angeles will have an even bigger and better Griffith Park to return to,” said L.A. City Councilman David Ryu, whose office contributed to the fundraising campaign, in a statement shared by the Times.
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Bullseye on Brutalism

San Jose preservationists move to protect Brutalist César Pelli building from demolition
Before his name became synonymous with very tall skyscrapers, the late Argentine architect César Pelli completed a handful of projects in the 1960s and ’70s—all with Gruen Associates–that were decidedly, but not exclusively, squat: A (now demolished) shopping mall in Columbus, Indiana; an (endangered) former research facility built in Clarksburg, Maryland, for a Congress-established satellite communications company, and the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, which is long and large but not all that lanky. Completed in 1973, two years before West Hollywood's “Blue Whale” beached itself on Melrose Avenue, Pelli completed another “low” project: a Brutalist Bay Area bank building. An imposing structure with faintly sphinx-like attributes, the old Bank of California building at 1170 Park Avenue in downtown San Jose is now threatened with demolition as part of a redevelopment scheme headed by Jay Paul Company. Pelli’s building, along with several neighboring structures, would be razed to make way for 3.79 million square feet of commercial office space, housed in a cluster of shiny glass towers. The crusade to save the concrete building is now being taken up by the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission. Acting at the behest of the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, the commission voted unanimously last week to initiate the process of recommending to San Jose City Council that Pelli’s work be declared a historic landmark. As the Mercury News elaborated, if council members ultimately decide to approve the historic designation, the Bank of California building would not be immune to being razed in the future. But landmark status would up the stakes and place added pressure on officials to save the structure, which, in addition to being home to several banks, had most recently been used as a county courthouse. It currently sits unoccupied. Preservationists believe that with some alternations to Jay Paul’s proposed Cityview Plaza redevelopment plan, the new office towers and the nearly 50-year-old Pelli building can co-exist in harmony. True to its looks, the building has been an easy target of public disdain over the years. Though, it has beenfited from the recent trend of appreciating and, more importantly, preserving buildings built in the same wrecking ball-attracting, monolithic style popularized in the late 1950s throughout the 1960s. Per the Mercury News, the structure is the “best example” of Brutalist architecture in San Jose and, according to the city’s historic preservation officer Juliet Arroyo, is “significant because of its quality of design, attention to design detail, materials, and construction method.” ”It’s an asset to downtown San Jose,” Ben Leech, executive director of the city’s Preservation Action Council, told local columnist Sal Pizarro. “What we can do is learn from the past, and we know that every period of architecture goes through a phase where it’s overlooked before it’s appreciated. Buildings like this will be the future gems of the city of San Jose.” To draw attention to the building’s endangered status, the council recently launched the “Save the Sphinx” campaign, which refers to the proposed demolition of the “historic, iconic building both shortsighted and unnecessary” and urges residents to show their support of the building’s preservation by signing a petition directed at city officials. The Northern California chapter of Docomomo and architectural critic and historian Alan Hess are among those who have written to the powers-that-be to urge them to safeguard the building. Despite this growing faction of those rallying to save Pelli’s blocky edifice, others believe that its time has come including original project developer, Lew Wolff. He wrote to city officials in March, dismissing any notion that the building had historical importance while claiming, as reported by the Mercury News, that it was borne from a design created not by Pelli but by an intern. “I like the building, but please don’t insult César or (Sidney) Brisker by over-identifying the build with those fine gentlemen,” he wrote in his email. “The real credit, if anyone is interested, should go to the intern who completed the plans.” Unless the timetable shifts, the redevelopment plan that could ultimately do away with the Pelli building and the proposed historic landmark designation that could help save it are expected to be both considered at the same city council meeting this summer.
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Airbnb scraps design competition seeking distinctive properties... and 1,900 jobs

Some bad news for those who were all fired up to embark an outlandish, Airbnb-funded building or renovation project: due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the online travel and hospitality platform has shelved its Airbnb Unique Fund, a $1 million design competition that was set to award 10 current and future hosts with $100,000 each in financing to aid them in realizing “unconventional and unusual” living spaces, which, of course, would ultimately have appeared as Airbnb listings. Judged by Fokke Moerel of MVRDV and others, the deadline for singular design proposals closed last month with winning submissions to be selected and announced on May 15. Reads an addition to the official contest rules dated April 14:
“In light of the developing news around COVID-19, we thought long and hard about the best way to prioritize entrants' health and safety, as well as supporting the ability to comply with the various local shelter in place and social distancing rules imposed around the world. While we will continue to examine the global feasibility of carrying out the efforts of the Unique Airbnb Fund, we have decided to suspend the Fund at this time and are hopeful to be able to reopen entries in 2021. Please check back for updates and thank you for your understanding.”
While this turn out of events is no doubt disappointing to those who looked forward to building out wacky short-term rental properties with a potential financial assist from Airbnb, the bigger news—and bigger disappointments—come from the development that the company has laid off roughly a quarter of its global workforce. This staggering cut amounts to 1,900 out of 7,500 total employees across two dozen countries. “For a company like us whose mission is centered around belonging, this is incredibly difficult to confront, and it will be even harder for those who have to leave Airbnb,” Chesky said in a heartfelt company-wide memo sent out earlier this week.“We are collectively living through the most harrowing crisis of our lifetime, and as it began to unfold, global travel came to a standstill. Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019.” Chesky noted that in response to the crisis, the company raised $2 billion in capital and “dramatically cut costs that touched nearly every corner of Airbnb.” The company reportedly amassed $4.8 billion in revenue last year. “While we know Airbnb’s business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived,” he added. “Because of this, we need to make more fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce around a more focused business strategy.” While Airbnb’s sweeping layoffs were handled with tact and grace, the true heart of the company’s business model, the hosts, are none too pleased with the way things have panned out during the pandemic. As reported by CNBC in late April, hundreds of hosts have complained of not yet receiving payments promised as part of a $250 million relief fund. Many of those who have gotten checks have found them to be on the paltry side, with payments going out in the “tens or hundreds of dollars to cover losses in the thousands.” Thierry Rignol, a host with multiple properties spread across five cities, told CNBC that he received a check for $106.02 to cover $30,500 in lost revenue. Another host, St. Louis-based Amanda O’ Rourke, lost an estimated $14,000 resulting from coronavirus-related cancellations. She was paid $31.38. “I just think it’s comical,” O’Rourke said. “The whole situation is frustrating, so I’m not bitter at Airbnb for it. But I just found it almost silly.” More recently, CNBC reported that some unhappy hosts, a majority of them feeling jilted by Airbnb’s reimbursement policies, have revolted from the platform and are launching their own direct booking websites for short-term rentals. To cater to wanderlust-deprived guests and armchair travelers during the pandemic, Airbnb is offering an assortment of potentially binge-worthy virtual excursions through its zoom-powered Online Experiences platform. (Writing for Outside, Norah Caplan-Bricker documented her rather surreal globe-spanning online travels in this excellent piece.) And, in a similar initiative to its Open Homes program activated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Airbnb now offers a special platform that easily enables health care workers and other COVID-19 responders to find safe, fee-free accommodations in proximity to patients and loved ones. The platform allow allows hosts to offer dedicated short-term rentals to these crucial helpers.
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Movies to Mammoths

Hancock Park may become Los Angeles’s first true urban microcosm
“Tip the world over on its side,” Frank Lloyd Wright once quipped, “and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” As a fresh L.A. transplant in the early 1920s, Wright clearly had trouble finding his bearings, yet nearly a century on, his testimony remains remarkably apt: To the uninitiated, the “fabric” of Los Angeles’s cityscape can feel improvisatory, a game board consisting of extravagantly mismatched pieces. The very same observation can easily be applied to Hancock Park, which counts geological excavations, fiberglass mammoths, contemporary art, and, soon, Hollywood cinema among its many oddities and enticements. No fewer than three cultural institutions are currently situated on the park’s 34 acres, but they are an atomized bunch, existing together in relative isolation. However, plans are afoot that promise to join together these disparate pieces into a museological collection unparalleled in the western United States. The prime mover is unquestionably the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which became Hancock Park’s first cultural institution when it opened in 1965. William Pereira’s palatial yet restrained campus—originally a composition of three buildings (the Ahmanson Building, the Bing Center, and the Lytton Gallery) surrounded by reflecting pools—attempted to cast Los Angeles in the role of art-world magnet even as critics placed it at the margins. As the city expanded its influence in this arena, so, too, did LACMA expand within Hancock Park, with the museum adding buildings by Bruce Goff, Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, and Renzo Piano. More recently, outdoor artworks by Chris Burden, Michael Heizer, and Robert Irwin have signposted the institution’s desire for outward growth at the expense of a defined center. The La Brea Tar Pits, a group of asphalt lakes from which paleontologists have exhumed the fossilized remains of Ice Age-era Mammalia for more than a century, occupy 13 acres of the park’s eastern half. In 1967, the sculptor Howard Ball created a fiberglass family of woolly mammoths along Lake Pit, the largest tar pit on the property, that dramatically raised the unusual site’s profile. A decade later, the George C. Page Museum, a quietly monumental museum and paleontological research facility designed by Willis Fagan and Frank Thornton to study and display the fossils, took up residence at the northeastern corner of the pits—as far from the LACMA campus as physically possible. For nearly half a century, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits seemed entirely indifferent to one another, even as they remained cheek by jowl. Both offer as many outdoor attractions as they do interior exhibitions, which has the potential to blur user groups, if not visitor experiences. But the parkland stretching between the two campuses has never done much to smooth the jarring transition from art to paleontology. This strained dynamic was brought into question in 2014, when construction began on the 300,000-square-foot Academy Museum of Motion Pictures at Hancock Park’s southwestern corner. Operated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the museum plans to split its programming between two buildings: the former May Company Building, a department store designed in a streamlined moderne style by Albert C. Martin in 1939 (and once briefly owned by LACMA), and the Sphere, a striking high-tech belvedere designed by Renzo Piano and featuring a 1,000-seat theater. When it opens this December, the complex will be America’s largest dedicated to the art and science of filmmaking, a craft that turned the orange groves of Los Angeles into a city of global recognition. With this third player in the mix, LACMA and the La Brea Tar Pits independently saw opportunities to reinvent themselves and, perhaps, finally unify Hancock Park and its aggregate cultural and recreational offerings. In August 2019, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHMLAC), which manages the La Brea Tar Pits, announced it had selected three firms to develop master plans that would take stock of the site’s invaluable contents while updating its outdated visitor experience. A few months later, after staging a public exhibit of the projects, NHMLAC elected to push ahead with multidisciplinary firm WEISS/MANFREDI’s master plan. The design calls for the preservation of the site’s most locally beloved elements, including Lake Pit and the original Page Museum, and ties them together with a 3,200-foot-long looping pedestrian path. Calling the Page “introverted,” architect Michael Manfredi summarized the scheme’s intention to pull back the curtain on the museum’s ongoing paleontological research: “Because Hancock Park is a public space, and not a nine-to-five destination, our master plan hopes to stretch the hours of engagement by revealing the hidden life of the museum to the public without [visitors] ever stepping inside; to make the science more visible, and make [the displays] a more active element of the park rather than mere inert objects.” Manfredi conceded that the scheme is still in development, and his team expects to incorporate more public input in the next design rounds; so far, the joint effort has collected more than 2,100 survey responses from the local community. Meanwhile, LACMA’s own redevelopment plan has been met repeatedly with public and critical scorn. Since assuming the museum’s directorship in 2006, Michael Govan has been emphatic about his desire to make his mark with a grand new building. In 2013, he unveiled plans to replace Pereira’s midcentury pavilions and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer’s mid-1980s Art of the Americas building with a tabletop design spanning Wilshire Boulevard by the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. Only Piano’s 2008 Broad Contemporary Art Museum and 2010 Resnick Pavilion—a campus in themselves—would be spared. Though there have been a handful of public meetings following each successive plan (the project has undergone drastic revisions since first being unveiled), local groups contend they have been purposefully left out of the decision-making process by the parties in charge—namely LACMA, Zumthor’s office, and the county’s Board of Supervisors. Among the most prominent of these is the nonprofit Save LACMA, whose mission statement touts the “enormous pool of goodwill, sentiment and investment” it has accrued in its drive to protect the museum’s beleaguered buildings. Like its ally the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, Save LACMA has decried recent cost estimates putting Govan and Zumthor’s project at $750 million, with $125 million coming from the County of Los Angeles. Rubbing salt in the wound, another report alleged that the new LACMA would contain 10,000 square feet less exhibition space than did its predecessor. Summing up the brouhaha in the Los Angeles Times, art critic Christopher Knight (who just won a Pulitzer for his take on the LACMA controversy) needled the expansion and dubbed it the “Incredible Shrinking Museum.” LACMA fanned the critical flames when, in early April, after stay-at-home orders had been issued to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, it began dismantling the Bing Center. Later that month, as if capitalizing on the controversy, the Citizens’ Brigade unveiled alternative proposals to the Zumthor design, which varied in tone (though nearly all were wistful) and feasibility (with more than one barely-there provocation). None were as audacious as Zumthor’s parti, which is nonetheless poised to improve on LACMA’s current campus. As grand as the Pereira buildings may have been in their day, they formed a visual barrier across Hancock Park’s southern perimeter and created an inelegant walking path along the campus’s expanding east-west axis. From the west, visitors had to scale the Ahmanson Building’s pompously wide stairs before stumbling onto the main plaza, later blocked from Wilshire with the addition of the Arts of the Americas building. Zumthor’s decision to lift all the exhibition spaces and other museum functions into the air (and over Wilshire) grants visitors unfettered access to the central axis of the park. At LACMA in February, Govan quipped that visitors to the future Hancock Park will be able to go from “movies to mammoths” without paying an admission fee. It’s striking that this consequence of Zumthor’s planning has survived all the project’s alterations; clearly, critic Christopher Hawthorne was correct in saying, all the way back in 2013, that the design was less aloof than his peers made it out to be. A composite site plan of all three ongoing projects reveals a Hancock Park that bears little resemblance to its present self: A flock of Piano-designed structures congregates in its western half, absorbed in their own symmetries; Zumthor’s spaceshiplike LACMA retreats from the park’s center and straddles Wilshire Boulevard to the south, touching down on a one-acre park (currently a parking lot owned by the museum); and, while still subject to change, the pedestrian loop winding through WEISS/MANFREDI’s La Brea Tar Pits master plan echoes LACMA’s curves, as if the two entities were at last ready to tango after decades of bumping elbows. This gradual movement toward greater cohesion tracks with two other L.A. projects currently in the works. The first is the addition of seven new stations to the Metro’s D Line along Wilshire Boulevard, representing a major improvement to the city’s underdeveloped public transportation infrastructure. The Wilshire/Fairfax station, sited directly across the street from Hancock Park, is slated to be completed in 2023, three years after the Academy Museum and one year before LACMA (though a construction timeline for the La Brea Tar Pits master plan is still in the works, one may expect that it will attempt to align with its neighboring developments). According to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, or Metro, LACMA has indicated it would finance a second station entrance on its campus, which would connect the block to the city at large more seamlessly than ever before. Yet even Metro has felt the pressure to accelerate its construction timeline in response to a second, even larger citywide goal: the 2028 Summer Olympics, the third time in the event’s modern history that the games will be held in Los Angeles. As if impelled to replicate the success of the previous iteration in 1984—considered the only profitable games in modern Olympic history—Los Angeles is currently abuzz with construction on large-scale developments, including the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (see page 30), SoFi Stadium, and the renovation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Against this backdrop, the transformation of Hancock Park into a single, coherent block of art, film, and prehistory in time for the Olympics would be a major boon for the city’s title as a cultural capital. (Such a consolidation might even compel Angelenos to finally call the park by its official name, which it shares with a well-heeled residential cluster to its east.) At the time of this writing, Hancock Park is not much to look at. Some elements are dulled by years of neglect, others too shiny for lack of occupation, and others still scarred by the recent violence of demolition. Yet a little patience will likely yield an outsize reward: a true microcosm of a city possibly too large in size and cultural importance to take in by any other means.
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How To Handel Density

Handel Architects design high-rise complex surrounding Hollywood’s Capitol Records tower
An apparent contrast between the low-lying buildings of Hollywood’s Golden-era and a slew of recently constructed towers is currently shaping the skyline of central Los Angeles. The largest development to date in the latter group comes in the form of a billion-dollar high-rise complex one block north of the Hollywood and Vine intersection. Developed by MP Los Angeles, Hollywood Center will be built upon 4.5 acres of former surface parking lots that once served the Capitol Records building, the Welton Becket and Associates-designed tower deemed the world’s first circular office building when it was completed in 1956. Designed by local firm Handel Architects, the development complements the iconic Capitol Records building with opposingly curved facades on its two tallest towers—35 and 46 stories tall, respectively, while their siting and oval-shaped plans are intended to preserve views of the Capitol Records building from the 101 freeway and popular tourist sites within Hollywood. Including two 11-story buildings, Hollywood Center has a total of 1,005 residential units, 133 of which will be set aside as affordable housing for seniors to be managed by the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Menorah Housing Foundation (according to Urbanize Los Angeles, the affordable housing component of the project is among the largest in the city’s history). Perhaps inspired by its proximity to the burgeoning L.A. Metro subway system, as well as the recently revealed master plan for the nearby Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Center will provide several public resources in addition to its private residences. The towers will be surrounded by two civic plazas, to be designed by James Corner Field Operations, that will add an acre of open green space to the park-starved neighborhood. The developers hope that the grounds will become a central hub for Hollywood, offering restaurants, cafes, as well as space for concerts and other community events. The most recent Draft Environmental Impact Report estimates that the project will begin in 2022 and will be completed in 2025.
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A Tree Grows in Los Angeles

Koichi Takada Architects reveals tree-like skyscraper for Downtown Los Angeles
Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects, in collaboration with MVE + Partners as the architect of record, has unveiled its latest design for Sky Trees, a 43-story tower set for the corner of 11th Street and Hill Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Crown Group, the Singapore-based developer of the project, is hoping to start construction by the end of next year and has set an estimated budget of $500 million. “It’s rare to find the central district of a large cosmopolitan city on the verge of such significant change,” said Crown Group chief executive officer Iwan Sunito in a statement, according to Urbanize Los Angeles. “Downtown is experiencing a once in a generation revival - led by the heightened convergence of tech, media, and entertainment in Los Angeles.” Seeking to stand out from the other skyscrapers in the district while considering its own relationship to the human scale, the exterior design and color palette was reportedly inspired by California’s iconic redwood trees. Sky Trees will partially wrap a 160-room hotel and 528 apartment units in a breathing green wall designed to improve the city’s notoriously low air quality. “It is our desire through a nature-inspired approach to architecture,” the firm wrote in a press statement, “to transform an old existing warehouse district into a healthy and organic neighborhood in LA.” The literal ‘branching out’ of the tower’s timber facade at the ground level is both an additional nod to the roots of a redwood tree as well as a reference to Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe’s “flying skirt” moment. The top few stories of the building continue the arboreal theme with a tree-like crown that will split off into two halves, taking advantage of the abolition of a zoning law that once mandated all buildings in Downtown Los Angeles to have flat roofs to accommodate emergency helicopter landings. The Los Angeles Times reports that Crown Group is optimistic about the project despite the current hit residential sales are taking during the coronavirus pandemic, predicting that demand will increase by the time the building is slated for completion in 2025.
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Define Defiance

Pacific Design Center surveys Claude Rutault’s conceptual artwork
Seasonal Paintings, a new site-specific piece by the French conceptual painter Claude Rutault was installed on March 19 at the Pacific Design Center (PDC), an all-blue glass monolith in West Hollywood designed by the late Argentine architect César Pelli. A continuation of the 78-year-old artist’s “de-finitions/methods” series that he began in the early 1970s, Seasonal Paintings goes to great lengths to avoid the conventions of displaying two-dimensional artwork by occupying nearly all surfaces at once. Canvases appear to levitate in the middle of the space, with the assistance of fishing wire that faintly glistens underneath the spotlights, while others are splayed out atop loosely shaped canvases like oversized bearskin rugs. The few paintings that are actually hung up on the wall disappear into the walls themselves, which have been painted in the identical shade. Read the full show preview on our interiors and design website,
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It's Showtime!

Here are AN’s picks for architecture-themed movies and shows to enjoy while housebound
Variety, as they say, is the spice of life, and that certainly applies to readily available entertainment—movies, documentaries, television shows, and more—to watch while social distancing/self-quarantining/expanding one’s cinematic horizons during a global pandemic. Below, the AN editorial team has compiled a pointedly eclectic list of screen-based diversions to settle down with. The overarching emphasis here is obviously on architecture, design, and urbanism. However, we’ve applied that focus broadly and opted to include everything from French New Wave classics to sordid 1980s thrillers to dystopian neo-noir epics to trashy (but oh-so-enjoyable) reality TV and more. And for good measure, we’ve thrown in a few serious architecture documentaries, too. All are currently available to stream on various platforms. Sit back, relax, stay safe, and enjoy.

Alphaville (1965)

“Alphaville is easily my favorite Jean-Luc Godard film. Filmed on the streets of Paris in 1964, the story begins when a secret agent Lemmy Caution traverses the distant corners of the galaxy on a secret mission to a futuristic dystopian city, Alphaville. There, he seeks out an omnipresent scientist named Von Braun, the maker of Alpha 60, a mind-controlling computer that rules over citizens.”Gabrielle Golenda, products editor. Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime and others. 

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

“If you can stomach languishing in a futuristic dystopia somehow worse than our own, Denis Villeneuve's 2017 sequel to the cult classic Blade Runner is certainly worth escaping into for three hours. The libertarian future of 2049 is populated by towering brutalist forms, mega-monoliths to greed, space-age pyramids, and a main villain's lair inspired by Spanish architects Barozzi / Veiga looks so good you'll forget that the world is dying outside of it. Consider it the anti-Wakanda.”Jonathan Hilburg, web editor. Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and others.

Body Double (1984)

“There's nothing like a sleazy, ultra-stylish erotic thriller from Brian De Palma to take one's mind off the troubles of the world. Highly controversial on its release, Body Double, now a cult favorite, serves as both an homage to Alfred Hitchcock and a tribute to the architectural weirdness of Los Angeles. While numerous L.A. landmarks serve as backdrops including Tail O' the Pup, the Farmers Market, and the Hollywood Tower Apartments, the real star of the film is John Lautner's Chemosphere House (1960), a space-ship-y octagonal lair mounted on a concrete pedestal high in the Hollywood Hills. Reached only by funicular, the home, declared a Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument in 2004, is currently owned by publisher Benedikt Taschen.”Matt Hickman, associate editor. Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more.

Columbus (2017)

“Korean-born, Nashville-based supercut maestro Kogonada's feature directorial debut is a melancholy, but never despairing, romantic drama about love, loss, obligation, and modernist architecture. Filmed on location in the small Indiana city known as "the Athens of the Prairie," this tender, haunting film stars John Cho and Haley Lu Richardson alongside works by Eliel and Eero Saarinen, I.M. Pei, Robert A.M. Stern, Deborah Berke, and others. (Sorry Venturi fans but Fire Station Number 4 doesn't make a cameo appearance.) Added non-architectural bonus: Parker Posey in a small but memorable supporting role.”Matt Hickman, associate editor. ”Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more. 

Grand Designs

“Grand Designs is a long-running British TV series. Each episode tracks the progress of some of the U.K.’s most ambitious and experimental self-built home projects. Host Kevin McCloud, a noted architectural journalist and architect in his own right, offers a succinct narration as he checks into each project at different stages. His advice and helping hand is often followed by bitting albeit constructive criticism.”–Adrian Madlener, interiors editor. Seasons 10 and 15 available on Netflix.

The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) (2013)

“La Grande Bellezza is an Academy Award-winning film by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino. While the movie follows a one hit wonder author and affluent playboy as he goes through the pangs of a late life crisis, its art direction casts Rome in a rhapsodic mise en scene. The capital city’s ancient and contemporary architecture is presented in an almost nostalgic way, devoid of its regular tourist hordes. The protagonist's self-reflection is emulated in this dramatic backdrop.”Adrian Madlener, interiors editor. Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more.

Love Island UK, Season 6:

“The sixth season of British dating reality television show Love Island UK wrapped filming just as coronavirus was roaring onto the global stage, but watching it will transport you to a simpler world where a bevy of single twenty-somethings loll their days away while looking for love without leaving the confines of a South African villa. The house the contestants are kept in is a typical reality TV monstrosity (vapid slogans scrawled on the walls, 360-degree lighting, a riot of wall colors), but maybe this is where design is heading now that so many peoples’ houses have become backdrops for screen-mediated interactions. Or maybe the show is just a nice escape from the relentless news cycle. Either way, it’s worth a watch.”–Jack Morley Balderrama, managing editor. Available on Hulu.

Playtime (1967)

“This French comedy follows director Jacques Tati’s character as he bumbles his way through the modern spaces of 1960’s Paris. It’s almost more of a dance than drama performance, with the spaces playing a significant role in each scene.”Ian Thomas, art director. Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

Poltergeist III (1988)

“The third and final installment of the Poltergeist franchise moves the action from an evil spirit-infested tract house in the Southern California ’burbs—“The house looks just like the one next to it … and the one next to that … and the one next to that”—to an ultra-modern Chicago high-rise. (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s John Hancock Center plays the role of sinister supertall well). Taking place almost entirely within the confines of said high-rise, this distinctly urban horror film, despite being critically lambasted, managed to render subterranean parking garages, mirrored hallways, elevators, window-cleaning platforms, and skyscrapers in general completely terrifying to an entire generation of children.”–Matt Hickman, associate editor. Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more

Other selections include:

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio (Sam Wainwright Douglas, 2010). Available on Amazon Prime. Eames: The Architect and the Painter (2011, Jason Cohn, Bill Jersey). Available on Google Play, iTunes, and more. Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future (Peter Rosen, 2016). Available on YouTube. Helevetica (Gary Hustwit, 2007). Available on Amazon Prime and iTunes. Director Hustwit is streaming all of his documentary films, which also include Urbanized, Objectified, and Rams, for free during the COVID-19 crisis. Hollywood’s Architect: The Paul R. Williams Story (Royal Kennedy Rodgers and Kathy McCampbell Vance, 2020). Available streaming on PBS. How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster? (Carlos Carcas, Norberto López Amado, 2010). Available on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and more. I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009). Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927). Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more. The Pruit-Igoe Myth (Chad Freidrichs, 2011). Available on iTunes. A Single Man (Tom Ford, 2009). Available on Netflix. Sketches of Frank Gehry (Sydney, Pollack, 2005). Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more. Unfinished Spaces (Alysa Nahmias and Benjamin Murray, 2011). Available on Google Play, Amazon Prime, and more.
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Hooray for hollywood

A timber-topped terraced office tower could be coming to the heart of Hollywood
Plans have been unveiled for a rather snazzy 14-story Hollywood office tower designed by Gensler that will take shape on a 1.7-acre Sunset Boulevard site currently populated by a Staples and a smattering of surface parking lots. Dubbed Sunset + Wilcox, the commercial high-rise would include of 445,158 square feet of office space, with 2,141 square feet carved out for a ground-level restaurant and retail space as well as a substantial amount of space dedicated to parking, some of it subterranean. Compared to a decidedly humdrum 1968 Maxwell Starkman-designed high-rise located directly across Wilcox Avenue at 6430 Sunset Boulevard that’s home to CNN’s West Coast headquarters, Sunset + Wilcox will provide, literally, a breath of architectural fresh air. Each floor of the tower will include outdoor space, with the sixth floor featuring a lushly landscaped outdoor “Campus Commons” spread out over 10,000 square feet. Starting on the seventh floor and moving up, a series of stepped terraces, all connected by an exterior staircase, will provide additional open air space. A mass timber crown—a unique addition to the surrounding skyline—will encase the “penthouse” levels of the building. This largely workaday stretch of Sunset east of Highland Avenue has been on the up-and-up in recent years as the demand for both housing and entertainment industry-earmarked office space in Hollywood proper grows. “With the majority of this underutilized site being surface parking, Sunset + Wilcox provides a tremendous opportunity to further Hollywood’s ongoing transformation into a true live-work neighborhood,” said Mario Palumbo, managing director of Seward Partners, an affiliate of infill-centric developer MP Los Angeles, in a press statement. “Hollywood is world-renowned for its association with the entertainment industry, and the demand for new creative office space in the area is substantial.” Other major projects in the immediate area include a mixed-use megaproject designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and RCH Studios surrounding the Crossroads of the World site, an iconic 1936 outdoor shopping center-turned-office complex encircling a Streamline Moderne building shaped an ocean liner. Once complete, the $1 billion Crossroads Hollywood project, which has been opposed by preservationists since its inception, will include over 900 new housing units, a large hotel, and over 190,000 square feet of commercial space spread across nine new buildings. Most of the original Crossroads of the World complex and the neighboring Hollywood Reporter Building, a Regency Moderne landmark declared as a Historic-Cultural Monument in 2017, will not be razed and instead be incorporated into the new development. Further east along Sunset, is the future home a 26-story residential tower that will replace beloved indie record store Amoeba Music, which has been a fixture on Sunset Boulevard since 2001. The redevelopment scheme has been highly contentious although just last month Amoeba formally announced it will reopen in a new location, also in Hollywood, later this year. Not far from the Sunset + Wilcox site and also developed by MP Los Angeles is Hollywood Center, a “mixed-use vertical community” with a substantial amount of affordable housing. It too has been met with controversy. As Sunset + Wilcox enters the planning stages (per the Real Deal the city will need to green-light several zoning changes before the project commences), it doesn't seem that many objections will be made about demolition work at the site when compared to these other redevelopment projects in the immediate area. “Our goal is to retain existing Hollywood businesses and attract new businesses that have to-date overlooked the area because of a lack of supply,” said Palumbo. “With this large site, we see an opportunity to create a truly exceptional creative office experience in the heart of Hollywood.”
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In Memoriam

Arts and architecture advocate Merry Norris dies
Merry Norris, an arts and architecture advocate based in Los Angeles, passed away on March 16. As one of the city’s first Cultural Affairs Commissioners when she was appointed in 1984, the first Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA/LA), and a board member and an honorary trustee at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) since 1987, Norris was widely known throughout the city for her open embrace of all things groundbreaking and on the cutting edge. Like fellow philanthropists Eli Broad and Robert H. Ahmanson, Norris helped shaped the cultural identity of the young city by drawing connections between a wide range of creative fields. Hernán Díaz Alonso, the current Director of SCI-Arc, expressed in a press statement that “Merry Norris was in a league of her own,” and that “her generosity and passion for SCI-Arc and the arts was unparalleled. Over the years, her contributions have made her inseparable from what SCI-Arc is and will continue to be.” Faculty member and founder of Morphosis Thom Mayne said that Norris “approached everything with wonder and enthusiasm—she loved the world and the people in it,” and SCI-Arc Chairman of the Board of Trustees Kevin Ratner added that she was “a fixture of LA’s cultural fabric; a committed board member who connected the school to the greater arts community and whose strong opinion always mattered.” Norris was behind the enhancement of many of the city’s public spaces through the inclusion of work from local artists, such as those of Shepard Fairey and David Wisemen throughout the West Hollywood Library, and a large mural by Kenny Scharf adorning the sides of a parking garage for the Pasadena Museum of California Art. But she is perhaps most well known for her instrumental role in the founding and building of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), one of the most city’s most important art institutions, as well as the James Corner Field Operations-designed Tongva Park in Santa Monica. Her own home, perched above the Sunset Strip, was itself a veritable museum of contemporary art and design, according to an interview with Curbed, including furniture designed by Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne, as well as artwork by Ed Ruscha, Mark Bradford, and Jenny Holzer.
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Remaining Neutra

The future of Richard Neutra’s first U.S. building remains uncertain
The current owner of the Jardinette Apartments, the first commission the modernist architect Richard Neutra received in the United States in 1927, has worked out an agreement with the lender to pay back the necessary $214,009 to keep the building, while an auction database lists the property as an item up for auction this Friday. According to Curbed LA, Robert Clippinger of Clippinger Investment Properties purchased the Hollywood property on the corner of Marathon and Manhattan in 2016 but has not kept up with the necessary payments. The four-story building, designed with the assistance of fellow Viennese émigré and modernist architect Rudolph Schindler, is considered the first international style building in the country and helped the architect gain connections to design other projects throughout the city. A year after purchasing the property, now known as the Marathon Apartments, Clippinger contributed to a recommendation report the following year that addressed its significant state of disrepair with plans of restoration by 2018 (that never commenced). According to the report, the scope of rehabilitation, restoration, and maintenance work is substantial: it includes waterproofing the building envelope, patching and repairing the roof, restoring interior finishes, repairing and reconstructing fenestration, upgrading the fire sprinkler system, and reconstructing cabinetry in the kitchen, bathrooms and dressing rooms. The exterior, which was painted in an ahistorical beige, blue and pink combination about 20 years ago, would additionally need to be uniformly repainted white to complete the restoration. A set of images on the Clippinger website reveals what the property would look like, had the proper plans for restoration been made. Given the apartment tower’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places and designation as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, the city’s building and safety department revisited the 2017 report last January to grant the building a rehabilitation permit. So while it may appear up for auction, deep-pocketed preservationist will want to hold off; work to restore the building will begin sometime in the near future.
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Tinseltown Turret

SOM’s all-encompassing Sunset La Cienega Hotel reconciles the duality of its surroundings
Set at the base of Hollywood Hills, the Sunset La Cienega Hotel cuts an imposing figure. The massing of two angular towers forms a barrier between the residential hills above and the city grid below. And yet, the hotel’s strategically positioned courtyard serves as a crucial link between these contrasting urban conditions. Designed by the Los Angeles office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), the structure, with its rough, exposed concrete shell, pays homage to the grittiness of the Sunset Strip, while its refined interior conjures a far more serene atmosphere. “The use of wood in handrails, balustrades, wall panels, custom-built organic reception desks, and other finishes helps define much of the hotel’s public areas, including two restaurants, a private rooftop lounge, a lobby bar, a ballroom, and a cantilevered pool deck,” SOM Associate Director Kevin Conway explained. “Adorned with large, sculptural silicone brass-tube luminaries, these spaces were designed to reflect a certain midcentury modern aesthetic specific to Los Angeles but also the strip’s rock-and-roll heritage. For this project, it was really all about using humble materials in a detailed way.” Portions of the 388,000-square-foot property were designed to resemble an art collector’s estate. “We wanted it to be like a big home with big openings that filter in natural light,” Conway said. Paintings and sculptures permeate the complex while smaller objets d’art feature prominently in the hotel’s 286 guest rooms. As if that weren’t enough, most rooms feature floor-to-ceiling glass windows that frame scenic views. Read the full story on our interiors and design website,