Search results for "welton becket"

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Wrecking Ball

Welton Becket’s Parker Center in L.A. headed toward demolition
The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously this week to deny Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) status to the Welton Becket-designed Parker Center building in Downtown Los Angeles. The eight-story structure is organized as a long office block, with the two narrow ends of the building wrapped in buff, blank stone and the two broad sides punctuated by continuous lengths of ribbon windows. The street-fronting portions of the building are lifted off the ground on slender piloti, creating an entry portico. The structure was built in 1955 during the post-World War II building boom and reflects classically Modernist building attributes, including the fact that it was built on land cleared for development via eminent domain. That attribute, as well as the building’s problematic history as the headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department, haunted the building’s HCM nomination. The building sits on land that had once been part of the city’s Little Tokyo neighborhood but was taken over in the 1950s to make more room for the city’s growing Civic Center. The project caused the destruction of a wide swath of the community and displaced at least a thousand residents and many businesses and places of worship. Local residents opposing the HCM nomination argued that this injustice—taking land owned by Japanese-Americans just a decade after many had been interred at various across the west during World War II—overruled any of the architectural or aesthetic value of the structure. At a meeting in early February, the city’s Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) committee declined to recommend the structure for HCM-status because of these community concerns. Downtown’s City Councilmember Jose Huizar echoed community concerns at the PLUM meeting, saying, “To call this building a masterpiece specimen of midcentury architecture and to retain its landmark status with the Parker name is to further the revisionist history that dismisses the injustices done to many communities, including Little Tokyo.” Huizar’s testimony made reference to Parker Center’s recent history as one of the central sites implicated in the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Recently, the City of Los Angeles issued a new master plan for the Civic Center area that calls for the demolition of Parker Center in order to make way for a 28-story mixed-use tower. The new plan aims to turn the Civic Center from a sleepy office quarter into a mixed-use residential neighborhood. The 750,000-square-foot office tower slated to replace Parker Center will contain ground floor commercial spaces surrounded by public spaces and greenery.
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Welton Becket’s Santa Monica Civic Auditorium Says Goodbye
Welton Becket's 1958 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, once a beacon of midcentury optimism, this weekend shuttered its doors. The bending, intricately ornamented auditorium hosted several Academy Awards in the 1960s, as well as concerts by the likes of Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, and Bob Dylan. But the facility recently fell on hard times, as bands gravitated to larger venues (leaving it mostly hosting trade fairs), and as a planned $52 million renovation was recently cancelled when California abolished its Community Redevelopment Agencies. Santa Monica Civic, a working group strategizing the venue's future, told the LA Times that it will take several months to develop a new plan for the landmarked structure, including film screenings, live theater, or even restaurants.
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Millenium Hollywood
Courtesy Bill Roschen

Millenium Hollywood
Architect: Bill Roschen
Client: Millenium Partners and Argent Ventures
Location: Hollywood, CA
Completion: Not determined

Millennium Hollywood, a mixed use development by Millennium Partners and Argent Ventures, is seeking to further revive downtown Hollywood and preserve the historic Capitol Records tower, designed by Welton Becket in 1956.

According to architect Bill Roschen, who is also chair of the LA Planning Commission, and to spokesperson Brian Lewis, the approximately $1 billion project will include an outdoor public room, a pair of multi-level towers framing the Capitol building, and an off-the-freeway park from 4.47 acres of sunken in land and one million square feet of street level space. The architectural design has not been finalized. A bulk of the development will be located at the corner of Vine and Yucca, near the Hollywood/Vine Red Line Station, and will not obscure the landmark Capitol Records building, with its iconic form.

The project does not currently have an end date, but the 2006 effort, part of a national urban development movement around public transportation, wants to use the area's foot-traffic to rejuvenate the neighborhood.

“There's a real ability for buildings to make space for these historic monuments,” said Roschen. “That's the ambition around Capitol Records–to let the new density actually provide a setting for this historic structure in a true gateway for Hollywood and, in many ways, for Los Angeles.”

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Freeze!

LAPD headquarters could be saved by new lawsuit
Activists in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit in a last-ditch effort to halt the pending demolition of the city’s defunct former police headquarters, Parker Center. Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Healthy Housing Foundation, and the Coalition to Preserve LA held a press conference Wednesday morning announcing the new suit, the latest effort in a long-running battle to save the vacant, 300,000-square-foot, International Style complex.  The organizations have filed a suit to stop the building’s demolition and to compel the City of Los Angeles to instead convert the structure into a 700-bed temporary housing shelter. The debate began last year as efforts to landmark the structure took off against a backdrop of fierce community opposition to saving the tower. The complex was considered for Historic-Cultural Landmark status but the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of razing the structure instead, choosing to make space for a new office tower being planned in conjunction with a new masterplan for the surrounding Civic Center area. The Parker Center complex was designed by architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates in 1955 as a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department and was used as a backdrop in the television series Dragnet, a police procedural drama from the 1950s focused on the intricacies of police detective work.  The organizations filing suit allege that the City has misrepresented the costs associated with converting the building into a shelter relative to its demolition costs. Further, the group accuses the City of using gassed up figures in its feasibility determination. The City of L.A.’s estimates put the shelter conversion at over $295 million, while an estimate commissioned by AHF indicates that a conversion would cost roughly $102 million.  In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF sad, “City officials are padding their estimate to rehab and repurpose Parker Center as housing because they are bound and determined to tear it down.” Weinstein added, “It is a horrible waste of public funds and shows a lack of interest in the cost-effective use of existing resources at a time when the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles rages on largely unabated.” The replacement 27-story “luxury office tower” being proposed would cost at least $900 million to build, making it the most expensive municipal office building in the country if constructed.  The question of whether to save Parker Center has exposed old, unhealed wounds among several local constituencies, especially for the residents of the surrounding Little Tokyo neighborhood, some of whom saw their properties and businesses taken by force when officials were originally planning and consolidating the Civic Center district in the 1950s. Members of L.A.’s African American and Latino communities detest the building, as well, and see its existence as an extension of the city’s traumatic legacy of racist policing tactics.  A judge has yet to hear the case, but current plans called for demolition on the tower to begin as early as August 20. It is unclear if that timeline is still on track.
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The End of Parker Center

Former LAPD headquarters to be demolished after years of controversy
Various reports indicate that L.A.’s Parker Center, an International Style structure designed by Welton Becket and Associates that once served as the headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), is set to be demolished starting August 20.  The much-maligned building will make way for a new 750,000-square-foot, 27- to 29-story office tower that is being developed as part of a new master plan for the surrounding Civic Center neighborhood.  There was a short-lived effort to landmark and perhaps preserve the Parker Center last year that failed in large part due to community opposition to the building. One reason the building is unpopular is that the site for the complex was taken from what once the cultural and commercial core of L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. Resentment over the displacement of businesses and cultural institutions resulting from the land-grab still runs high in the area and helped to derail the building’s application for Historic-Cultural Monument status. The building is also widely criticized in Latino and African American communities for its associations with the LAPD itself, an organization with many documented cases of brutality and injustice against members of those communities, including the brutal 1992 attack on Rodney King and offenses resulting from the ensuing L.A. Uprising.  The building was originally designed as an “ultramodern” and “scientific” police headquarters that focused both on internal efficiency and—ironically—on thoughtful public interfaces.  The building’s lobby features an open design, for example, and is populated by a series of site-specific artworks, including a mural by the artist Joseph Young titled Theme Mural of Los Angeles that depicts city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The complex also features a bronze exterior sculpture titled The Family Group by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. In a 2017 interview with The Architect’s Newspaper, Louis Naidorf, one of the architects who worked on the complex, lamented the building’s sordid reputation. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” The LAPD left the building in 2009 when a new 491,00-square-foot, 11-story tower designed by AECOM located down the street opened for business. Earlier this year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other preservationists attempted to convert Parker Center into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, but the plan failed. Ahead of the planned demolition, the public art elements were removed for storage and eventual restoration. The complex is slated to make way for a key component of a new “Civic Innovation District” that will bring housing, offices, and new open spaces to the area. The new office tower that is set to rise on the Parker Center site has yet to be designed, but official estimates put its cost at $700 million. A detailed plan for the design and construction of the tower has not been announced, but planning documents explain that the city plans to complete the replacement tower around 2020. 
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Step it Up

Plazas new and old are poised to reshape L.A.’s urban outdoors
When it comes to plazas and parks, Los Angeles–area landscape architects and designers have big plans for the future. The region is slowly warming up to the possibility of a more pedestrian-oriented urbanism, and, as a result, public spaces old and new are being imagined to suit that potential future. And while the region is adding plenty of new parks—the new Los Angeles State Historic Park, the ever-expanding Grand Park by Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios), and the now-iconic Tongva Park by James Corner Field Operations come to mind—attention is now beginning to shift toward redefining the public plaza as it is practiced in L.A. One experiment comes from RCH Studio’s renovations to the Music Center plaza, originally designed by landscape architects Cornell, Bridgers, and Troller in association with Welton Becket and Associates in 1967. The stepped concrete plaza currently contains a Jacques Lipchitz–designed sculpture at its center, the art object surrounded by a maze of sunken courtyards, large planter boxes, and interactive fountains. RCH Studios plans to revamp the plaza to make the space more ADA-compliant while also bringing pedestrian energy from bustling Grand Avenue up into the plaza. The complex is on the same street as the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Broad Museum and sits on axis with Grand Park and City Hall, relationships that the designers wanted to emphasize and perfect over the course of their renovations. Bob Hale, partner at RCH Studios, said, “Creating open space in L.A. is a very different thing than doing so in other places,” explaining that one of the goals of the renovations was to make the plaza hospitable enough to function as a “fifth venue” to complement the four existing concert halls and performance spaces on the site. The proposed 50,000-square-foot plaza—scheduled to reopen in 2019—will be completely flat, punctuated at its corners by pavilions containing a full-service restaurant, a cafe, a bar, permanent public restrooms, and a welcome kiosk. The project will also involve replacing existing—and over-pruned—ficus trees with new Agonis Flexuosa trees that will help create a more comfortable plaza as their canopies fill out. In Culver City, SWA Principal Gerdo Aquino and his team are working to create a new central square for the city on top of what was once a dusty parking lot. The firm’s Culver Steps project—created in partnership with EYRC architects and Hackman Capital Partners—is part of a podium-style development that will bring a new 55,000-square-foot stepped plaza with generously landscaped open spaces to the city’s core. The ascendant plaza will sit above a new underground parking garage and will share ground floor areas with a bevy of storefronts. A so-called “grand staircase” is to run up the slope, flanked by pockets of seating areas. The summit of the jaggedly stepped promenade will contain restaurants on one side and a four-story office structure on another. In all, the superblock- size project will unite a mix of squares and promenades served by the commercial and office spaces. “Many American cities are reimagining their city centers, sometimes in unconventional locations and ways,” Aquino explained. “The city and the major stakeholders have always considered the plaza as something that could be ‘out of the box’ and not tied down to any one precedent.” Landscaping for the plaza is inspired by the Sierra Nevada Mountains and will contain more conventional plantings along its lowest levels, with increasingly showy and diverse species of shade trees and evergreens up the steps and at the top of the structure. Ultimately, the steps will open in 2019 with the aim of creating a bustling and interactive plaza “filled with as many trees as possible.”
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Sound Design

L.A. County Supervisors approve Music Center Plaza renovation
L.A.’s Board of Supervisors has approved a $40 million plan by Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH) to renovate Music Center Plaza, a raised outdoor space in the heart of the city’s cultural complex. Similar to New York's Lincoln Center, the Music Center, designed by Welton Becket and Associates between 1964 and 1967, is a Modernist acropolis for the performing arts. The now-defunct landscape architecture firm Cornell, Bridgers and Troller designed the fountain-filled plaza itself, working together with Becket on a plan that would defer to the original buildings and serve as a central gathering space between the Music Center's three theaters. While it’s an iconic piece of the city’s development on Grand Avenue, the plaza hasn’t been renovated since it opened. RCH’s plans will ease access, increase capacity from 2,500 to 5,000 people, and add programming. The plans will widen and flatten the facility's main entry from Grand Avenue, add escalators from the street, and raise the plaza’s sunken portion. The Jacques Lipchitz–designed Peace on Earth sculpture, currently located in the center of the plaza’s fountain, will be moved west to allow for more continuous use of the space between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theater, and the Mark Taper Forum. Landscaped vistas will overlook Grand Park (also designed by the Los Angeles firm) on the eastern end of the plaza. "The Music Center was originally oriented toward Hope Street, but Grand Avenue is really its front door now. We needed to reflect that," said RCH Senior Associate Naseema Asif. Five new buildings on the site will include a restaurant, wine bar, coffee house, welcome center, and permanent restrooms. It remains to be seen how all this new development (and the raising of the plaza's recessed portions) will fit into the overall aesthetic of the Music Center, but Asif notes "they are all single story, simple massings with really tight material palettes that relate to the plaza." Funding for the project will include $30 million from the Board of Supervisors and $10 million from the Music Center, whic has raised $6.8 million for the renovation thus far. Becket, little-known outside of Los Angeles, designed many of the city's most important structures and complexes, including Capitol Records, The Beverly Hilton, the UCLA Campus Plan, the Century City Master Plan, and Parker Center, the former L.A. Police Headquarters that's now slated for destruction.
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Demolition Approaching

AN speaks with the architect behind L.A.’s beleaguered Parker Center
The Parker Center complex in the Downtown Los Angeles Civic Center is quickly moving toward demolition in recent months as the City of Los Angeles begins to make headway on a new master plan for the district. The complex originally opened in 1955 and was designed by legendary L.A. architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates as a headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department. The building has been featured prominently in films depicting the city and is largely intact, architecturally speaking. The complex, however, was controversial from its inception. The police headquarters takes up a full city block in an area that was once part of the commercial heart of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, a factor that weighed heavily on and ultimately derailed recent efforts to grant historic status to Parker Center. On top of that, the complex carries a great deal of psychological baggage due to its use as a base of operations by the LAPD during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, an event associated with widespread police abuse and dysfunction. Perhaps understandably, instead of saving the structure, city agencies are instead working full-speed toward organizing its demolition. Urbanize.la reports that the city recently sent out RFPs to interested parties to solicit demolition bids; estimates put the cost of demolition at $12 million. The complex will be replaced in coming years by a yet-to-be-designed office tower containing 712,500 square feet of office space and 37,500 square feet of ground floor retail, according to a draft master plan for the area. The existing eight-story International Style structure is defined by a primary, tile-clad facade that bears the name of the building in midcentury-era script. The abstract, rectilinear office mass sits on a series of one-story piloti and was considered state-of-the-art for its time. On a Los Angeles Conservancy page dedicated to the complex, a quote from a July 1956 issue of Popular Mechanics describes the building as follows: “Ultramodern in all respects, the new eight-floor Los Angeles Police Building makes available to the city's police department the most scientific building ever used by a law-enforcement group." Behind the main facade, the building’s expenses are clad in alternating bands of ribbon windows and blue tile mosaics. Along ground floor areas, the complex features a large lobby space defined by glass enclosures that provide visual indoor-outdoor connections. Like many of contemporary works of architecture built in Los Angeles during the time, the complex featured integrated public art that complemented the architecture. The lobby space contains a series of public artworks, including a bronze sculpture along the exterior titled “The Family Group” by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. The lobby’s interior spaces are highlighted by a large mural by Joseph Young titled “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” depicting various city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with Louis Naidorf, one of the designers of the complex, to learn more about the project. Naidorf worked for Becket for over a decade starting in 1950, a stint that included design work on the iconic Capitol Records tower in Hollywood when the architect was just 24 years old. Naidorf explained that the conceptual idea of placing an office tower over thin piloti was Becket’s idea, and that Naidorf himself had designed “the entire first floor, [including] the auditorium and the lobby, the concession stand, and the parking structure.” Naidorf explained that fellow legendary midcentury designer Richard Dorman was the author of the police and jail wings of the complex, with Naidorf designing exterior treatments for those areas as well as an accompanying security gate. He said, “My job was to design a welcoming setting—something light airy, friendly, and courteous.” In describing the design of the interior lobby, Naidorf had proposed a “battery of telephones to call bail bondsmen from, with a floated panel spanning across the structural columns. The mounted telephones—with a mural at the front that had some liveliness—gave people a degree of privacy and tucked that less-than-happy aspect of the lobby out of view.” Naidorf described the era surrounding the early post-war boom during which Parker Center was built as a “strange period that, in effect, wiped out the lives of a generation of architects” who had been educated before the Great Depression, but who, because of the economic collapse, the deprivation caused by the ensuing global conflict, and their age, were never drafted for the war and had been left bereft of professional opportunity as a result. In this period, Naidorf explained, any architects of the time found work on Hollywood film sets as set designers, working in light timber framing and plaster.  He told AN, “People old enough to be our parents were just getting licensed” during the tumultuous era, adding, that “architecture had been in the tank” for the preceding decade. Younger architects like Naidorf —who was “three days out from UC Berkeley” when he was hired by Becket’s office—found themselves enjoying a great deal of responsibility and creative agency consequently. Naidorf lamented the loaded and problematic history of the building. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” Regarding the proposed demolition of the Parker Center, Naidorf said:
Buildings need to be seen as mute elements in this society. The police from that time are probably mostly dead. The most productive thing is not to destroy it; it’s to find some good and productive use for [the building] that serves a good civic purpose. Perhaps that purpose should be related to the needs of people who have not been listened to very much. I don’t know if spending the money to tear it down and then rebuilding it is in our best interest. There are areas of the site that are less significant; the parking structure could go away, for example. It won’t be seriously missed. If you wanted to—remove the jail wing. But the building [overall] is really a pleasant, adaptable office building with a useful auditorium and a welcoming lobby that can go to many new uses. To throw away a piece of the city’s history—as well as throw into the recycling bin the narrative of that building—seems to me very foolish.
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Changing Leaves

Amid explosive change, L.A.’s Exposition Park seeks new master plan
The Office of Exposition Park Management, a state-run outfit that oversees Los Angeles's Exposition Park, has released an RFP seeking master planning services for the 160-acre expanse as a slew of forthcoming, large-scale projects foreshadow gentrification for the 108-year-old park. The RFP—accessible via California's state procurement page here—will generate the park’s first master plan since 1993, a process that launched the CO Architects- and Mia Lehrer + Associates-led renovation and expansion of the Natural History Museum and its grounds, among other projects. According to officials, the 1993 Master Plan has been mostly completed and now, as transformative projects like the MAD Architects–designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art and Gensler-designed Los Angeles Football Club stadium come closer to reality, it is time to launch a new vision for one of L.A.’s most storied parks. In a press release, Fabian Wesson, Chairwoman of the California Science Center and Exposition Park Board of Directors explained, “We are very excited about crafting a 360-degree plan for Exposition Park,” adding that park directors sought a plan that “acknowledges the dynamic fabric of [the] community” while also accommodating the slew of new uses and structures being added to the park. Exposition Park and the neighborhoods around it have seen the beginnings of large-scale change and gentrification in recent years, as Downtown Los Angeles's residential and entertainment-fueled building boom spreads south and west from the city center. Downtown’s southwest corner—home to the L.A. Live complex, Los Angeles Convention Center, and soon, over 20 new luxury hotel and condo high-rises—is currently a sea of construction cranes. The Expo Line light rail that connects the financial and entertainment districts downtown to Santa Monica runs along Exposition Park’s northern boundary and opened in 2012. Next door, the University of Southern California putting the finishing touches on its $700 million USC Village project, which is scheduled for a Fall 2017 opening. As a result of these changes, there is a fear that the mostly-working class areas around the park will be gentrified, as the influx of blockbuster building projects spreads over and around the neighborhood. There are concerns that the new marquee projects—the Lucas Museum and soccer stadium, especially—are fundamentally changing and essentially-privatizing the character of the public park. Those new uses are not effectively taking up existing open space—the Lucas Museum is poised to add 11 acres of planted areas to what is currently a collection of surface parking lots while the LAFC Stadium is taking the place of the recently-demolished, Welton Becket–designed L.A. Memorial Sports Arena. The new structures, however, will add a heavy commercial element to a park brimming with museums like the California African American Museum, the California Science Center, and other amenities like the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Shrine Auditorium. A mandatory pre-proposal conference is scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, 2017, for those seeking to respond to the RFP. The RFPs will be due on June 16, 2017.
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DOCO-OH NO

As Cuba’s economy embraces global tourism, modernist works fall under threat

This article appears in The Architect’s Newspaper’s April 2017 issue, which takes a deep dive into Florida to coincide with the upcoming AIA Conference on Architecture in Orlando (April 27 to 29). We’re publishing the issue online as the Conference approaches—click here to see the latest articles to be uploaded.

Preservation efforts aimed at recognizing and restoring Cuba’s storied architectural relics—long a pet project within professional and academic circles—might finally become mainstream as the country adopts market-based policies.

The implications of these economic and political changes for Cuba’s cultural heritage—much of which suffers from decades of deferred maintenance—are potentially vast and unknown. Architect Belmont Freeman, who has led many tours to Cuba on behalf of Docomomo and the Society of Architectural Historians, said, “There are a lot of cranes in Havana right now, every one of them related to a hotel project.”

Recent years have seen a ballooning interest in Cuba by international hoteliers. European luxury-hotel group Kempinski is set open its first hotel in Cuba this summer. The hotel will feature 246 rooms in the renovated Manzana de Gómez building, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was designed as Cuba’s first shopping mall in 1910. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is also entering Cuba by taking over operations of Havana’s neoclassical Hotel Inglaterra, the Hotel Quinta Avenida, and the colonial-era Hotel Santa Isabel. The move makes Starwood the first United States hotelier to enter the Cuban market since 1959. Hotel Quinta Avenida was renovated in 2016 and opened last summer. The Hotel Inglaterra, originally built in 1844, is expected to open in late 2017 after its renovation.

Real questions exist, however, not only in terms of the quality of these renovations, but also with regard to the status of other cultural, archeological, and architectural artifacts in the country. Cuba is home to a vast array of architectural history, including relics and sites important to the indigenous cultures that originally inhabited the island. However, colonial-era fortifications and more recent building stock, including successive waves of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century development, make up the vast majority of structures across the country. What will happen to those less prominent and more sensitive relics? Many of the city’s inner neighborhoods are filled with eclectic Beaux Arts–style structures, while the outer city and its environs are a hotbed of proto- and early-modernism, with works like the Hotel Nacional by McKim, Mead & White from 1930 and the Habana Libre Hotel by Welton Becket with Lin Arroyo and Gabriela Menendez from 1958 standing out both in terms of architectural style and for their respective roles in local and international history.

Furthermore, the Revolution’s communist utopianism was codified through the prodigious production of radically progressive works of architecture by Cuban modernist architects. Those works include the expressionist National Schools of Art by Ricardo Porro, Vittorio Garatti, and Roberto Gottardi from 1961; the Brutalist Ciudad Universitaria Jose Antonio Echeverria (CUJAE) building by Humberto Alonso from 1961; and the vast neighborhoods of Habana del Este that are made up of locally derived designs modeled after Soviet modular apartments.

It is unclear if and when future building improvements are undertaken across the city, whether more recent works of architecture will be prized to the same degree as colonial-era works. Freeman painted a grim picture, saying, “There has been a steady pace of cosmetic refurbishment of old buildings in the colonial core of Old Havana, but (generally speaking) historic preservation efforts have not picked up in any significant way except for those related to tourism infrastructure.”

The effects of the recent formal economic and political changes in official policy are not necessarily new phenomena, however: Havana has strong track record of using historic preservation as an economic driver. The office of the City Historian, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler, has pioneered local attempts to embed the preservation and restoration of Old Havana’s neighborhoods into economic development plans. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right, and while many projects in the colonial core have benefitted from Leal Spengler’s efforts—namely the restoration of Plaza Vieja and a slew of other properties the office has converted for hotel and tourismuses—many of the city’s early modernist and post-revolutionary architectural marvels sit in various states of decay and disrepair. The restoration of the National Art Schools was, until recently, slated for completion and renovation. Those efforts have petered out, subsumed by a new economic downturn following geopolitical turmoil in Venezuela, one of Cuba’s chief oil providers.

Cuban architect Universo Garcia Lorenzo, who was coordinating the renovations for the National Art Schools until the funding dried up, explained that with the Cuban government strapped for cash, major restoration projects in the country will have to rely on international funding. Some help is coming: The Italian government is funding the continuation of work on Gottardi’s School of Dramatic Arts and also, England’s Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation was working to finance the rehabilitation of the ruined, Garatti-designed School of Ballet. But, Garcia Lorenzo said, “I can’t speculate now on when the restoration will be completed,” adding that despite the fact that Porro’s School of Plastic Arts and School of Modern Dance had been completely renovated in 2008, the current funding lapses meant there would be a shortage of funds “dedicated to maintaining those structures into the future.”

International funding cannot come soon enough, as the partially completed and dilapidated structures are exposed to the tropical elements. Garcia Lorenzo said, “Essentially, the three unfinished buildings are frozen in time, slowly decaying and waiting to be restored.”

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Heart of L.A.

L.A. to heal planning scars with ambitious Civic Center Master Plan
The City of Los Angeles is moving quickly in its efforts to rework the historic Civic Center district as it aims to rectify nagging post-World War II era planning and building legacies amid a period of intense development within surrounding Downtown Los Angeles neighborhoods. The areas around the district—roughly encompassed by the 101 Freeway, Judge John Aiso Street, 1st Street and Grand Avenue—are already undergoing broad change, including the recent completion of the SOM-designed Los Angeles U.S District Courthouse and the forthcoming First and Broadway park by Mia Lehrer+Associates and OMA. The area is also due to receive a series of high-rise residential towers from Canadian developers Onni Group, including a boxy scheme by Gensler and a collection of pointed condo towers by AC Martin. The draft plan aims to convert the purpose-built bureaucratic and administrative quarter into a “Civic Innovation District”—a mixed-use neighborhood containing street-fronting retail, startup office space, broad pedestrian paths, a bounty of public parks, and high-rise residential housing. In March, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the new Civic Center Master Plan—a document based on a study by multi-service firm IBI Group that would guide the redevelopment of the area. The plan envisions adding 1.2 million square feet of office space to the area, as well as roughly 1.1 million square feet of housing, and at least 217,500 square feet of retail space, all the while reworking surrounding streets and blocks into a network of interconnected, axially-driven, pedestrian-friendly promenades. Most controversially, instituting the plan involves demolishing a variety of structures, including the historic but socially-problematic former Los Angeles Police Department headquarters from 1955—designed by architect Welton Becket and known as Parker Center. The modernist-style City Hall East building and the Metropolitan Detention Center, a 757-bed federal prison, would also be demolished via the plan, among other structures. Another aim of the plan is to establish City Hall as the visual and conceptual locus for an area that would stitch together the Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo, Arts District, and El Pueblo neighborhoods. The plan would be implemented over six phases beginning later this year with the demolition of Parker Center. That structure was recently denied historic status and is headed toward demolition, to be replaced with a high-rise tower containing 712,500 square feet of office space and 37,500 square feet of ground floor retail. The existing City Hall South building will be replaced starting in 2019 with 569,000 square feet of housing and 90,000 square feet of retail uses in a podium-style tower that would also create a paseo between itself and the City Hall East building. The housing tower would face the Morphosis-designed CalTrans Building from 2004 and would sit diagonally from the new Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters building by AECOM from 2009 that made the Parker Center structure functionally redundant. Starting in 2021, the scheme calls for converting the existing Los Angeles Mall into a 390-foot tall tower complex containing 675,000 square feet of government office, commercial, and flexible spaces. The podium-style building will leave generous, wedge-shaped areas along the ground as open space. A fourth phase would bring another 520,000 square feet of housing and 90,000 square feet of retail to the southern portion of the block containing the Parker Center’s replacement between 2024 and 2027. Planning documents show those structures as a series of wedge-shaped housing towers and low commercial buildings organized around a continuation of the paseo started on the block just to the north. This paseo would connect to the booming Little Tokyo and Arts District neighborhoods, which are due to receive a slew of high-rise, mixed-use developments along the Alameda Corridor, as well. Following that development—the document times phase five to start in 2027—the Metropolitan Detention Center at the eastern edge of the block will make way for a 360,000-square-foot government office and retail tower. It is unclear whether the prison will be replaced locally or elsewhere. The final phase of the plan would demolish the modernist-style City Hall East building, replacing the striking 13-story tower with a small cultural building and a civic plaza. The plan, as specified, would be completed sometime between 2030 and 2032. A recently-released rendering by IBI Group describes the area as a more uniformly 12-20 story tall cluster of towers separated by broad swaths of open space. The plan—more radically—also envisions placing a lid over a three-block section of the 101 Freeway currently dividing the Civic Center from the El Pueblo and Union Station areas. The connection would make the Civic Center area accessible to the currently-under-construction $410 million La Plaza de Cultura project by Johnson Fain, Benchmark Contractors, and the non-profit Cesar Chavez Foundation. That project aims to bring 355 housing units at 46,000-square feet of retail space to the area.   Once completed, the Civic Center Master Plan has the potential to convert the sleepy, bureaucratic district into the lynchpin of a continuous, mixed-use center spanning from Pershing Square at the heart of downtown to the western banks of the Los Angeles River on one end and Chinatown on the other. The areas between the Civic Center and the Arts District are expected to receive a series of stops along the new Regional Connector subway line, a condition that will surely drive further residential and commercial growth in the area. The plan was recently approved by the Los Angeles City Council’s Entertainment and Facilities Committee. It now heads for consideration by the full city council, and eventually, the mayor’s office.
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USModernist

AIA Gold Medal–winner Paul Revere Williams: An African American architect who transformed L.A.’s modernist architecture
The Architect's Newspaper is partnering with USModernist to showcase its comprehensive archive of American modernist designers. This is the first post in a series that will highlight individual entries. Paul Revere Williams was a Los Angeles–born, African-American architect who had an outsize impact on the region’s architectural legacy. Williams graduated from the University of Southern California in 1914 and eventually went on to design over 3,000 buildings over his five-decade-long career. Los Angeles residents and visitors alike are likely familiar with the designer’s work, if not his name—a lasting legacy that only recently came into the spotlight. Williams was posthumously awarded the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) 2017 Gold Medal—the organization’s highest honor, “recognizing individuals whose work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture”—this year. For some, the recognition was thought to have come too late, especially in a field continually struggling with a lack of diversity. Lack of recognition does not detract from greatness, however, and Williams was a titan of American design through and through. As a young practitioner, he worked for architects Reginald Johnson and later John Austin, great architects in their own right. Williams became licensed in 1921, opening his own practice just a year later. He became the first African-American member of the AIA in 1923 and the first African-American AIA Fellow in 1957. Throughout his career, Williams worked across styles and locales, but it was his Modernist-style works that have persevered across time and still inspire us to this day. Williams is perhaps best known, inaccurately, for his collaboration with William Pereira, Charles Luckman, and Welton Becket on the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport from 1961. The Googie-style building is considered to be among the most important midcentury modernist works in Los Angeles, though Williams did not help design it. The structure consists of a flat, disk-shaped observation and restaurant area suspended off the ground by a pair of intersecting, parabolic arches. Some of Williams’s work is located outside Los Angeles, as well, including his collaboration with architect Quincy A. Jones on the Palm Springs Tennis Club and the La Concha Motel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Williams was a virtuoso of architectural style, as best exemplified by the architect’s many residential projects. Williams’s efforts, attuned to Southern California’s finicky penchant for pastiche and historical revivalism, range in style from the Hollywood Regency to the Spanish Revival, and, of course, modernist treatments. Williams was responsible for extensive interior and exterior renovations to the famed Ambassador Hotel in 1949. The architect worked on several renovations and additions to the Beverly Hills Hotel during the 1940s, including the iconic facade showcasing the hotel’s name in fanciful script. Williams dabbled in socially-responsible work, too, and—along with Richard Neutra—was responsible for designing the garden city-inspired Pueblo del Rio public housing projects in 1941. In a testament to Williams's lasting legacy, eight of his works are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and many more are still standing across Southern California. To read more about Williams, see his USModernist entry.