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Double Play

BIG unveils designs for new Oakland A’s stadium featuring a rooftop park
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and the Oakland Athletics have unveiled designs for a transformative scheme that would bring a new baseball park, housing, recreational areas, and a business campus to the city. As one might expect, the project is being pitched as a double-play.  First, the project team aims to create a new professional baseball park on Howard Terminal. The scheme would include an unspecified number of new housing units organized into a collection of wedge-shaped towers surrounding the ballpark. The new district would offer generous pedestrian-oriented areas, including bay-facing wharves and a terraced rooftop park. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the design of the new ballpark emulates turn-of-the-century baseball diamond designs, including the one found at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, where the A’s once played.  Gensler has signed on as executive architect for the project while James Corner Field Operations will be providing landscape architecture designs for the scheme. Dave Kaval, A’s president and a major force behind the project, told The Chronicle,  “Instead of a ballpark that sits like a fortress, this will be open and accessible to the community at all times.” Under the proposed plan, the A’s current stadium, the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, would receive a buzz cut as it is converted into a sunken amphitheater situated at the heart of a new municipal park. The proposed park would include the adaptive reuse of the Oracle Arena, which is currently used by the Golden State Warriors basketball team but will become vacant when they move to San Francisco for the Manica Architecture and Gensler–designed Chase Arena next year. The proposed park will be ringed with new uses, including mixed-use housing, a tech campus, a business park, a “science and technology university,” and other job creation- and community-focused areas. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf referred to the plan as “the right project, in the right neighborhood, and at the right price to our taxpayers” in a statement.

The A’s are currently attempting to work out a deal for use of the Coliseum, including purchasing the complex outright for $135 million. A project timeline has not been finalized, but Kaval has indicated a desire to have the park open for the 2021 season.

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Too Little, Too Late Modern

Landmark status denied for Pereira’s LA Times building addition
The Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) has voted to landmark only the most historic elements of the Los Angeles Times complex, paving the way for the demolition of a William L. Pereira–designed addition from 1970. The decision to deny Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) status for the entire complex comes as developer Onni Group and architects AC Martin push forward on a transformative project that aims to bring two high-rise apartment towers containing over 1,200 units to the portion of the LA Times complex site currently occupied by the Pereira-designed structure. Preservationists Kim Cooper, Alan Hess, and Richard Schave had been fighting to designate the entirety of the complex in an effort that predated the 2016 announcement of the AC Martin–designed project. The approach was geared toward positioning the Late Modern addition as an integral portion of the complex and as a pivotal structure built during a time of growth and expansion in the city of Los Angeles. The council members on the PLUM committee disagreed, however, and instead voted to grant HCM status only to the older portions of the complex, including the flagship Art Deco LA Times building from the 1930s designed by Gordon Kaufman, and a later addition from the 1940s designed by Rowland Crawford. The decision will allow Onni’s project to move forward at a time of increasing change for the Civic Center, which recently saw the completion of SOM’s United States Courthouse, the Rios Clementi Hale Studios–designed Grand Park, and other notable projects. The district is undergoing a forward-looking master planning process that aims to convert the sleepy, single-use administrative enclave into a mixed-use neighborhood complete with apartment towers, office spaces, and new parks, including the forthcoming First and Broadway Park designed by OMA and Studio-MLA. Just around the corner from the proposed AC Martin project, Gehry Partners’s long-awaited Grand Avenue complex recently broke ground. The battle over the future Times Mirror Square complex also comes following a bruising preservation battle aimed at saving the much-derided Parker Center complex, a former Los Angeles Police Department headquarters designed by Welton Beckett. Parker Center is currently being demolished. No word yet on whether an appeal will be filed in support of the Pereira structure or, if further efforts to save the complex fail, when demolition might commence.
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Rich Terrain

Hawaiian sugar mill–inspired building remediates depleted soils
The Los Angeles offices of Perkins+Will and Hawaii-based KYA Design Group have completed work on a new health-focused administrative complex at the University of Hawaii, West Oahu, that, among other things, works to replenish and nurture the site’s depleted, post-agricultural soils. The multi-gabled, masonry-clad complex is inspired by vernacular sugar mill structures and stretches across an open site that was once used to grow sugar cane. The site’s rich soils became depleted after a century of aggressive cane farming, a process that leeched nutrients, organic matter, and topsoil from the site. In response to these conditions, the design team has created a low-impact building that hugs one edge of the site while leaving the overall grounds open to remediation. According to a press release, landscape designs by Belt Collins Hawaii aspire to restore and rebuild the site’s topsoil through nitrogen-fixing planting and by implementing onsite water and nutrient management practices in conjunction with native plantings and other strategies. The building itself will house administrative offices as well as wet and dry lab spaces for the university’s Microbiology, Cellular and Molecular, Anatomy and Physiology, and Organic Chemistry departments. The two-story, roughly L-shaped complex is wrapped on one side by an arcade that provides a covered walkway between the building and the surrounding site. The single-loaded corridor creates a series of deep-set, open-air lanais—Hawaiian outdoor gathering spaces—that extend classroom areas outside the building and frame views of the site. The corridor's use of wide masonry piers echoes the rest of the building, which is wrapped in a monolithic concrete masonry unit (CMU) skin whose pattern is based on traditional Hawaiian kapa cloth. Mark Tagawa, associate principal at Perkins+Will’s L.A. studio said, “The challenge [for the project] was how to best consolidate the distinct functions of teaching labs and classrooms within the same building as office space for the campus administration. We wanted to create a facility that interacted with the landscape in a sympathetic way, through water management, landscaping, and materiality. Cultural and ecological appropriateness was our filter for all design decisions.”
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Big Deal

Getty Research Institute exhibition explores the meaning of monumentality
MONUMENTality, a forthcoming exhibition organized by the Getty Research Institute (GRI) that aims to consider how the meanings of monuments can change over time and why some monuments endure while others fall, is timely if nothing else. The exhibition is set to open on December 4 and comes amid widespread social upheaval that has questioned the legitimacy of long-standing monuments, historical figures, and works of art in contemporary culture. As long-venerated American heroes like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson see their legacies questioned, prominent entertainers and artists and their works face a reckoning in the #MeToo era, and historical monuments celebrating slavery and the American Confederacy fall across American cities, shockwaves have reverberated through society and the art world as a critical reappraisal takes place. The exhibition, which is curated by Frances Terpak, Maristella Casciato, and Katherine Rochester, seeks to take a more art history-focused approach as its curators analyze wide-reaching trends in monumental art, urban planning, architecture, land art, and other media in their search for answers to these contemporary questions. The wide-ranging exhibition investigates monumentality through several lenses and forms of being, including works generated through “systems of belief and structures of power” by showcasing historical rare books, political ephemera, photographs, and contemporary art from GRI’s collection that depict or have been inspired by monuments from antiquity to present day, according to a press release. The exhibition will feature works from many artists and designers, including: Dennis Adams, Annalisa Alloatti, Lane Barden, Mirella Bentivoglio, Joyce Cutler-Shaw, Tacita Dean, Theaster Gates, Leandro Katz, Michael Light, Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Edward Ranney, Ed Ruscha, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, and Lebbeus Woods, among others. Maristella Casciato, curator of architecture at the GRI said, “Monuments, though often meant to stand for eternity, can physically change over time—from erosion, looting, war, or iconoclasm—or they can stay intact but change in their meaning, losing context or relevance, or becoming integrated with daily life in new ways. And monuments can form organically, through the ways that people interact with the built environment.” Casciato added, “MONUMENTality investigates the ways that monuments are necessarily dynamic, ultimately reflecting, through their endurance or failure, the world around them.” The exhibition will be on view through April 21, 2019. For more information, see the exhibition website.
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Cooking with Gasolina

A Mexican food-themed museum is coming to downtown L.A. in 2019
The Downtown Los Angeles-based LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a cultural center located in L.A.'s El Pueblo Historical Monument, is pushing for a new Mexican food-themed museum to open in early 2019. The museum, dubbed La Plaza Cocina, is slated for the forthcoming LA Plaza Village, a new, mixed-use affordable housing development designed by Johnson Fain. The 355-unit complex has been under construction since 2016 and is nearing completion. Designed with landscape architects SWA, the development will bring 71 low-income units to the area, as well a variety of neighborhood-serving retail and cultural spaces, including La Plaza Cocina. The Los Angeles Times reported that the new 2,500-square-foot museum will focus on the history and evolution of Mexican food, with a particular emphasis on the development of Mexican-American cuisines in the Southern California region. It will also house a demonstration kitchen and host programs, events, and exhibitions associated with Mexican food and culture in L.A. L.A.’s Rodrigo Vargas Design is designing the interiors for LA Plaza Cocina. “Los Angeles is the Mexican food capital of the country, and it deserves a place that celebrates the history and culture that we have with Mexican food.” John Echeveste, CEO of LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s important, not only to Latino families, but anyone who eats.” Echeveste described the museum as a “multipurpose space centered around Mexican cuisine in all of its ramifications." It will even feature a separate specialty store on site where visitors can buy spices, foods, and cultural media. According to the report, the museum will offer a slate of cooking and history classes taught by some of the region's best and most well-known Mexican chefs. In the future, it will provide cross-cultural programming with Mexican chefs via live broadcast in Mexico. The entire development is slated for an early 2019 opening.
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How Boring

The Boring Company completes its first tunnel as Elon Musk sells bricks
Elon Musk’s Boring Company has completed its first tunnel, breaking through the other side of a 2-mile-long test track that began in the parking lot of Space X’s Hawthorne, Los Angeles, headquarters. Musk took to Twitter and posted a video of their tunnel boring machine breaking through the track’s final wall in what will eventually become the “O'Leary Station” for a Hyperloop network, though as Arstechnica notes, the location isn’t exactly where the Boring Company had received approval to build a station. Now that the tunnel is complete, the L.A.–Hawthorne tunnel is on track for its December 10 opening date. Although Musk originally envisioned a Hyperloop-style system that would ferry cars under Los Angeles’s traffic-congested highways at 155 miles-per-hour, he later pivoted toward accommodating bikes, buses, and pedestrian traffic as well. This is the same style of system that the Boring Company was selected to build in Chicago to connect O’Hare and the Loop—though that deal is currently facing an injunction from the nonprofit Better Government Association. But what about the refuse that the Boring Company has excavated? Musk first proposed converting tunnel waste into bricks that could be used for affordable housing back in May, claiming that the stone they were mining was “seismically rated” in California. Then, in September, Musk promised that a “Boring Brick store” would be opening in two months and selling bricks for 10 cents each. Now, it looks like Musk is following through with his promise and has founded The Brick Store LLC. From public documents submitted in October, the Brick Store will open at 12003 Prairie Avenue in Hawthorne, only a mile from the Space X headquarters (and aforementioned Hyperloop tunnel). While it’s uncertain exactly how many bricks the Brick Store will be able to offer, Musk has promised that he’ll give them away for free to affordable housing projects. Before the tunnel officially opens next month, the Boring Company will need to extricate their tunnel boring machine using the access shaft and clean up the rubble left behind. Musk claims that the Boring Company will eventually dig tunnels all the way to residents’ private garages.
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City of the Future

CityIQ plans to install thousands of sensors to monitor San Diego
Smart City Expo World Congress, held this year in Barcelona, is an annual architectural, engineering, and technology exhibition dedicated to creating a better future for cities worldwide through social collaboration and urban innovation. Among the projects that were unveiled at this November's event was CityIQ’s proposal to install 4,200 sensor nodes throughout San Diego, California, a major tech hub whose goal is to decrease its carbon emissions and energy use in order to fight climate change. The CityIQ nodes, which are part of an elaborate internet of things (IoT) project, will be coupled with new smart city apps to improve the city’s parking, traffic, and streetlight efficiency by an estimated 20 percent. CityIQ is already cooperating with multiple departments within San Diego, including the police department, San Diego Gas & Electric, and the Traffic and Engineering and Operations unit. The company's IoT project involves embedding sensors and software into the streets of the San Diego in order to collect and exchange data, and just last week, the city agreed to install 1,000 more nodes than originally planned. The new data that will be accumulated by the nodes can support a wide variety of innovative apps, including Genetec, which facilitates real-time emergency response, Xaqt, which displays the latest traffic patterns, CivicSmart, a smart parking app, and ShotSpotter, a gunshot detection app that can locate the scene of the shooter in less than a minute. The city is also working toward bringing a state-of-the-art Lightgrid system onto the streets, whose immediate data collection and connectivity will provide the city with a better understanding of streetlight usage, and it is expected to save the city over $250,000 in energy costs. “Our ability to leapfrog our smart cities technology ahead in both energy savings and scale is a testament to the hard work and ongoing collaboration of many public and private stakeholders,” said San Diego’s interim deputy chief operating officer Erik Caldwell in a statement. “We are proud of our progress so far in building a solution that will stand in the test of time and enhance our citizens’ quality of life.”
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New Lease on Life

L.A. might repurpose its General Hospital as affordable housing
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion this week to study the feasibility of reusing the county’s abandoned General Hospital for affordable, low-income, and mixed-use housing. The motion was authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis as part an initiative that aims to establish a “Healthy Village” in and around the University of Southern California medical campus that surrounds the defunct hospital. The approved motion authorizes the County to lead a detailed feasibility study and to craft a strategic plan with relevant parties to bring the initiative to life. As the “birthplace of emergency medicine,” the Art Deco–style Los Angeles County General Hospital was considered a state-of-the-art institution at the time of its opening in 1933. The 800-bed teaching hospital played a vital role in the community and earned the affectionate nickname “Great Stone Mother,” an allusion to the building’s cascading concrete hospital wings. The New Deal–era structure was built amid the Great Depression and was designed by the Allied Architects’ Association of Los Angeles, a consortium of local architects that took on various municipal projects across the region. The hospital facility is also notable for its relationship to the Chicano Movement of the 1970s and to the community organizing that occurred in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s and 1990s, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. The exterior of the complex is also notable for its appearance in the opening credits of the television show General Hospital. The facility was replaced after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake following the passage of updated structural codes that were passed in response to the disaster. It was replaced by an HOK-designed facility that opened in 2008. The General Hospital is joined by Charity Hospital in New Orleans as one of two major abandoned Art Deco–style hospitals in the United States. In a press release, Supervisor Solis said, “We must be innovative and audacious if we want to end the homelessness crisis and simultaneously increase affordable housing in the region.” Solis added, “Today’s action to transform the abandoned General Hospital into a marquee facility will not only breathe new life into this historic building, but it will also help our most vulnerable residents regain control of their lives. When I look at this iconic structure, I see much more than an architectural gem: I envision a thriving community facility proactively helping people suffering from homelessness and other disadvantages get back on their feet.” According to the approved motion, the completed report and feasibility study will be due back to the Board of Supervisors by fall 2019.
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Fired Up

Celebrities are using private firefighters to save their neighborhoods
As the Woolsey and Camp Fires continue to burn across California, razing a combined total of nearly 250,000 acres and destroying entire towns, celebrities are turning to private firefighting teams to keep their homes safe. Kanye West and Kim Kardashian reportedly hired a team of private firefighters to save their $60 million mansion in Hidden Hills, protecting the rest of the neighborhood in the process. Big insurance companies like Chubb and AIG offer firefighting services to high-rolling clients as preventative measures. As The Atlantic noted, Wildfire Defense Systems, a private company from Montana, currently has 53 fire engines on the ground in California and is working to safeguard 1,000 homes. At a time when climate change-accelerated wildfires are occurring year-round, the privatization of a form of public infrastructure has become more commonplace as well. West and Kardashian first picked up the 15,000-square-foot mansion in 2014 for $20 million, and it’s estimated that the power couple has sunk another $20 million in renovations into the property. Belgian interior designer and staid space enthusiast Axel Vervoordt has been collaborating on the house’s interior, and West revealed a sneak peek of the highly-structural space back in April during a Twitter meltdown. The couple’s private fire team was able to prevent the encroaching Woolsey Fire from reaching a heavily forested field behind their property by digging fire breaks. Because the house sits at the back of a cul-de-sac, it’s likely that a meltdown at the West-Kardashian mansion would have spread to the rest of the block afterward. The privatized history of firefighting in America is well known, dating back to when roving bands of firefighters used to squabble for territory throughout the 1800s; the first responders to put out a fire were the ones rewarded by the insurance companies. Those competitions often saw squads setting fires to intentionally throw off their rivals, but the practice thankfully died out in the second half of the 19th century as government ownership became the norm. A decision in 2010 by firefighters in rural Tennessee to let a house burn down because the owner forgot to pay a $75 fee drew national scorn, but privatized firefighting services are coming back in a big way. The National Wildfire Suppression Association, a group that offers (and lobbies for) private firefighting services currently represents more than 10,000 employees and 150 wildfire contract service companies. It’s estimated that it can cost insurance companies at least $10,000 to send a private team into the field, putting the service far out of the reach of most homeowners. Thanks to the encroachment of the urban environment into wilderness areas, and dry conditions and higher temperatures caused by climate change, the era of megafires in California may be here to stay. But whether the protection afforded to the megawealthy, normally thought of as a common good, remains out of reach for the masses will remain an open question as these fires only become more prevalent.
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Measure Once, Crack Twice

Transbay Authority orders full structural review of failing transit center
The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board of directors has called for a complete structural evaluation of the Pelli Clarke Pelli–designed Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco after installation crews discovered failing steel structural beams there in September. Now, over a month later, the transit center has been closed for longer than it was open as crews work to discover what went wrong. This week, representatives from TJPA, structural engineer Thornton Tomasetti, contractor Webcor/Obayashi Joint Venture, steel fabricator Herrick Corporation, and material supplier ArcelorMittal are all convening in New York to study material samples that were removed from the failing girders for further analysis. Engineering News Record reported that crews discovered bottom-flange cracks near the midpoint of one of the eight-foot-deep shop-welded girders. A second, more serious fracture was discovered running the entirety of a flange on the second beam.  The two beams run parallel to one another over an 80-foot span running over Fremont Street. At a recent meeting, the TJPA board called for a complete structural evaluation of the 1.2 million-square-foot transit center in order to inspire public confidence in the structure’s safety and design. Ultimately, however, TJPA officials currently have no idea why the beams failed and because the fissures were discovered by accident, it is unknown if other areas are prone to fail, as well. At the meeting, one TJPA board member asked, “Was the engineering done right?" before adding, “We need assurance." The structural review team will now work to understand what happened before making design recommendations for how to fix the problem. Once a consensus is reached regarding on the cause of the girder failures, engineers will design a permanent fix that will also be peer reviewed to ensure its safety, Engineering News Record reported. TJPA projects that repairs will begin in December and take several months to complete.
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Blue to A, Red to B

L.A. looks to rebrand its Metro lines using letters and colors
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is moving to rename its new and existing rail and bus rapid transit lines. Metro staff this week recommended a new plan that aims to create a “clear, consistent, [and] uniform wayfinding system” for the transit authority and its 34 million annual riders. The proposed changes would replace the existing color-based nomenclature—Blue, Red, Purple, Gold, Orange, Silver—with letters and colors for the system’s major lines. If adopted as proposed, the transition to the new naming system could begin as early as 2019 when the Blue Line re-opens as the A Line after extensive renovations. In coming years, the so-called Regional Connector project currently being built to connect a pair of lines that dead-end into Downtown Los Angeles will come online, as well, reorganizing and consolidating the number of existing transit lines. Officials hope that the new naming system reduces confusion and makes traveling across the system smoother for local strap-hangers and tourists alike. The proposed policy is a result of extensive study and ridership polling that asked respondents to choose between different configurations of numbered, colored, and lettered options. Eventually, it was decided that a combination of approaches worked best and allowed for the most flexibility, considering that many of the forthcoming lines and extensions are still in the early planning stages and the ultimate configuration of the transit system is still unknown. The changes come as the city works to dramatically expand L.A.’s transit system before the 2028 summer Olympics. Before then, Metro aims to complete 28 major transit projects across the region, including the construction of several new lines and extensions, in addition to the Regional Connector project.
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Meet the Architect-Activist

Designing Justice + Designing Spaces cofounder wins 2018 Berkeley-Rupp Prize
Today, the University of California, Berkeley, announced Deanna Van Buren, co-founder of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), as the recipient of this year’s Berkeley-Rupp Architecture Professorship and Prize. An award honoring architects or academics who show a commitment to sustainability and the community, it offers up the chance to teach and conduct research for a semester at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design (CED). Van Buren is the mind behind DJDS, an Oakland-based nonprofit aiming to holistically transform the American jail system through a vision called restorative justice. As a national leader and advocate for smart justice architecture, her work zeroes in on supportive justice interventions that can help solve the serious issues caused by mass incarceration. Her architecture and real estate development practice, which she launched with Kyle Rawlins in 2015, works with government, non-profit, and community partners to spread awareness and create design projects that address social justice needs. “Deanna is a visionary leader, whose design work and activism are reshaping the cultural construct of justice in the U.S.,” said CED Dean Jennifer Wolch in a statement. “Her support for underserved communities, and efforts to create spaces that cultivate diversity in our field, exemplify the values we strive to encourage with this prize.”
  Van Buren’s extensive background showcases her commitment to the role of architect-activist. Last November, she spoke at a TEDWomen conference where she challenged the audience to consider what the world would like without prisons, and what we could build in their place. Before beginning DJDS, Van Buren founded the public interest design studio FOURM, and earlier this year started BIG Oakland, a new co-working space for minority- and women-owned architecture, engineering, and construction companies. Van Buren previously held positions at Perkins+Will, The Buchan Group, and Eric R. Kuhn & Associates where she completed institutional, educational, and urban design projects around the world. Her portfolio with DJDS includes a handful of peacemaking centers, roving villages, and housing units for youth in both Syracuse and Oakland, among other places. Her latest project is Restore Oakland, a restorative justice and economics center in East Oakland that, when open next spring, will be the first of its kind in the United States. Her team also recently launched the Pop-Up Resource Village in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which brings resources and dynamic programming to in-need communities of color via mobile architecture and nature. Van Buren believes in the power of design and creative placemaking as means to help keep people out of the jail system and provide room for healing as well as training on the systemic injustices that stem from inequality. “Architecture is a potent medium for shifting and solidifying and fomenting movements,” she said. “We can’t do much without space. We can’t launch movements without a place for us to gather that is safe and nourishing.” Among her many accolades, Van Buren is the only architect to have ever been awarded the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, and she’s also held the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. As part of the Berkeley-Rupp Professorship and Prize, she will be awarded $100,000 and the visiting professorship at UC Berkeley starting next fall. There she’ll focus on a book project and teach an intensive seminar that explores architectural responses for peace-building. She’ll also give a public lecture and hold a gallery exhibition. Past recipients of the Berkeley-Rupp prize include Carme Pinós in 2016, Sheila Kennedy in 2014, and Deborah Berke in 2012.