Search results for "hollywood"

Placeholder Alt Text

A No-Spoiler Zone

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ingeniously blends existing and fabricated scenery
Los Angeles may be popularly thought of as a city with relatively little regard for the history of its built environment in favor of a ceaseless self-transformation, yet countless examples of the buildings completed during the movie industry’s Golden Era of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, as well as a few fortunate survivors from before that era, remain intact to this day. The production team behind Quentin Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, set in 1969, made ample use of what was available while developing innovative techniques for what was not. Following the friendship of actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they narrowly come into contact with the sordid details of the Manson Family murders, Once Upon a Time takes its viewers through grand, unobstructed views of the city as it appeared half a century ago. A period piece with this much exposure, of course, required a detail-oriented crew to revert the city to its former glory without the extensive aid of digital set extensions. Barbara Ling, the lead production designer of Once Upon a Time, claims to have placed over 170 sets and facades in between preexisting structures to convincingly frame the film in the late 1960s. Lengthy stretches of Hollywood Boulevard, for example, were shut down for production to allow for long sweeping shots of the street as high up as a bird’s eye view. During the street closures, the elements completed off-site were brought in with cranes and quickly set into place. During several close-up shots, the posters and other period-accurate materials in the background were borrowed from Tarantino’s own collection of vintage memorabilia (including the same advertisement for Tanya suntan lotion advertisement famously displayed on the cover of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s book Learning from Las Vegas from 1972). But the film also takes advantage of what the city would never dare destroy. Once Upon a Time begins with Rick, Cliff and Marvin Schwarz (Al Pacino) inside Musso and Frank Grill, the “Oldest in Hollywood,” which is celebrating its centennial this year. Because its interior has been virtually unchanged since it first opened on Hollywood Boulevard, it is only in the transition from interior to the exterior that movie magic is employed, in which the production team skillfully recreated the restaurant’s original parking lot entrance based on old photographs. According to Variety, the restaurant staff even pulled out the original plateware from their storage room. The same creative mixture of reality and fabrication is most brilliantly applied near the end of the film, in which a gorgeous series of sunset shots seamlessly combines the city’s existing neon signage, such as that for the 1963 Cinerama Dome, with those that have been lost to time. But perhaps the greatest challenge met by Once Upon a Time is persuading its audience that Los Angeles is a beautiful city. “Los Angeles may be the most photographed city in the world,” Thom Anderson argued in his 2003 documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, “but it’s one of the least photogenic. It’s not Paris or New York. In New York, everything is sharp and in-focus, as if seen through a wide-angle lens. In smoggy cities like Los Angeles, everything dissolves into the distance, and even stuff that’s close-up seems far off.” While Tarantino’s three previous movies set in the city—Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994), and Jackie Brown (1997)—succumbed to the global stereotypes by depicting it as a gritty hellscape befitting the crime and corruption taking place under his direction, Once Upon a Time portrays Los Angeles with an unapologetic charm rivaled only by Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) and Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Attention to detail and historical accuracy will likely make Once Upon a Time an essential reference for film and architecture buffs alike. As Tarantino contemplates his next and possibly last film (which will, no doubt, be another period piece), one can only hope that his focus on the built environment will somehow be even sharper.
Placeholder Alt Text

Smoke and Mirrors

A look at the flimsy architectural stage sets of William Leavitt
When reflecting on the recent art and architecture scene of Los Angeles, a familiar cadre of names will typically come to mind; Ed Ruscha, Frank Gehry, John Baldessari, and Thom Mayne, to name a few. But beyond the figures that have famously channeled the city’s flair for the dramatic into their creative work, there is at least one artist that has made the spotlight his artistic subject while avoiding it for himself altogether. William Leavitt, now 78, has been quietly producing art about the uniquely modern spectacle of Los Angeles and its built environment since the late 1960s. Leavitt was stunned by the scale of Los Angeles and the hold the movie industry had on the city when he arrived in 1965. Part of a generation that reacted against the plain functionality of modernism in favor of a burgeoning commercial language designed for mass appeal, Leavitt continues to produce illustrations and sculptures which pay special attention to the architecture and interior design aesthetic present in the soap operas, furniture showrooms and suburban basements of the time. Like Ruscha and Gehry, Leavitt was an out-of-towner fascinated by the hastily constructed buildings that popped up around Los Angeles during the 1950s and 60s. But that would be selling Leavitt’s inspirations short. The artist skillfully conflated the kitsch and thinly veiled constructions of mid-century America with the sparse beauty of stage set design employed in so many of Hollywood’s movie studios and independent theatres. In 1988, he wrote about the first time he visited the backlot of a movie studio: “I loved the deception of going up to one of those perfect houses and opening the door and seeing that there was nothing but canvas and 2x4s holding it up. I thought that was spectacular: all the bricks were made of composition board.” The unique balance of image and reality on display throughout the city’s built environment is Leavitt’s primary source of inspiration. While the minimal stage sets of movies and plays are designed to appear more complete to their audiences fixed in place, Leavitt invites his audience to study his sets up close and in the round. As Ann Goldstein described his work, it “tak[es] into account the theatrical potential of the ordinary” while “considering the significance of every detail - location, lighting, atmosphere, props, and sound - and, like a set designer, he assembles a scene where every element plays a role.” One of his most well-known installations, California Patio (1972) is a sculpture depicting an entire setting: a freestanding sliding glass door between blue curtains framing a truncated woodchip garden. The materials of the entire piece might well have been purchased at a local hardware store, yet they become more than the sum of their parts; the 2x4s holding up the structure are more cleanly nailed and the sandbags more delicately placed than what is typically hidden from the screen or the stage. Leavitt’s illustrations, meanwhile, are reminiscent of those used by art directors to describe a stage set to a production crew. In Electric Chair (Interior) (1983), for example, efficiently depicts a sparse basement in which function and utility might be easily be confused for one another.
Placeholder Alt Text

Kings of Leong

AN visits a Los Angeles LGBT Center designed to stand out
In recognition of the many services it has provided for its community for 50 years, the Los Angeles LGBT Center recently opened a brand new campus that was designed to stand out in May of this year. The Anita May Rosenstein Campus was collaboratively designed by Leong Leong and Killefer Flammang Architects to provide courses, space, and amenities for an estimated 42,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths and seniors in Los Angeles each month. The 183,000-square-foot campus offers many much-needed programs for the local LGBTQ community, including youth, senior and drop-in centers, a youth academy and a homeless shelter for up to 100 people. The campus is sited on a relatively quiet intersection at Santa Monica Boulevard and North McCadden Place in Hollywood, built across the street from The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, another facility owned by the Los Angeles LGBT Center which houses a theater, offices, art galleries and community meeting spaces. The campus’s 12 programs were formally separated from one another across the four-acre site to create the visual complexity and porosity of a typical college campus. “Inspired by the mission of the Center,” said Dominic Leong, one of the partners of Leong Leong, “the architecture is a cohesive mosaic of identities and programs rather than a singular iconic gesture.” The rounded edges, fritted glass, and cylindrical skylights are all nods to the circular logo for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, while lending the campus the added benefit of proudly standing out among its boxy neighbors. “The Center’s leaders gave KFA and Leong Leong a clear vision: that the design of the new Anita May Rosenstein Campus must reflect the boldness, optimism, and absolute certainty of the Center’s mission to care for, champion, and celebrate LGBT individuals and families,” said Barbara Flammang, one of the partners of Killefer Flammang Architects. “We hope that the design and formal expression of these buildings and open, landscaped spaces contribute to the flourishing of the people who live in, work at, and visit this wonderful place.” Boldness and openness are apparent design intentions even at night, when the edges of the building’s exterior are highlighted in purple neon, and one can see from the street that even some of the interior spaces appear thick with a purple haze. The layout of many of the building’s living spaces is reflective of many of the gestures prevalent in the coliving spaces being built today, such as WeLive and Second Home. The communal kitchen and main activity room, for instance, can appear as a single large room when the large sliding doors between them are held open, while the lightness and transparency of the design throughout encourages interaction among its clients and staff. Though the campus is now open and has already begun serving its community, the completion of its second phase remains highly anticipated. Expected to be completed early next year, Phase II will include 98 units for seniors and 25 apartments for younger tenants. The intergenerational nature of the campus was intended to spur the commingling of its diverse clientele.
Placeholder Alt Text

On Familiar Ground

L.A. practice Warren Garrett opens a sensuous Montreal atelier
For Marie-Eve Warren, cofounder of boutique firm Warren Garrett, setting up a Montreal atelier earlier this year meant returning home to her native town. She and partner Jeremy Garrett established their interior architecture practice in Los Angeles in 2003. Espousing a refined and harmonious style, the duo made a name for themselves by completing a number of high-end residential projects for Hollywood stars and professional athletes. With extensive travel experience and backgrounds in the creative environments of film, television, and fashion, they were able to infuse their approach with influences derived from international trends, cultures, and lifestyles. Tapping into Montreal's growing prominence on the international design stage but also its strategic geographic position—placing the firm is closer proximity to its projects in Europe, Africa, and North America—Warren Garrett chose the Quebecois city to open a second atelier outpost. “Montreal is an architecturally-rich, sophisticated metropolis that has managed to maintain a sense of small-town warmth and charm,” says Garrett. “It is also experiencing movement towards new high-end real estate developments and luxury environments, and our goal is to offer our insight and expertise in that arena, which has been our practice’s core-focus since our inception. We want to integrate into that movement and to help it strike a balance. Montreal is a stable platform for growth and creativity, with a hyper-creative subconscious and a plethora of inspirational individuals." Read the full article on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood

Renzo Piano crowns the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures with a sweeping glass dome
facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
When it opens in 2020, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, located in the heart of Los Angeles, will be the world’s premier museum dedicated to movies. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the building consists of a renovation and restoration of the 1939 May Company Department Store—now known as the Saban Building—and a new, concrete and glass spherical addition.
  • Facade Manufacturer Saint Gobain Group
  • Architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Executive Architect Gensler
  • Facade Installer Josef Gartner Permasteelisa MATT Construction
  • Facade Consultant Knippers Helbig
  • Consulting Engineer Knippers Helbig
  • Structural Engineer BuroHappold Engineering
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2019
  • System Permasteelisa Gartner system
  • Products DIAMANT Eckelt
The project was inspired by the capacity for cinema to transport viewers to a new world, and the architects think of the 45,000-square- foot sphere as a spaceship. More specifically perhaps, the project evokes the TARDIS—Doctor Who’s time-and-space-traveling police box that’s famously bigger on the inside than appears possible from the outside. As Mark Carroll, partner at RPBW notes, “We didn’t want it too large, because it could overpower the Saban Building. So we tried to keep it small and compact but still big on the inside.” The sphere’s two primary programs drove its design: the spacious 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the Dolby Family Terrace. The majority of this cinematic starship is clad with 680 precast-concrete panels attached to a shotcrete structural frame. The concrete is the visible part of a “box in a box” assembly that was designed to acoustically insulate the theater from within and from without. Behind the precast shell, a floating gypsum box completely encloses the space to provide additional soundproofing. Atop the sphere, a glass dome covers the Dolby terrace, which offers expansive views toward Hollywood to the north. The dome comprises exactly 1,500 overlapping low-iron glass shingles set over a graceful steel frame—a solution arrived at after “many interactions,” according to Carroll. Among the 146 unique shapes of shingles are glass vents, arranged at the top of the dome to help keep the open-air terrace cool. To ensure the structure stays rigid during a seismic event, cables crisscross the frame’s 4-inch structural supports, which span 120 feet across the roof and over the dome, casting dynamic shadows onto the curving facade. RPBW carefully coordinated the construction of the glass and concrete elements, which were cast with openings to attach the dome’s “egg cutter” structure. The project is the latest blockbuster building on L.A.’s Miracle Mile, joining a collection that includes RPBW’s additions to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The futuristic dome is not only an apt addition to the neighborhood but to the original structure, whose Streamline Moderne design offers an optimistic vision of the future from another era. As Piano said, “The Academy Museum gives us the opportunity to honor the past while creating a building for the future—in fact, for the possibility of many futures.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Back in Motion

For its 250th anniversary, San Diego gets an update
This is the third article of AN‘s July/August 2019 print edition feature focused on development. The first, “A new breed of skyscraper threatens to devastate the fabric of New York,” can be read here. The second, "Why the developer’s vision matters in the experience economy," can be read here. As it celebrates the 250th anniversary of its founding this year, San Diego is rethinking past projects, planning billions of dollars’ worth of new projects, and coping with a housing shortage that is making it one of the nation’s least affordable markets. The most significant project on the boards is the redevelopment planned for Horton Plaza shopping center, a 1985 postmodernist downtown mall designed by Jon Jerde. But there are many other megaprojects under construction or in the offing throughout this county of 3.3 million residents. Laura Warner, an architect who moved from the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1980s, watches all this action from her perch as cochair of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchids & Onions program. This 43-year-old education effort celebrates the good and shames the bad in local building, landscape, planning, and historic preservation projects. “We’ve got some really well crafted, well designed, and well detailed buildings that are places that people like to go to, where they want to create memories,” Warner said. San Diego’s architectural zeitgeist goes back to its founding in 1769 by Spanish colonizers intent on protecting the area from European rivals and the local Kumeyaay population. The colonists introduced new building techniques, laid out towns as required by Spain’s “Laws of the Indies,” and built adobe and stucco ranch houses that remain the local go-to style, especially for residential development. The city’s iconic buildings and structures include the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, Reid & Reid’s 1888 Hotel del Coronado, the 1915 Panama-California Exposition grounds in Balboa Park, the 1920s Navy and Marine Corps bases, the 1938 County Administration Center on the downtown waterfront, Louis Kahn’s 1964 Salk Institute, and William Pereira’s 1970 Geisel Library at the University of California, San Diego, campus. Post–World War II car culture led to sprawl, center-city blight, and urban ills shared with other American cities. Some midcentury mistakes are being reversed, but challenges remain: homelessness, high-priced housing (the median home price in May was $591,000), large wage gaps between tourism service workers and high-tech engineers, and relations with Tijuana across the Mexican border. Ten major projects in the works promise to add to San Diego’s collection of notable buildings, but it remains to be seen if any of them rise to world-class, must-see status in the decades ahead. The Campus at Horton Stockdale Capital Partners of Los Angeles bought the Horton Plaza shopping center in 2018 for $175 million with plans to turn it into a high-tech office complex with only half the 600,000 square feet of retail originally required in the center. The Jerde Partnership’s original postmodern design was copied worldwide, and the new owners are seeking ways to retain some of its quirky features. L.A.-area firms RCH Studios and EYRC Architects are the design architects, and RDC is the executive architect for the redesign. The developers hope to complete the first phase by the end of 2020. Chula Vista Bayfront A 535-acre World War II-era industrial zone is being transformed into a complex comprising hotels, housing, retail, parks, and a conference center in this South Bay city’s portion of the San Diego port tidelands. Houston-based RIDA Development plans a $1.1 billion hotel and conference center on 36 acres. RIDA’s architect is HKS of Dallas. Courthouse Redevelopment Another repurposing project involves the 1960s downtown county courthouse. On the first of three blocks owned by the county government would be a $400 million, 37-story mixed-use building developed by Vancouver, Washington–based Holland Partner Group and designed by local firm Carrier Johnson + Culture. Manchester Pacific Gateway The Navy Broadway Complex, which dates back to the 1920s, has been leased to local developer Doug Manchester, who agreed to build the Navy a new West Coast headquarters. He, in turn, won rights to build hotels, offices, a retail galleria, and a museum on the balance of the complex’s 13.7 acres. Gensler is the architect, and construction of the tower is well underway in the $1.3 billion, 3 million-square-foot complex. NAVWAR The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR, formerly the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command or SPAWAR) occupies former Air Force hangars dating to World War II located between Old Town San Diego and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot north of downtown. The Navy, seeking a modern research and development home, would like to repeat its deal on the Naval Broadway Complex by signing up a developer who would deliver such a building in exchange for the right to develop the rest of the site privately. The 71-acre location is also being eyed by regional planners as a “Grand Central” multimodal transportation center. The Navy expects to issue a request for proposals. In the meantime, the local National Association of Industrial and Office Parks chapter sponsored a “university challenge” for a portion of the site. The winning $1.6 billion, 4.1 million-square-foot “Delta District” plan from students at the University of San Diego includes offices, housing, and retail, plus an “innovation center” where education and R&D would meet. De Bartolo + Rimanic Design Studio of San Diego aided the UCSD students. One Paseo Suburban development continues in San Diego County, and one of the most controversial suburban projects, One Paseo, opened earlier this year east of Del Mar on the North County coast. Opponents, led by a rival shopping center company, objected to the density and launched an initiative to kill the project, and the developer, Kilroy Realty, downsized the plans. The retail portion, by the Hollywood architecture firm 5+design, opened earlier this year, and the first apartments are due this summer. San Diego Convention Center Expansion The center, built in 1989 and last expanded in 2001, will appear on the March 2020 city ballot in the form of a hotel tax increase that will fund an $800 million expansion, plus homeless and transportation improvements if it can gain the required two-thirds approval. The main new feature would be a rooftop public park. The project designer is Fentress Architects of Denver. SDSU Mission Valley San Diego State University won voter approval in 2018 over local developers’ rival “SoccerCity” to redevelop the 166-acre site of the former Chargers NFL football stadium site in Mission Valley, north of downtown. When the Chargers returned to Los Angeles, the future of the 70,000-seat, 52-year-old stadium was up for grabs. SDSU plans to replace what is now called SDCCU Stadium with a smaller facility for its Aztecs football team. Developers would be selected to build 4,600 housing units and 1 million square feet of office and retail space that ultimately could be repurposed for academic use to complement the university’s 250-acre campus a few miles to the east. Carrier Johnson + Culture prepared a conceptual master plan, and Gensler is the architect for the new $250 million stadium, which is targeted to open for the 2022 football season. Seaport Village The downtown Embarcadero postindustrial transformation began with the construction of the Robert Mosher–designed San Diego–Coronado Bridge in 1969. The obsolete ferry landing was redeveloped as the Seaport Village specialty retail center in 1980. Now it’s time to turn the 39-acres of one-story buildings into something denser and more sophisticated. The current $1.6 billion plan calls for the usual mix of hotel and commercial uses plus an aquarium, ocean-oriented learning center, a 500-foot skytower ride designed by BIG, and water-centric recreational and commercial fishing features. The project architect is San Diego–based AVRP Skyport. UC San Diego The UC San Diego campus, whose first class of fewer than 200 students took up residence in 1964, is nearing an enrollment of 40,000 and is planning to add three more undergraduate residential colleges to the six already in place. The 2,100-acre campus, spanning Interstate 5 in San Diego’s La Jolla neighborhood plus a community hospital near downtown, has about $10 billion dollars in projects planned over the next 10 years. That doesn’t count the $2.1 billion extension of the San Diego Trolley light-rail system which is due to reach the campus in 2021. The campus trolley stop will lead to a new campus gateway entrance, where several major buildings and an outdoor amphitheater are in the works. An off-campus downtown hub on the trolley line is already under construction. Numerous architectural firms, both local and national, have been engaged to build out the campus, including HKS and San Diego–based Safdie Rabines Architects for Sixth College, now under construction; Seattle-based LMN Partners for the Triton Pavilion, a six-building complex at the new trolley stop; and the downtown hub by Carrier Johnson + Culture. Roger Showley is a freelance writer who recently retired from The San Diego Union-Tribune.  
Placeholder Alt Text

In Memorium

Remembering César Pelli
The death of César Pelli at 92 on July 19 marked the end of an era. Yet the firm he headed with Fred Clarke and his son Rafael Pelli continues, with dozens of important and innovative projects underway. Pelli’s modest demeanor belied the fact that he and his partners designed over 300 buildings and 68 unrealized or theoretical projects. The best known built works are the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur (briefly the tallest buildings in the world), the colorful glass-skinned Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the complex Cleveland Clinic, the American Embassy in Tokyo, and the recent Salesforce Tower and Transit Center in San Francisco (the tallest building there). In New York, they built the 1977-84 addition to the Museum of Modern Art and its residential tower, the World Financial Center—now dubbed Brookfield Place—in Battery Park City, the unusually contextual Carnegie Hall Tower, the Theodore Roosevelt Federal Building in downtown Brooklyn, and the pioneeringly energy-efficient Verdesian apartment building in Battery Park City, along with numerous other buildings that fit into their surroundings so well that they are not easily recognized. An office building for Trinity Church on Wall Street, the Yale Biology Building, the one-million-square-foot Bulfinch Crossing in Boston, a Natural History Museum in Chengdu, China, the Google Tower in Austin, Texas, and 3.3-million-square-foot Union Park in Toronto are among dozens of buildings underway now. Given the size of the practice, the complexity of its projects, their international range, size, scale, and sensitivity to place, it is surprising that the work of Pelli Clark Pelli has not received more critical attention. It is not something the partners sought. Doing innovative work and treating colleagues well has always been the firm’s priorities. César Pelli was one of architecture’s real artists and intellectuals. He was born in the medium-sized city of San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, where one of the most innovative architecture schools in the world opened just before he matriculated. His father, Victor Pelli, was an innovative tinkerer who loved to make things. His mother. Theresa Pelli was a professor at Resistencia, who taught alongside the mother of the woman César would eventually marry, Diana Balmori. They got to know one another in architecture school, and then applied to various graduate programs together around the world. They ended up moving to the United States, where César earned a Master’s degree at the University of Illinois. It was not easy. Other young Argentinians they knew soon returned home. Diana once told me that they sold their wedding presents to make ends meet, but that fact that she spoke excellent English helped. Then, César’s professor recommended that he join the very busy office of Eero Saarinen in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. That move was not easy for Diana either, who had two young sons, but it was there, on the lush Cranbrook campus, that she developed an interest in landscape design. Saarinen’s office, enriched by the opportunity to design the $100 million, 320-acre General Motors Design Center, had attracted talented young architects from all over the world. César soon became the one Saarinen trusted with some of his most challenging projects. The firm was thriving with numerous enticing commissions. Eero had recently remarried journalist and architecture critic Aline Bernstein Saarinen, who wanted to move to the East Coast where her career, and increasingly Eero’s, was centered. Lonely in Michigan, she often invited the Pellis to join them for lunch. But soon after the birth of their son Eames, Eero developed a brain tumor and died within days. The firm moved to New Haven as planned to finish his work. César was in charge of two of the most challenging projects: the proto-postmodern Morse and Ezra Stiles Colleges at Yale, which imaginatively acknowledged Gothic Revival buildings nearby, and the TWA Terminal at JFK (then Idlewild) Airport in New York, which has now been restored and turned into the centerpiece of a new hotel. When Saarinen’s work was completed, some associates formed a successor firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Partners, but the Pellis instead moved to the booming Los Angeles. César went to work first for the pragmatic commercial firm, Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall from 1965 through 1968, then to Gruen Associates from 1968 through 1976, often collaborating with young talented international architects he had known at the Saarinen firm, such as Anthony J. Lumsden. By the mid-70s, Pelli, who had been teaching part-time at UCLA, decided he would like to work in architectural education. He was offered deanships at UCLA, Harvard, and Yale, that last being where he moved in 1977 and had been living ever since. Soon he was invited to expand the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, so he opened the original Cesar Pelli & Associates office in New Haven, which continued to grow after he stepped down as Yale dean in 1984, but which still operates on an open-minded academic model. Over the years, Pelli worked on and off with Balmori, who herself developed an innovative practice in landscape design. She died in 2016. César Pelli is survived by sons Rafael and Denis, as well as dozens of colleagues, friends, clients, former students, and admirers. His legacy is enormous.
Placeholder Alt Text

In Memoriam

César Pelli, Argentine architect of the modern skyscraper, dies at age 92
Argentine architect César Pelli passed away on Friday at his home in New Haven, Connecticut, according to a state news agency and government officials. He was 92 years old.  The award-winning architect was responsible for designing some of the most famous skyscrapers in the world, including the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, The Landmark in Abu Dhabi, the recently completed Salesforce Tower, and the first phase of the adjacent Transbay Transit Center, both in San Francisco. While Pelli was largely known later in his career for his innovative glass towers, his earlier years in architecture were majorly influenced by who he worked with and where he lived.  Born October 12, 1926, in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, Pelli completed his undergraduate architectural studies at the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. After briefly working in the country, Pelli moved to the United States in 1952 to pursue his masters at the University of Illinois School of Architecture. From there, he worked in Michigan under Eero Saarinen for a decade, designing small pieces on projects such as the TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport.  Before starting his eponymous firm Cesar Pelli & Associates in 1984, Pelli held leadership positions at Daniel, Mann, Johnson, and Mendenhall and Gruen Associates in Los Angeles. At the latter firm, he designed his seminal Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the all-glass, 1,600,000-square-foot facility known as the “Blue Whale.” In 1977, Pelli began his 12-year tenure as dean at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, where he continued to live until his death.  Seven years into his deanship, Pelli received the commission for the 1984 expansion and renovation of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which, according to the New York Times, forced him to open his firm. He then went on design the World Financial Center and Winter Garden (now known as Brookfield Place) in Lower Manhattan, additional terminals for the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and scores of towers in London, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Jersey City, among other global cities.  In 2005, Pelli renamed his studio to Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, giving credit to his long-time partner Fred Clarke and son Rafael, who assumed a large role in the company. His wife, Diana Balmori, was a landscape architect, urban designer, and a partner on his team as well. She passed away in 2016. They are survived by another son, Denis, and two grandchildren.  Though Pelli didn’t open his firm until age 50, the impact he made on architecture within the last four decades of his life was widespread. He designed hundreds of buildings and was awarded just as many times for his efforts. Pelli received the profession’s highest honor, the AIA Gold Medal, in 1995.   In response to Pelli's passing, Robert Ivy, chief executive officer of the AIA, provided the following statement: “César Pelli was a consummate architect, teacher, and mentor. Rooted both in the creative legacy of Eero Saarinen and the pragmatic leaders of west coast development, César transformed skylines around the world and influenced the modern city as we know it. A master of both the urban scale and the carefully conceived individual detail, he leaves a legacy that stands as tall as the buildings he designed and as rich as the lives of the many architects whose careers were shaped by his generous teaching.” 
Placeholder Alt Text

Well Actually, it's the Bloomberg Building

The summer shows at the Shed take an eclectic look at the built environment
The Shed at Hudson Yards, the new inflatable arts venue on the western edge of Manhattan, has assembled a varied group of visual art exhibitions that are all on view through August 25. Open Call: Group 2 in the Level 2 Gallery and Collision/Coalition in the Level 4 Gallery all boast new artworks centered on the built world. Julia’s Weist’s Study for Fiction Plane makes its world debut in the Open Call show. Weist has aggregated a collection of eight photographers’ work depicting fabricated, simulated spaces or “sets” by artists ranging from Larry Sultan, Sarah Pickering, Corrine Botz, and the artist herself. Fake hospital rooms where actors affect symptoms for medical students, ersatz domestic spaces set afire for burn pattern analysis, a mock city constructed by the FBI, and a Mars simulator are some of the sites. Weist is now collaborating with Hollywood artists to place these photos in the background of upcoming TV shows to add another layer of artificiality. Another hall of mirrors, this time more literal, is in Hedges, 2019 by Hugh Hayden, where a shingled house with dormers is covered with large sprouting branches like the twigs of a bird’s nest is set inside three mirrored walls to reflect an infinite row. Gabriela Corretjer-Contreras’s Llévatelo To’ No Me Deje Na, 2019 takes us inside her alter-ego Nena’s bedroom from Puerto Rico where we can try on her clothes and examine her personal environment, with mementos of the colonial experience. Modern Management Methods, 2019, tackles the United Nations headquarters renovation in Manhattan. Caitlin Blanchfield and Farzin Lotfi-Jam used UN archives and X-rays to focus on the campus renewal that followed 9/11, and they take on such issues as security, nationalism, environment, accessibility, as well as the bureaucratic framework of this multi-billion-dollar capital project. The duo describes their artwork as a building section cut that simultaneously reveals “global managerialism.” Analisa Teachworth’s The Tribute Pallet, 2019, invites viewers into a shack-like scaffolded structure with a multimedia installation and a table with glass jars holding candy to be eaten by visitors. Similar to Kara Walker’s monumental Domino Sugar installation in 2014, the slave trade is called out in the harvesting and processing of sugar. Similarly, Kiyan Williams’s Meditation on the Making of America, 2019, uses soil as its main material for a “portrait” of America that violently extracted and exploited black bodies and the land. And The Forever Museum Archive: The untitled/A Template for Portable Monuments by Onyedika Chuke, 2019, is a structure adorned with snakeheads and symbols of divinity, protection, and descent. A bonus is New York’s Poetry Slot Machine, 2019 by Saint Abdullah and Daniel Cupic, which is based on a relic from WWI placed on the streets by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. They featured the poetry of the Persian poet Hafiz, which was used by Iranians for guidance when facing critical decisions. Surplus slot machines from empty casinos were installed around the city in 1917 and raised $2 million during WWI, $4 million during the depression and $6 million during WWII. At the Shed, you pull the lever and get a poem by the 14th-century poet instead. On another floor is the exhibition Collision/Coalition featuring work by Oscar Murillo. His canvases, dummies, and video depict a walk from Hudson Yards, where the Shed is located, to Rockefeller Center with the dummies pushed in wheelchairs. His central conceit is that the newly opened Hudson Yards is the inheritor to Rockefeller Center, a take very similar to that of The Related Companies chairman Stephen Ross.
Placeholder Alt Text

Coworking Coming Soon

DesignAgency to retrofit L.A.'s historic Bradbury Building for coworking
NeueHouse, the private coworking space company in Hollywood, has announced its expansion to the iconic Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles. Coming this November, the up-and-coming company will cement its place in the history of businesses that have occupied the 126-year-old property.  Built in 1893, the Romanesque-office building is lauded for its Victorian-style skylit atrium—a narrow scene featuring balustrades of ornate ironwork and a series of walkways, stairs, and elevators that conjure up memories of a Parisian alleyway. It was designed by architect Sumner Hunt and is the oldest commercial building in L.A.’s central city. Following a $7 million renovation in the 1990s, square footage in the city-landmarked building has been in high demand. In recent years, it’s been home to a Chinese art gallery, an architecture and design museum, Marvel Comics, and the Berggruen Institute, among others. The police department currently holds a 50-year lease for its office of internal affairs.  Keeping this productive and inspired spirit in mind, NeueHouse has called upon local firm DesignAgency to outfit the second floor of the building with a contemporary vision that’s respectful of the structure’s historic integrity. Utilizing the entirety of the 25,000 square feet of space, the design team will have plenty of room to build out amenities for the company’s professional members, such as a gallery, lobby café, conference space, private offices, and a meditation nap room. According to DesignAgency’s founding partner Anwar Mekhayech, this is what the interior architecture studio does best.  “Inhabiting signature buildings, we create interiors that offer a sense of history, an air of residential modernity, an aura of timelessness,” he said. “At the same time, we are driven by the challenge of anticipating every need of the contemporary creative professional.”  The Bradbury Building is a fitting second West Coast location for NeueHouse given the track record of innovation and artistry that’s happened within the historic structure. Many films such as the original Blade Runner and 500 Days of Summer have been shot in the five-story building, as well as music videos by Janet Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, Cher, and Justin Timberlake. According to NeueHouse CEO Josh Wyatt, who just secured $30 million in funding for the startup, the new space supports its main goals. “Our mission of fostering a creative system at the intersection of commerce and culture, underpinned by design-driven environments, elevated hospitality, and original cultural programming, is what sets NeueHouse apart.” NeueHouse Bradbury is the company’s third location. In 2016, the company opened its flagship office in the former West Coast CBS headquarters at Columbia Square, which is currently at capacity and boasts an extensive waitlist for membership. Its second spot in Madison Square, New York, is full as well.
Placeholder Alt Text

L.A. Transforms Itself

Before the 2028 Olympics, L.A. embarks on its most transformative urban vision in a generation
The 2028 Summer Olympics (L.A. 2028), officially known as the Games of the XXXIV Olympiad, are coming to the Los Angeles region in just nine years. The event will make Los Angeles only the third city in the world, behind Paris and London, to ever host the games three times, and could potentially cement the city’s status as a 21st-century global economic, entertainment, and cultural powerhouse. But what will it take to get there? Though L.A. 2028 has been billed by organizers and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as a no-frills affair that will make use of existing or already planned facilities—“we could do the Olympics probably two months from now,” Garcetti quipped in a recent interview—the effort has become a symbolic capstone for a variety of ongoing urban and regional metamorphoses across Southern California. This symbolic quality has transformed the Olympics from a novel pipe dream into a rallying cry for what could be the most transformative urban vision the city and region have seen in over a generation. When L.A. last held the games in 1984, city officials made history by holding the first and only Olympic games that turned a profit. The effort’s success resulted from a distributed event model that used existing university student housing and training facilities to create a networked arrangement of mini–Olympic Villages across a region spanning from Santa Barbara to Long Beach. Organizers also presented a novel media strategy for the games by fusing spectacular and telegenic installations by Jon Jerde and colorful magenta, aqua, and vermilion graphics by environmental designers Deborah Sussman and Paul Prejza with the marvel of television broadcasting, giving the impression of a cohesive urban vision for the games despite the fact that some locales were more than 100 miles apart from each other. For 2028, local officials are hoping to repeat and surpass these successes. Garcetti, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the private L.A. 2028 committee tasked with bringing the games to life have stated that unlike many recent Olympic games around the world, L.A. 2028 is designed on paper to break even, financially speaking—once again, mainly due to the lack of new purpose-built structures or venues that would be created for the event. But these verbal and rhetorical gymnastics mask the full extent of the coming transformations and underplay both the scale of the games and the effects of what L.A. will have to accomplish to make them happen. In reality, L.A. 2028 will not be possible without the completion of several key initiatives, namely, the ongoing expansion of Los Angeles County’s mass transportation network and the planned expansion and renovation of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). As part of a 50-year vision to double the size of the region’s mass transit network, Mayor Garcetti helped pass a sweeping ballot initiative in 2016 that will transform L.A.’s transportation system. Afterward, as Garcetti worked to secure the Olympic bid, he unveiled the Twenty-eight by ’28 initiative to speed up and prioritize certain transit improvements outlined in the 2016 plan so they can be completed in time for the games. In total, the plan aims to complete 28 infrastructure projects by the time the games begin. One of the new transit lines due to be completed by 2028 will connect the southern end of the San Fernando Valley, where track and field and other events are to be held at the Valley Sports Park in the Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area, with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where the Olympic Village is to be located. There, the university is busy preparing to add 5,400 new student housing units. Up to 6,900 new student beds are envisioned by UCLA's latest Student Housing Plan, while up to 1,400 additional student beds could be brought online at several other UCLA-adjacent sites, as well. Though these projects are being built to help address a severe shortage of student housing, they will also ensure that when Olympians arrive to compete in 2028, their accommodations will be in tip-top shape. The southern end of the UCLA campus will connect to the forthcoming Purple Line subway extension, another project that is being sped up in preparation for the games. The line will link UCLA to Downtown Los Angeles, where many of the transit network’s lines converge. The 9-mile extension to the line was originally planned in the 1980s, but was held up by decades of political gridlock. Between UCLA and downtown, areas like West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood are adding thousands of new hotel rooms in advance of 2028. Though the region is carved up into competing municipalities that have a history of working at cross purposes, it is clear that local decision makers are readying these districts to absorb a substantial portion of the incoming flood of international tourists. For example, a current bid to extend the forthcoming north-south Crenshaw Line— which will connect LAX with the Purple Line north through West Hollywood—has picked up steam in recent months in an effort to provide a direct ride from the airport to this burgeoning hotel and nightlife quarter. L.A. 2028’s major sports park will be located at the L.A. Live complex in Downtown Los Angeles, near the eastern terminus of the Purple Line, where city officials have also been pushing for an expansion of hotel accommodations. Here, as many as 20 new high-rise complexes are on their way as the city works to add 8,000 new hotel rooms to the areas immediately surrounding the Los Angeles Convention Center, where basketball, boxing, fencing, taekwondo, and other sporting events will take place. This new district will be tied together by a nearly continuous podium-height band of LED display screens that could produce a modern-day equivalent of Jerde’s, and Sussman/Prejza’s visualizations. Just southeast of Downtown Los Angeles, the Expo Line–connected University of Southern California campus will host the Olympic media village, which will also make use of existing dormitory accommodations, including a recently completed campus expansion by HED (Harley Ellis Devereaux). Gensler’s Banc of California stadium, also a recent addition, is located nearby in Exposition Park, the home of the 1932 and 1984 games, and will host soccer and other athletic events in 2028. In the park, a newly renovated Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will be retrofit with an elevated base to allow Olympic medalists to rise up out of the ground to receive their honorifics. A trip south on the Crenshaw Line will bring visitors to the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park, a new state-of-the-art stadium being built for the Los Angeles Rams National Football League team by Turner and AECOM Hunt that is set to open in 2020 and will host the L.A. 2028 opening ceremonies. The stadium will be much more than a sports venue, bringing together a 70,240-seat stadium and a 6,000-seat concert hall under one roof. Its total capacity for mega-events can be stretched to 100,000 people. The stadium will also serve as an anchor to a much larger, 300-acre district that includes commercial, retail, and office buildings along with residential units. This development, formally called the L.A. Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park, is expected to be twice as big as Vatican City. Its staggering expense of more than $5 billion is tempered by the fact that it relies more on private financing than many other NFL stadiums built in the last three decades, which have traditionally leaned heavily on taxpayer funds and the pocketbooks of football fans. Besides the L.A. 2028 games, the stadium is also expected to host the 2022 Super Bowl and the 2023 College Football Playoff Championships. Not far away, Los Angeles World Airports is working on a multiphase effort to bring two new terminals and dozens of new flight gates to the airport, including a $1.6 billion Gensler and Corgan–designed terminal capable of handling “super-jumbo” airplanes for long-haul international flights. The facilities are set to open by 2028 and will join new consolidated transportation hubs that will streamline private automobile, mass transit, and pedestrian traffic for the busy airport. At the end of April, the L.A. 2028 organizing committee updated the estimated cost to be about $6.9 billion, up from the $5.3 billion figure submitted in the city's bid. This still hasn't changed the expectation that L.A. will at least break even on hosting the games. These projects show that while the L.A. 2028 Olympics are being somewhat undersold by their boosters, the investments necessary to bring the games to L.A. are, in fact, quite vast. Ultimately, future Angelenos might look back quizzically at the muted rhetoric surrounding the games and the once-in-a-generation effect they will have on the region.
Placeholder Alt Text

50/50 Chance

Stalled California housing bill could give architects chance to redesign the state’s cities
California needs 3.5 million housing units. That’s more housing units than currently exist in most states. This shortage—California ranks 49th in housing units per capita, ahead of only Utah—developed slowly but has metastasized into a true crisis, with housing costs rising to untenable levels for all but the most well-off Californians. In considering how and where to add a volume equivalent to all of Virginia, a key question is, what state—or, rather, what city—will those new units look like? Will they look like the tract homes of Phoenix? The row houses of Philadelphia? The high-rise apartments of New York City? The triple-deckers of Boston? The genteel mansions of Richmond? Or, perhaps worst of all, the mid-rises of Hollywood? The answers depend in large part on where new housing gets built. A recent bill in the California legislature almost provided the answer—almost. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by San Francisco–based State Senator Scott Wiener, would have mandated increased housing densities around major public transit lines and “jobs rich” areas throughout the state by requiring cities to permit multifamily buildings of up to five stories by right. Wiener contended that California needs more housing and that the best locations are those that enable residents to minimize commuting by personal automobiles. A relatively late amendment would have eliminated single-family zoning, permitting homeowners to build up to four units on any single-family lot, and limited the high-density provisions to counties of over 600,000 residents. California has always maintained a tense relationship with density, often failing to plan for it while suffering its ill effects all the same. SB 50 could be the catalyst to help the state abandon its suburban fetishes once and for all. An updated version of a bill that Wiener sponsored last year, SB 50 nearly made it out of the State Senate until Appropriations Committee Chair Anthony Portantino scuttled it with a procedural tactic, refusing to bring it to a vote in committee. The move put an abrupt end to what had arguably been the most heated debates over land-use legislation in state history. SB 50, like many other recent controversies related to development and housing in California, did not inspire neat loyalties. While its core support came from the increasingly influential YIMBY movements and core opposition came from homeowners, the politics were messy at best. Conservatives could love its relaxation of regulations but hate its emphasis on dense urbanism. Liberals were more intensely fractured. SB 50 appealed to values of inclusion and of progressivism, be they socioeconomic or aesthetic. For some, the bill served the cause of equity simply by potentially creating more housing. Other liberals saw it differently. Advocates of social justice feared SB 50 would empower capitalist developers while displacing and disenfranchising vulnerable populations through eviction and demolition. Older liberal activists, especially in suburban areas, put their economic interests first, recoiling from the prospect that increased housing supply might depress their property values. Many of them protested SB 50’s potential to interfere with “neighborhood character.” (Wiener’s antagonist Portantino represents La Cañada Flintridge, a comfortable suburb north of downtown Los Angeles.) Institutionally, the League of California Cities and many city councils statewide condemned SB 50 for trampling on “local control,” asserting that land use decisions have always belonged to municipalities and municipalities alone. Many mayors, however, including those of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, praised SB 50 for giving cities a new opportunity to ease their housing crisis—and to do so equitably statewide, forcing housing-phobic cities to approve their fair share of housing rather than ignore demand and dodge their obligations in the name of municipal sovereignty. By some accounts, a full 97 percent of California cities failed to meet their state-mandated housing goals in 2018. The California chapter of the American Planning Association controversially opposed SB 50, citing concerns about technical aspects of the bill’s language, even though many of its more progressive members favored it. Chapters of the American Institute of Architects did not take a position on it. Design rarely factored into these discussions explicitly, but its influence cannot be overlooked. Fears about changes to “neighborhood character” often accompany prejudices about “undesirable” racial or socioeconomic groups. They also refer to lousy design. Many homeowners recoiled against SB 50 out of fear that modest cottages might be overshadowed by a new triplex next door or crowded by the addition of an accessory dwelling unit. Urban activists took aim at even bigger targets. Opponents of growth in Los Angeles in particular have long railed against what they consider oversized, ugly, and excessively capitalistic apartment buildings. Such enormities often occupy full city blocks and rise five or six stories, with wood framing above one-story concrete bases. They have been the mainstay of Hollywood’s decade-long growth spurt and have arisen in many other moderately dense neighborhoods around the state. Revulsion is, often, completely justified. Large but underwhelming, and expensive but unrefined, such developments have poor detailing, clunky dimensions, and, often, antagonistic relationships with the street. They have neither humor nor grace nor character, and they succeed at one thing and one thing only: housing many people. Typically, those people are well off—or at least are pretending to be. While California’s housing crisis has many causes, it’s not unreasonable to say that lousy design is one of them, and it’s not unreasonable for opponents of SB 50 to make apocalyptic predictions about aesthetics. This is the backdrop against which architects should contemplate the revival of SB 50. Wiener has pledged to bring it back next year, and the appetite for major housing legislation remains fierce—before long, some version of SB 50 will pass, and the opportunities for architects and architecture will be profound. The quality of design that follows the passage of the next version of SB 50 will, without exaggeration, determine the look, feel, and function of California cities for at least the next generation. Many opponents of SB 50 criticize it as a "giveaway" to capitalist developers. If architects are to support the next version of SB 50, they should want to be seen as stewards, not opportunists. Upzoning around transit stops will create entirely new transit-oriented neighborhoods. Places that currently consist of park-and-ride lots and single-family homes will rise to five and six stories, with less parking than most zoning codes currently mandate. That’s like taking a cookie cutter to San Francisco’s Mission District or Los Angeles’s Koreatown and depositing the result in bedroom communities and office parks. Of course, California has hundreds of major transit stops and jobs centers (over 200 light- and heavy-rail stations alone), and the whole point of SB 50 is to distribute development statewide so that neighborhoods grow gradually. Even so, some places will be transformed sooner rather than later. In a state where many residents are mortally afraid of density, the choices that architects make will determine whether the new urban California is a dream or a nightmare—they can stumble into the latest versions of capitalist postmodern, or they can reflect on everything we have learned about the benefits of density. Designs have to be thoughtful, attractive, and socially conscious. They have to celebrate density, enhance the public realm, and give California cities a sense of style and character that they have lacked for decades. (Likewise, cities’ design guidelines and review boards will have to get savvier.) If SB 50’s single-family home provision survives (which seems unlikely), it will create a bonanza for residential architects. They will get to re-learn the art of the duplex, triplex, and quadplex—typologies that used to be common in California but have been all but extinct since the Truman administration. But new homes must not realize neighbors’ worst nightmares. They must not loom over their predecessors. They must not be large for largeness’s sake. In short, they must treat neighbors as clients. Whatever lawmakers intend for SB 50, the public will render its final judgment according to how architects seize the moment. Whether they like it or not, architects bear the final responsibility to fulfill the public trust. Of course, the real beauty of SB 50—if it comes to pass and if it works as intended—will be invisible. That will be the opportunity to craft affordable and humane housing for hundreds of thousands Californians.