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While the W only opened in Hollywood back in 2010, the hotel has already replaced the original rooftop pool deck for its condos with a new space designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. The old deck, designed by Daly Genik Architects, was beautiful but severe. Rios Clementi Hale opted for a more casual approach, which they call an “outdoor living room.”
The inspiration, said designer Mike Sweeney, is LA’s mix of beach and city, which plays out with a combination of hard elements like concrete and metal, and soft elements like wood and colorful foliage. Visitors walk up a small flight of stairs, surrounded by a dense growth of green and purple native and low water plants, to the pool, as if they were passing through the dunes at the shore. The pool deck is organized around a series of meandering pathways and informal spaces that allow for many activities to go on at once. Sweeney said the arrangement makes “it feel like you’re in a garden in the midst of all these rooftops.”
The scene from the roof is dominated by Hollywood’s jumble of towers, billboards, streetscapes, and hills. The architects placed a double-layered water jet cut aluminum sunshade for the barbecue on the east edge of the space as a nod to the omnipresent signage. More shade is provided by fabric cabanas and the abundant plantings. Custom, irregularly-shaped polished concrete fire tables, imbedded with Micah, add a splash of mysterious darkness and nod to the neighborhood’s legendary Walk of Fame. The matte flooring around the pool is light grey concrete.
The central organizing element of the project is a curving spine that bisects the roof, traced to the south by a giant curving Ipe wood daybed, that, Sweeney notes, matches the large scale of the surrounding city. The slatted Ipe fence behind the bed provides a sense of shape and enclosure, but doesn’t block any views. The daybed as well as the other ipe furniture on the deck was custom built on site. This warm and soft material, tempering the hardness of the city and the rooftop, also clads a self-serve bar area and a gym to the west.
For more than half a century, Hollywood’s film industry has tried and failed to build a museum dedicated to its substantial legacy. Now, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving it another try. Today, the academy unveiled designs by Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali of the Museum of Motion Pictures, to be located inside the historic May Company building on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, next to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).
Piano and Pali’s scheme will restore the Wilshire and Fairfax facades of the 1939 Streamline Moderne building, with its iconic golden cylinder corner, designed by Albert C. Martin and Samuel A. Marx. But rising from the northeast corner of the building will be a spherical glass and steel structure, designed as the museum's focal point, and, as Academy officials have put it, as a representation of "the marriage of art and technology.”
The globe appears to be much more adventurous than any of the additions Piano designed for neighboring LACMA. It will dominate the back of the building, protruding from its top as if a meteor had landed on the May Company. It will merge with a rectilinear glass and steel structure located on the site of a 1940s add-on to the building, explained Pali.
"Hopefully it will transport you to another world, the way movies do," he added.
Above the globe will sit a rooftop deck while large balconies will cantilever from its upper floors.
The project will, said Piano in a statement, “finally enable this wonderful building to be animated and contribute to the city after sitting empty for so long.” Indeed, the May Company building, once a swanky department store, has been largely vacant for almost 20 years. Many of its glass storefronts and entrances have already been restored.
The nearly 300,000-square-foot movie museum will contain exhibitions and galleries, screening rooms (including a theater inside part of the glass sphere), and an interactive education center with demonstration labs. It will draw from the Academy’s huge archives, which include over 140,000 films, 10 million photos, 42,000 film posters, 10,000 production drawings, costumes, props, and movie equipment, among many other objects.
As of now the Academy—its campaign chaired by Tom Hanks and Annette Bening— has raised $100 million of its goal of $250 million for the museum. Last year the Academy scrapped a pricier $400 million plan for a museum on Vine Street by Christian de Portzamparc. That lot now contains a lawn for film screenings.
The museum is set to break ground in 2014 and be completed by 2016 or 2017.
The uneasy alliance of architecture and urbanism is put to the test near the corner of San Vicente Boulevard and Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. The looming presence of the Pacific Design Center (PDC) has long monopolized attention, still more so with the addition of the nearly completed Red Building, which completes the trio of sleek glass forms that Cesar Pelli first conceived more than 40 years ago. Directly opposite is West Hollywood Park, a civic venture masterplanned by Johnson Favaro, whose new library opened last year. The goal is to enlarge the park to five acres by relocating the adjacent pool and gym to a site behind the library. The Red Building—and the PDC at large— steals the limelight with its bold and expressive architecture. But from an urban perspective, the PDC is as unwelcoming as any corporate complex, and its landscaped plaza sees little public use. Even the satellite gallery of MOCA is sparsely attended. In contrast, the modestly scaled buildings across the street are intensively used and better respond to the needs of the community.
This juxtaposition of private and public, overwhelming and reticent, is a textbook case of how and how not to embed a development in a community. PDC was conceived as a glamorous and important alternative to the wholesale design showrooms of other cities, which were located in warehouses on the wrong side of the tracks. It was to do for design what the Music Center downtown was to do for the arts: create a detached temple for initiates. The Blue Whale, which opened in 1975, is a hermetically sealed, windowless glass container for showrooms, accessible only to the trade. Within, it feels labyrinthine and claustrophobic, cut off from natural light and fresh air, and from the bustle of the streets. Once a year it comes alive for Westweek; at other times it appears deserted.
The Green Building was added in 1988, by which time the original program was exhausting its appeal. Herman Miller, Knoll, Vitra, Steelcase, and other contract firms moved to stand-alone showrooms. The Green Building was later converted to offices. The long-delayed Red Building was rethought by Pelli and Gruen Associates. They narrowed the section, incorporated bands of clear glass into the sleek facade, located parking in the lower stories, and placed offices in two elliptical wedges to either side of an elevated courtyard. But the building doesn’t help connect the complex to its community. Cars are ushered deep into the complex, never to be seen again. Still, in contrast to its siblings, the Red Building’s interiors are infused with light and command sweeping views, and the structure’s tapered prow and daring cantilever minimize its bulk and make its fifteen stories a more acceptable neighbor for the two-story houses and shops beyond. It’s also a triumph of engineering and glass fabrication.
Across La Cienega Boulevard, in designing a replacement for the cramped 1960s library that previously occupied the park, Johnson Favaro were challenged to provide greatly expanded facilities on a small footprint and to establish a dialogue with the street and the PDC. “This is an important civic building that will last a long time and we didn’t want it to be dwarfed by the gigantic furniture store across the street,” said Johnson Favaro principal James Favaro. “There’s a cacophony of styles in this community, so we decided that the exterior should be understated and confident. In a noisy room, you can stand out by being quiet.”
To achieve that goal, the facade is expressed as a horizontal composition of glass and white stucco ribbons that undulate and peel away. Each of the three levels is clearly expressed, and the wraparound stretch of glass that lights the third-floor reading room has a projecting frame. A coffee shop and an expansive lobby open onto the sidewalk, an arch leads to the ground-floor city council chamber and the parking structure behind, and steps wind up the north side to the second floor. The contrast with the seamless, scale-less Blue Whale could not be greater.
Inside, too, the building reaches out to its neighbors. Unbroken floorplates at the second and third levels generate a sense of openness and allow for flexible divisions of space. A skylit staircase leads to the open reading room and stacks on the third floor. The ribbon window of the reading room frames a panoramic view of the Hollywood Hills and the PDC, and the wood ceiling, boldly carved with wooden flowers and leaves, evokes nature and the coffered vaults of the great public libraries of Boston and New York. Rarely has a new LA library displayed such erudite exuberance, despite the tight site and budget.
The City of West Hollywood shares the credit for commissioning so ambitious a plan and seeking to complete the second phase, comprising a new gym and pool, then demolishing the old and enlarging the park for a community that has too little green space. Of course the library and the upcoming park are inherently public buildings. But even a private development like the PDC can work harder to engage with the street, with public amenities, larger entrances, and welcoming landscaping that have become commonplace since the PDC was first envisioned.
Elsewhere the city is working to do just that, with plans to improve the public rights of way on the sections of Melrose, Beverly, and Robertson they’ve christened the Avenues of Art and Design, in a similar fashion to the upgraded stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. To the east of Fairfax, efforts continue to revitalize a depressed area, as private developers are encouraged to hire talented architects for new apartment and mixed-use blocks. At least West Hollywood’s more recent initiatives combine to make this 25-year-old city a beacon of good design and humane urbanism. When completed, the park and its amenities should be a model of such urbanism—in contrast to the PDC, which, despite a huge and well-intentioned investment, has failed to engage the public.