Search results for "michael maltzan"

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“Greatly Exaggerated”

Rumors on changes to One Santa Fe are just internet hype
Like any responsible citizen, you too were probably surprised this week when the Los Angeles arm of The Real Deal published the sinisterly-titled article “Berkshire Group is renovating One Santa Fe to better ‘blend in’ with neighborhood.” That article speculated upon an earlier story published by Globe Street, where Eric Schrumpf, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions at Berkshire Group, the real estate investment management company that paid $200 million for One Santa Fe earlier this month, was quoted as saying, “We want the property to blend in with and remain true to the original nature of the Arts District.” Could Michael Maltzan Architecture’s 2014, 434-unit housing-as-infrastructure ground scraper on the far edge of L.A.’s Arts District be in line for a facelift? With the rapidly rising land values in the Arts District, the recent ground-breaking for a dull $215 million development across the street, and One Santa Fe’s short but provocative existence, it was not difficult for The Real Deal article to stir a pot of worry and cynicism in the internet community. After LA Observed published its own article, describing the quarter mile-long structure as “not very inviting,” Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne interpreted the news as a missive from the “be careful what you wish for dept.” over Twitter. It all turns out to simply be not a lot of hot air. When AN reached out to Michael Maltzan Architects and Berkshire Group for comment on the matter, we were met with a sort of bewilderment over the news. Michael Maltzan characterized the reports of large-scale changes to One Santa Fe as "greatly exaggerated" and “wishful thinking” to The Architect's Newspaper during a telephone interview while Schrumpf remarked via email, “We have no plans for any significant renovations or major changes to the asset.  I’m not sure where the information that was incorporated into some of the early articles came from, but it is not accurate.” Maltzan prefaced our conversation by stating “We’ve been in communication with Berkshire Group since they took over the building. As far as I know, there are no plans for significant changes to One Santa Fe” before describing the building as still in the process of coming fully online. It turns out some of the commercial spaces surrounding the new Hennessey and Ingalls bookstore needed basic maintenance, he said, reiterating, “the scale of the changes is small.”
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To Live and House in L.A.

Mayor Eric Garcetti aims to dedicate $138 million in funding to combat homelessness in L.A.

Estimates for 2015 released by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority put Los Angeles County’s homeless population at 44,359 individuals, with 17,687 of the 25,686 homeless residents of the City of Los Angeles being completely unsheltered. On April 20, in what is being referred to as a call to arms across the city, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he had appropriated $138 million in funding aimed at addressing some of the needs of this vulnerable and marginalized population. A portion of the new funds—$86 million—is earmarked for the development of permanent affordable housing.

Though the sum is vast, there are serious concerns regarding the viability of the proposal’s funding sources. Garcetti’s budget calls for the majority of the funds to be raised from linkage fees paid by developers, a set of fees that are not currently collected by the city. Should the L.A. City Council approve the mayor’s budget, it will have to instate new linkage fees as well. Simultaneously, homeless-relief advocates consider the $138 million sum a pittance of what is needed to seriously address the area’s entrenched homelessness issues, with many calling for a November ballot initiative to establish a permanent fund for the cause. Additionally in this election year, homelessness is being seen more widely as a phenomenon directly related to what some see as a rise in income inequality and endemic wage stagnation.

Amid this context, the impact of this new funding for affordable and supportive housing could be vast. The City of L.A. is planning to use the sale or redevelopment of several surplus properties it holds to fund some of the construction of new affordable housing. L.A.’s Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a nonprofit established in 1989 to build permanent affordable housing for low-income Angelenos, will likely be one of the organizations to lead the efforts in increasing the city’s affordable-housing stock. And, with recently completed projects by high-caliber area firms like Michael Maltzan Architecture, Brooks + Scarpa Architects, and Killefer Flammang Architects, SRHT is poised to lead the campaign to win the hearts, minds, and pockets of the city’s many powerful, moneyed interests resistant to homeless housing in their neighborhoods. Regarding the recently completed Brooks + Scarpa SIX project, SRHT CEO Mike Alvidrez remarked, “We’ve tried to showcase the architect’s talents. Good design is an integral part of all the work that we do.” He went on to say, “The city, county, and state have always made dollars available for affordable housing, but at too small a scale. [SRHT’s projects have shown that] high-quality affordable housing can be attractive and be seen as a valuable aesthetic contribution to the communities in which they are developed. Hopefully [good design] will assuage some of the concerns people have; there’s no reason well-designed buildings and housing for homeless people across L.A. can’t coexist.”

After AN contributor Peter Zellner wrote a blistering critique of L.A.’s response to the homelessness crisis, the city’s American Institute of Architects chapter got involved by convening a congress aimed at bringing together designers, affordable-housing leaders, and politicians around homelessness issues. Adding to his critique, Zellner said, “Architects and designers have to become more involved politically in order to raise awareness. It would be incumbent upon architects to think of forms of urbanism that integrate approaches for housing the homeless and articulate a viable alternate vision [for L.A.’s future] that is dense, vertical, and integrated. [We can] lead through design.”

The congress, called Design for Dignity, took place on May 6 and featured panel discussions and lectures from advocates working across the city, from the streets of Skid Row to the corridors of City Hall. Regarding the role design can play in addressing the homelessness crisis, congress participant, architect, and homeless-relief advocate Michael Lehrer said, “We have to create places that are nurturing and safe—that’s important. It’s also critical the response provides a range of types of inhabitation. Some of these informal communities are old and have deep social structures: How do you provide a wholesome existence and place and still provide space for individuals who are not fully interested in being a part of the social armature?”

With the state of California recently announcing a $2 billion plan to fund affordable housing for mentally ill citizens living on the streets statewide and the county of Los Angeles soon to put forth a plan of its own, one wonders if these efforts might finally begin to reverse the fortunes of tens of thousands of Los Angeles’s residents.

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Pier Review

Two firms reinvent the pier typology for a gulf-side Florida city

It takes a brave firm—and in St. Petersburg, Florida, two brave firms—to work on a project from which West 8, BIG, and Michael Maltzan were roundly rejected.

For almost a century, the City of St. Petersburg’s pier, in various incarnations, has attracted residents and tourists to Tampa Bay. Once a fishing pier, amenities were added over time: An inverted pyramid-cum-restaurant from the 1970s, reviled at first, later became a local icon. By the late 2000s, however, the pier was deemed structurally unsound and the city moved to demolish and replace the structure via a national competition.

The competition jury originally selected Los Angeles–based Michael Maltzan to redesign the pier in 2012. His bid followed the program of the original pier closely, with an event space at the terminus that referenced the iconic pyramid. Then, a group of residents organized a public referendum against the plan, claiming it did not meet the needs of the city. A little over a year and $5 million in, the city withdrew its invitation to the firm.

The setback exposed deeper questions about the relationship between the city and its beloved pier. City architect Raul Quintana praised Maltzan’s practice and noted that the plan was “ahead of its time.” The city, though, had to reckon with its heritage before it could embrace other possibilities for the pier. Quintana clarified that, even when presented with broader programs, the community still read the pier as a linear typology, though he felt that the consensus to build a quality public space was emerging. “The values today have changed. Think about what a pier could be for the 21st century. It was very, very difficult at first to get people to change their thinking.”

In 2015 New York–based architecture firm Rogers Partners won a reissued competition with its proposal for a 13-acre armature that nixes the cool-object-far-from-shore model of the old pier in favor of the pier as a premier public space and natural extension of the waterfront. “The idea of a major public expenditure to build a site for a retail destination is not really how you think about the public realm in the 21st century,” Rob Rogers, founding principal, explained. “The underpinning of our idea is that the city’s waterfront, including the pier, is all public park space.”

In collaboration with New York–based landscape architecture firm Ken Smith Workshop, the firm looked to Chicago’s Navy and L.A.’s Santa Monica piers for design and program ideas, but created opportunities in St. Petersburg for engaging with the bay-scape with programming that exceeds that of a traditional fishing or amusement pier: A one-acre coastal thicket, “a tray of landscape over the water,” provides shade and slopes close to the bay, while an outdoor educational space adjacent to a 300-foot artificial reef and naturalized beach brings people in contact with native aquatic flora and fauna. Boating and fishing facilities, hemmed by floating docks, flank traditional wide promenades, and a shallow saltwater pool next to the signature end-of-pier restaurant lets patrons cool their feet while drinking cocktails. A sloping grass lawn can accommodate between four and five thousand people for concerts, while a trolley and bike paths offer easy access to the mainland. Tampa–based ASD is the executive architect on the project.

It was crucial, Rogers elaborated, that programming created an array of nonlinear nodes, so that someone’s fifth or fiftieth visit to the pier would prove as exciting as the first. This  time, the community is on board: At the most recent public meeting, the organization that opposed Maltzan’s pier plan came out in strong support of the new design.

Just as Athens’s acropolis is graced by propylaea, the St. Petersburg pier is nothing without its “pier approach.” W Architecture & Landscape Architecture entered the same competition as Rogers Partners, but didn’t get the initial commission. Several months later, founding principal Barbara Wilks explained, the city sent a second RFP to the firm that asked for the “pier approach,” a design for the upland section and the infill spit that leads up to the new pier. Part of the reason for the split, city development director Chris Ballestra elaborated, was that the city hadn’t secured the money for the approach when they hired Rogers. Although W’s work builds on a previous masterplan by AECOM, W is collaborating with Rogers to unify the material palette and to knit the two plans closely with downtown St. Petersburg.

W’s concept phase wraps next month and the project will move onto design, while Rogers Partners’ pier is in design development. Construction on the pier and the approach is expected to be complete by 2018.

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Design For Dignity

AIA|LA asks “How will design professions respond to the nearly 47,000 homeless people living in L.A. County?”
A recent count by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) put the growing visibility and proliferation of homelessness in L.A. County into stark terms. Reporting a 5.7 percent increase in overall homelessness, the report counted 46,874 homeless individuals this year compared with the 44,359 counted in 2015. Within that statistic, LAHSA detailed 34,527 people living on the streets full-time, up from 31,025 doing so one year prior. The count comes on the heels of L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s as-yet-unfunded $138 million homelessness prevention and amelioration plan for fiscal year 2016, $86 million of which is earmarked for the development of permanent affordable housing like Michael Maltzan's Star Apartments. Hoarse-voiced homeless advocates across the region hope LAHSA’s report might provide the political pressure needed to finally compel city, county, and state officials to act in a coordinated fashion on a phenomenon savaging a region already struggling with ever-increasing rents, neighborhood displacement, and across-the-board housing shortages. Attempting to articulate the architectural community’s response to what it views as an increasingly important issue, the American Institute of Architects Los Angeles (AIA|LA) chapter convened a special congress bringing together design professionals, thought leaders, and local officials with the aim of  developing “workable solutions” for addressing some of these housing affordability issues. The sold out, day-long congress, called Design for Dignity, also featured panel discussions and lectures from advocates working across the region to share best practices and new research. The congress was notable for attempting to place the contributions of architects and designers front-and-center, both in addressing these crises and within professional discourse itself. AIA|LA’s Director of Government and Public Affairs Will Wright explained the conference’s primary goals to AN as wanting to “connect policy makers and housing providers to design thinkers; to underscore the role of the architect as an innovator that needs to be at the decision-making table as early as possible; and to set a compassionate tone of the fundamental importance of designing for all a dignified human experience.” Long-time housing practitioners like Michael Lehrer, Michael Maltzan, and Lorcan O'Herlihy represented the design profession during various panel discussions held throughout the day, pressing for innovative and humane solutions. Regarding the architectural community’s role in addressing the homelessness crisis, Lehrer told AN, “Beauty is really a rudiment of human dignity, people who have nothing understand that and [they benefit from living in] places made with an open heart and with respect. [Architects] have to realize that the things that matter in architecture matter for everybody because they are human pleasures.” Recently, the L.A. County’s population surpassed 10 million inhabitants and a corresponding and the Census Bureau reported a three percent vacancy rate in the Greater L.A. area (a Census-designated region including Long Beach and Anaheim) rental market. Therefore AIA|LA is right to spotlight architects’ potential role as innovators and leaders on this subject. Congress moderator Peter Zellner told AN, “Architects and designers have to become more involved politically if we are to raise awareness [on addressing the homelessness crisis in L.A.]. It would be incumbent upon architects to propose forms of urbanism that integrate approaches for housing the homeless and poor alike. We have to lead through design and articulate a viable, alternate vision for L.A. that is dense, vertical and integrated.” With the abundance of homeless residents in the region expected only to grow over the coming years, it's likely this phenomenon that will continue to grow, exacerbating and even deteriorating living conditions for all Angelenos if solutions advocated by the likes of Zellner are not more actively pursued across the city. In fact, based on overall tenor of the day’s congress, it would be easy to argue that the future of architectural profession in the Southland is rooted in how design professions address the region’s combined homelessness and affordability crises. In a growing, densifying region, it’s likely that—along with sustainability and climate change—the issues of affordability and homelessness will play a major role in defining the careers of the young practitioners and students of today. Congress attendee Kelly Majewski, principal at the recently-founded landscape architecture firm Superjacent, told AN, “Homelessness is an extremely complex problem that requires collaborative forward-thinking solutions between policy makers, space makers, and communities. The answer does not just lie in the building of new structures, but also in our approach to shared public space, be it our parks or our streets. As landscape architects and urbanists this is one of the biggest issues we are facing in the coming decades.”
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A new undertaking to study the city's biodiversity

L.A.’s Natural History Museum launches urban nature center
It is the 46th anniversary of Earth Day today, with cities, universities, and colleges around the United States taking part. The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 featured rallies and protests over oil spills, toxic dumps, and many other environmental issues of the time. It was chaired by Denis Hayes who is the president of the Bullitt Foundation in Seattle. The Foundation is partly housed in the Bullitt Center—a living office building in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Major environmental issues this year are hydraulic fracking, global warming, genetically modified foods, alternative energy, federally-owned national parks, and more. But one piece that seems to get cut out of the environmental conversation in cities is urban biodiversity. What are our cities and our designers doing to protect and promote urban wildlife? (For example, here are some chilling stats on bird collisions with buildings, wind towers, and turbines, in the United States. Glass is by far the most dangerous. 2006 estimates say 1 billion birds died from glass collisions in the U.S.) In Los Angeles last week, the Natural History Museum (NHM) launched the Urban Nature Research Center (UNRC), a scientific initiative to use diverse strategies to study biodiversity in L.A. Among those strategies is the SuperProject, a community-based effort to survey and gather data at over 200 sites around L.A. that range from backyards to beaches. It is reportedly the largest scale urban biodiversity undertaking yet. The SuperProject is targeting different species of insects, spiders, squirrels, reptiles, among others. “It’s a new approach to science: using the expansive and diverse Los Angeles landscape as a field site to look at things in a less compartmentalized way, and conducting research in the urban matrix—with the help of the public,” said NHM President and Director, Dr. Lori Bettison-Varga in a statement. New projects are expected to bring more green to L.A. There is the Sixth Street Viaduct project designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, replacing a bridge built in 1932 and adding an urban park by Hargreaves Associates. The new bridge and park are expected to open in 2019. And then there is the L.A. River project, a master plan for the 51-mile river. “Public green space projects are very important for L.A. urban biodiversity and local wildlife,” NHM Citizen Science Manager, Lila Higgins said. “We are in a biodiversity hotspot. One of only 35 in the world, it’s called the California Floristic Province. There are plants and animals that live here and nowhere else on the planet. These hotspots are under threat, with 70% of their original vegetation lost. Anything we can do to bolster green spaces with the plants that were historically in the area is good.” The museum is gathering citizen science data with over 48,000 observations and recordings in the L.A. area from outside City Hall to DTLA. “The more we plant wildlife appropriate plants in parks, backyards, medians, window boxes, school yards, etc., the more wildlife we can expect to see,” said Higgins. “It can literally be as easy as selecting a few native plants and putting them in a large pot on your front porch! If you have a yard, you can do even more and make it a haven for wildlife.” We hear about the numerous studies on the positive benefits of nature for humans. But sometimes urban spaces are at odds with local fauna. “When we think about public green space projects we have to balance the needs of humans with wildlife. Too often green spaces are designed that work for people, but don’t work for wildlife. This has to change, and we CAN [Higgin's emphasis] do both. Both Pershing Square and Civic Park in DTLA could be havens for wildlife and humans alike.”
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One Santa Fe
Iwan Baan

In 1781, Spanish explorer Felipe de Neve established El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciúncula (The Village of the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula). A vast pastoral terrain teeming with grizzly bears surrounded the tiny outpost in what is now called California. In the beginning the creatures were unlikely companions, but soon the tranquil coexistence between beings and beasts devolved. After the Spaniards came the cowboys, then the railroads that brought the settlers. Most were farmers, who, unlike their predecessors, hunted grizzlies to protect their crops from foraging. Gradually the grizzlies were hounded into extinction—defenseless against newcomers’ ferocious determination to domesticate the great basin across which the City of Angels was quickly spreading. Bears gave way to people in the town blessed with warm winter sun.

Over time, this garden city grew to become a metropolis, home to nearly four million inhabitants. And yet, Los Angeles remains narrowly characterized by freestanding homes engulfed in lush vegetation. Every swath of industry, every mile of imposing infrastructure, every bit of dwelling, and all the fragmented space resulting from their confluence is obscured by the city’s Arcadian myth. What remains intact is a cliché to which all urban realities must surrender. So what value is there in pointing out, as does USC professor Todd Gish, that Los Angeles is also “built on the back of multifamily rental housing in an urban setting?”

Many believe that if new strategies in favor of density are not implemented, Angelenos will face the same fate as the grizzlies. While predators might not kill the city’s inhabitants, the inability to create denser forms of living may. Although some neighborhood activists and interest groups object to greater density and the potential ills that such practices might bring, pundits are quick to point to its advantages.

A handful of informed developers, financiers, planners, politicians, civic institutions, and architects have begun to script a revisionist plan for what it means to live in the city that is predicted to become the densest in the country. Together, these “place entrepreneurs,” so it appears, are seeking to radically alter the way urban living is conceived and implemented in Los Angeles.


One Santa Fe, located in Los Angeles’s river-adjacent Arts District, is such a project. Michael Maltzan Architecture designed the hyper-dense mixed-use development for a consortium of real estate developers and investors including Canyon Johnson Urban Fund. Realizing that cities are subject to uncertainty or chance, Maltzan describes One Santa Fe as well as other ongoing projects by his firm (the Sixth Street Viaduct and the Central Avenue Art Park) as examples of “anticipatory architecture”—exercises in form making that endow architecture with the power to productively shape urban policy, planning, and the city at large.

In contrast to Hollywood, where building up is intended, horizontality is One Santa Fe’s tactic for achieving greater density. Two six-story buildings occupy an unusually narrow four-acre interstitial strip wedged between South Santa Fe Avenue and an adjacent Metropolitan Transit Authority railyard. Running more than a quarter of a mile, the two elongated masses take cues from nearby linear forms including the Los Angeles River, adjacent rail lines, and SCI-Arc’s reconditioned freight depot building.

At 510,000 square feet, One Santa Fe fuses architectural prowess with developer ambition. The end result shares many traits with OMA’s recent Entrepôt Macdonald, a grand urban renewal project in northeast Paris. Envisioned as urban armature, Maltzan’s design invites other adjacent elements to participate in a larger civic project. At its northernmost end, the project links directly to the First Street Bridge, which carries pedestrian sidewalks, vehicular traffic, and the LA Metro Gold Line. There are open-air portals that punctuate the building volumes to afford visual and pedestrian access at strategic moments. Ground-level connections across the width of the site will soon provide access to a future commuter station to be located on the existing Metro repair yard. Proposed community gardens are planned atop of bridge-like appendages that are hoped to one-day link MMA’s project directly to the Los Angeles River. In the words of Maltzan, “One Santa Fe is a work-in-progress.” Whether these appendages will ever be realized depends heavily on a sustained collective effort involving the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Friends of the Los Angeles River, and other civic agencies.

Suggesting that the old edge of the city is the new center, One Santa Fe is intended to cater to a growing number of individuals seeking alternative lifestyle preferences— people who are less interested in owning a car or having a house and backyard and more excited by the thought of riding a bike, walking, or taking public transit to work—socially-minded folk who are not intimidated by socio-economic diversity. To that note, nearly 20 percent of the total 438 units are earmarked as affordable housing.

One Santa Fe oscillates between pragmatism and design wit. Ubiquitous construction methods, generic materials, and standard details mandated by cost effectiveness and building code are the architect’s palette. What Dan Flavin did with fluorescent tubes, or Frank Gehry with chain link, Maltzan must accomplish with sticks, stucco, and paint. In this particular instance, affect supersedes connoisseurship. The buildings’ signature white enhanced with red accents stands in stark contrast to the gritty, post-industrial landscape. Air conditioning condensers and ventilation ductwork march unapologetically across the rooftops, and the utilitarian nature of raw concrete ramps spiraling around like a wound up springboard at the building’s northern base is indebted to utility.

The architect’s choice to embrace the cheap and everyday is best understood by his deep suspicion of materials and detailing as “stand-ins” for what architecture is really about, claiming that material refinement is too frequently at the expense of bigger, more compelling issues. Maltzan urges that One Santa Fe is most successful when we can appreciate how the project operates at the scale of the city and at the scale of the surroundings community.

It is not likely that One Santa Fe will bring back the bears, but for Maltzan, the project does represent a moment in which architecture reestablishes a foothold at the table of civic engagement, a turning point where architects reclaim their rightful place as visionaries of large-scale urban propositions that influence urban policy, planning, and city growth. For Angelenos, it is a sign to take stock in their urban diversity rather than pretend L.A. is all about sunshine and seashells.

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In and Outdoors
Faena House by Foster + Partners, looking inland in Miami Beach. The wraparound terraces are referred to as
Images courtesy respective firms unless noted

As more people choose to live in dense urban environments, the latest hot-ticket residential amenity has nothing to do with marble countertops or on-call concierges: It’s outdoor space, the scarcest of all commodities in an environment where, regardless of grandeur, distance from nature can take a toll on quality of life.

Outdoor spaces are showing up everywhere: In towering vertical gardens, oversize balconies, communal exercise spaces, expanded courtyards, green roofs, and bridges. Sometimes areas are carved out by necessity—as part of master plans or public initiatives—but more often they’re designed (often in coordination with landscape architects) as a way to draw new clients looking for something different than the usual sealed box in the sky.

The demand for outdoor and green space aligns with several emerging trends: Increased environmental awareness, a culture of public versus private priorities, more need for serenity, and changes in tastes in privacy and aesthetics. But more than anything, people just know it’s something they want and developers and architects are responding.

Lorcan O’Herlihy’s stepped outdoor spaces in Los Angeles’ Westwood neighborhood are meant to resemble green roofs, while fostering interaction between units and the street.
Iwan Baan

“Our spaces and neighborhoods were once geared to human scale and public space, and we seem to be going back to that,” said Eran Chen, founder of ODA New York, which is designing creative private and public outdoor spaces across the city. “In New York it’s very difficult to carve out space. But does that mean we have to compromise the quality of our experiences?”

Chen says that the most effective tool is a knowledge of zoning requirements and an ability to reshape building envelopes, creating what he calls “vertical villages” by capturing open and shared spaces when facades are shifted, lifted, or otherwise morphed. “You can put together more than a flat facade,” he said.

Outside of exploiting zoning laws, firms across the country are employing advanced construction techniques to create larger and more complex outdoor spaces. They’re building greenery in leftover and ignored zones, and they’re greatly expanding tried and true methods like green roofs, cantilevers, and patios.

According to L.A. architect Lorcan O’Herlihy, who has implemented an array of techniques to incorporate public space into his projects—from terraced green spaces to adjacent pocket parks—the upfront cost and effort pay substantial dividends. “If you create an outdoor space it makes for a better building, and for a great return,” he said.

Each unit at ODA’s 44th Street Tower will have a private 1400-square-foot outdoor area.


While balconies, roof terraces, and other private outdoor spaces have long played a role in dense residential living, they’re getting bigger, greener, and more sophisticated than ever. In many cases old typologies no longer apply: Balconies are morphing into private outdoor rooms, outdoor is merging with indoor, and roof decks are filling with amenities. Spending time outside is more enticing than ever, no matter the climate.

ODA’s 2222 Jackson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens, shifts its exterior bays in and out, creating voids and projections that become large 13- by 7-foot outdoor areas. The reconfiguring, Chen said, opened up units’ views and created twice the exterior surface area of a conventional layout. The firm’s East 44th Street tower features covered outdoor spaces in gaps stretched between floors, decreasing the building’s wind load and creating radical, enclosed gardens for each unit. Each apartment will get its own 1,400-square-foot terrace, with two such spaces per floor.

The Shore Club in Miami Beach features large, 30- to 50-foot-long terraces that project off of the original, iconic David Chipperfield design.

“New York is very tight, and you have to be very clever how you work with the constraints,” said Hannes Schafelner, an associate at Zaha Hadid Architects. The firm’s 520 West 28th Street building overlooking the High Line uses its oversize balconies (containing large glass sliders and flooring ontinuing from the interior) to help the developer provide as much square footage as possible. “Regulations say you can build over the building line by 50 percent of the length of the building. So these balconies are 50 percent of the length of the building,” he said.

The penthouse at Foster + Partners’ 551 West 21st Street in Chelsea has a 61-foot-long pool with an infinity edge.

Such supersized balconies and private exterior spaces are not exceptions. At Foster + Partners’ Faena House in Miami Beach, wraparound terraces are so big that the firm calls them “verandas in the sky.” Balconies at Architecture Outfit’s Sorting House in Chelsea range from 225 to 600 square feet, while the roof deck has a shared area and private terraces on the same floor. Perhaps the most dramatic example is Herzog & de Meuron’s 56 Leonard Street, also nicknamed the “Jenga Building” for its wildly varying staggered glass balconies and spatial configurations. The oversized cantilevers—which vary in size throughout—don’t just give the building an unusual look, but also provide extra large private spaces for tenants in the sky. In total the project has about 16,000 square feet of balcony space.

Rooftop apartments have room for even larger private amenities. Foster’s 551 West 21st Street has its own 61-foot-long “Sky Pool” with an infinity edge that makes it seem like it’s draining straight into the river. Large rows of hedges provide privacy and add a pastoral touch.


10 Montieth Street by ODA gives all residents access to a sloped green roof.


As residents get more comfortable sharing space with their neighbors, collective spaces are changing radically, with green roofs, amenity areas, patios, and other common zones becoming more expansive and incorporative. Landscape architects are taking on a greater role in shaping such projects and architects are finding creative areas—between floors, around perimeters, and so on—to make public.

ODA’s 10 Montieth Street’s green roof slopes down over five floors to give residents on all floors direct access. Bjarke Ingels Group’s VIA, located at West 57th Street, is a hybrid between a perimeter block and a high rise. While its northeast corner juts upward like a skyscraper, the other three corners remain low, exposing its courtyard—a green space that the firm sees as an extension of the Hudson River Park—and inner units to light and views. Hadid’s 520 West 28th Street public spaces—carved out from necessary site setbacks near the High Line—are highlighted by a ground floor plaza (developed with landscape firm Future Green) where walls and floors merge. Plantings are creatively embedded into walls and ground planes fold upward. Nearby, in Chelsea, Isay Weinfeld’s Jardim creates a lush 40- by 60-foot common area planted with mature trees and bushes.

DDG’s art nouveau-inspired 325 West Broadway in Soho has a two-tiered courtyard that connects the buildings with common amenities (left). In Tijuana, T38 Studio’s 90-unit Arboleda features 20,000-square-feet of gardens, living space and amenities (right).

In Los Angeles, O’Herlihy’s SL11024 building, adjacent to Richard Neutra’s Strathmore Apartments, has a stepped combination of green roofs and patios dotted with planters that are designed to have the look and feel of green roofs without the upkeep. All the terraces are close enough to the street, said O’Herlihy, that they contribute to public life in the neighborhood. In L.A.’s Arts District, Michael Maltzan has installed parks not only in obvious places like One Santa Fe’s courtyard and flexible parking lot, but under and on top of bridges between structures. He likens the project’s design to master planning just as much as architecture. In Santa Monica, OMA’s Plaza at Santa Monica zig-zags back and forth, exposing more surface area and maximum amount of public green roof space.

MAD’s 8600 Wilshire Boulevard integrates collective and individual spaces with massing and transparency, such as private balconies in a common courtyard.

Neighbors are not just willing to hang out together, but they’re ready to share common amenities too—no matter how highbrow. 56 Leonard, for example, features 17,000 square feet of amenity spaces on its ninth and tenth floors, including a 75-foot pool, a 25-seat indoor-outdoor screening room, a private dining room, and a children’s playroom, among other things. Perhaps the most ambitious public amenity area belongs to SHoP’s 626 First Avenue, a pair of New York towers whose connecting three-level bridge contains a pool in which users can swim from one end to the next. The space also contains a gym that provides tenants with unimpeded views of the East River.

“The most sustainable thing you can do is build density near mass transit. But it would be a dystopian world without great design,” said SHoP principal Gregg Pasquarelli.

56 Leonard by Herzog + de Meuron gets its iconic parti from a series of balconies created by stacked volumes.


Sometimes outdoor spaces simply provide a visual amenity, turning green elements into large art pieces or architectural details.

Jardim, for instance, incorporates plantings onto each of its balconies, enhancing privacy and creating a natural environment for those outside, akin to planter boxes in European cities. Foster’s 551 West 21st Street includes a 20-foot-tall green wall at its drive-in entry court, and its mid-floor terrace is heavily planted to provide greenery and privacy for residents. Hadid’s High Line building has a sculpture park that is not accessible to the public, but provides an amenity for residents and passersby on the High Line.

The Jardim by Isay Weinfeld has planters that turn private balconies into green ornamentation along the High Line (left). The drive-in entry at 551 West 21st Street by Foster + Partners has a 20-foot-tall green wall (right).

Even a courtyard can serve as a visual-only amenity from time to time. Morris Adjmi’s Schumacher (a former printing loft building in Noho converted into 20 condominium residences) and Sterling Mason (a 33-unit condominium composed of a restored warehouse and a matching addition) feature enclosed spaces by Deborah Nevins and Ken Smith that are inaccessible to tenants, but provide a peaceful viewing area.

The inaccessible courtyard at Morris Adjmi’s Schumacher was designed by Ken Smith, who also designed MoMA’s rooftop garden.

“They didn’t want noisy courtyards,” said Adjmi, who admitted, ”I didn’t really understand that decision completely.” Adjmi said that pretty much every building his firm is working on has a significant green component, from a green roof and lawn at 282 South 5th Street in Williamsburg to Atlantic Plumbing in Washington, D.C., a residence with a planting strip on every side of the building, a green roof, and green walls.

The Wanda Vista Towers by Studio Gang incorporate Olin-designed public space on the river and street levels in Chicago.


It doesn’t happen enough, but some residences give back with open spaces for the general public. Often parks are demanded by planners as a tradeoff for large scale projects, sometimes they come about as a result of Plaza Bonuses, which are designed to incentivize public space, and other times they’re offered by developers as a symbiotic tool.

Koning Eizenberg’s Belmar Apartments are arranged around a bisecting, public “Living Street.”
Eric Staudenmaier

Thanks to its neighborhood’s master plan, SHoP’s First Avenue project incorporates a huge public space designed by SCAPE Studio that carries its language into the building through a 100-foot-tall breezeway connecting directly to the park. O’Herlihy, known for creating a public pocket as part of his Formosa 1140 in West Hollywood, is developing a similar project (its details are still under wraps) in which the city of West Hollywood leases the land from the owners. It’s a model that has proven very successful, pleasing both tenants and local residents with more public space.

The Plaza at Santa Monica by OMA has retail and a variety of uses interspersed among its rotating volumes.

In Chicago, Studio Gang’s massive Wanda Vista Towers will incorporate public space—designed by Olin—on both its street and riverfront levels, while nearby Perkins+Will’s Riverline will contain a river walk, retail plaza, park, children’s playground, river taxi access, kayak launch, and riverfront amphitheater.

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The end of the Los Angeles’ Sixth Street bridge brings a subdued HNTB-Maltzan design
So long, Sixth Street Bridge. We knew it was coming, but Wednesday marked the last day the iconic Art Deco span would be open to the public. Built in 1932, the iconic double-loop overpass over the L.A. River will live on in movies, videos, and photos. A victim of age, the bridge was declared unsalvageable due to irreversible decay in 2012 and the Bureau of Engineering launched a competition to design a new, $400 million, cable stayed structure. HNTB with Michael Maltzan Architecture came out the winners in that infrastructural bout and with the demise of the old bridge their loop-de-loop ten-arch span is one step closer to realization. The mayor’s office released new renderings of the bridge that look decidedly toned down from the 2012 winning boards. While older images depicted stairways built into the arches so that pedestrians could get an elevated view and the concrete embankments planted with wildflowers, updated renderings depict a staid park in the shade of the roadbed. that with the Developer Leonard Hill (a founding partner of Linear City Development) recently gave a $1.9 million gift to the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles. Those moneys were earmarked to fund the design, construction, and programming of an arts plaza beneath the new Sixth Street Bridge. With such a contribution, one might hope that the park space slated to open in 2019 will be more fully realized than the uninspired placeholder suggested in the renderings.
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Architectural Criticism
Courtesy Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects

In nearly every issue, we invite architects, scholars, industry experts, and editors to candidly discuss high-profile projects, urban issues, and events in our architecture criticism column. This year, Los Angeles dominated the spotlight with its collective boom of new museums and buildings, while over on the east coast, Renzo Piano’s Whitney continued to spark conversation.


Princeton Train Station

Rick Joy's design for a commuter rail station in Princeton is endowed with civic importance and grace.

[Continue reading.]


Whitney Museum of American Art

Renzo Piano has not made a building to love, but one in which the art viewing experience is given priority.



UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music

Kevin Daly Architects brings the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music into the digital age.


Bill & Melinda Gates Hall

Michael Webb considers Morphosis' latest "scaly silver beast," this time at Cornell University.


Petersen Automotive Museum

Inspired by automotive design, the Petersen Automotive Museum stops traffic on Wilshire Boulevard.


Creating Community

Lorcan O'Herlihy designs housing in a precarious context.


Star Apartments

Is prefab the future for affordable housing in Los Angeles? A case from Michael Maltzan Architecture.


Jesuit High School Chapel

Hodgetts + Fung's first religious building creates sanctuary on Jesuit High School's modernist campus.


Edward M. Kennedy Institute

Rafael Viñoly's  Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston complements adjacent JFK Library.



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Creating Community
Iwan Baan

Residential neighborhoods all over Southern California are losing their character as owners and developers exploit escalating land values. North Westwood Village, master-planned in the 1920s as a small-scale community of rental properties, has been particularly hard-hit. The North Westwood Village Specific Plan mandates harmonious development, but that requirement was ignored from the 1960s on, as hills were carved away and big-box student rooming houses overwhelmed neighboring properties and narrow, winding streets. Development was driven by the growth of UCLA and its behemoth medical center. The university (a state institution unhindered by local regulations) was the worst offender, constructing oversized faux-historic blocks and trashing modern classics by Richard Neutra and John Lautner.



After a half century of abuse, the North Village has finally acquired an architectural gem, located across the street from Neutra’s landmark Strathmore Apartments. It required legal action by a neighborhood association to compel the developer to abandon the eyesore he had proposed and commission a new design from Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects (LOHA). The challenge was to fit 31 units (totaling 37,000 square feet) onto a narrow, tilted wedge of land, stepping down from six to two stories in deference to Neutra’s design, a garden court of eight units terraced up a steep slope. The strategy reprised LOHA’s Habitat 825 on Kings Road in West Hollywood, where the site was excavated a story so that the new block would not overshadow the garden of Schindler’s classic studio-house.

The “luxury” condo towers along nearby Wilshire Boulevard and the dingbats on every side street are essentially alike: warrens of rooms and internal corridors, sealed off from nature and the street. LOHA’s works stand in contrast; two of the firm’s condo blocks in West Hollywood are set back from pocket parks, blurring the divide between public and private, and creating shared spaces that benefit the community as well as the residents.

“On Strathmore we asked ourselves, ‘What if we cut into the box and landscaped the different roof levels, allowing residents to engage the outdoors?’” said O’Herlihy.

That’s a concept as old as the Native American pueblos of the Southwest and the roof gardens of North Africa and the Middle East, but one that has been largely forgotten in the most developers’ rush to exploit every foot of rentable space.

With Studio 11024 on Strathmore, the architects go further. The city mandates a 50-foot wide view corridor through a block that is more than 150 feet long. LOHA reinterpreted this rule to create a linear divide, which accommodates outdoor walkways and stairs linking three roof gardens, and reduces the need for double-loaded corridors. Half the apartments have opening windows on two sides for abundant natural light and cross ventilation.


Most L.A. houses and apartment buildings are faced in stucco, all too often in beige tones. LOHA had used metal facing panels on previous jobs—Formosa 1140 in West Hollywood was clad in fire engine red. Though the budget was tight, they discovered the structure could be clad in ribbed, white enameled aluminum panels for only a few dollars a square foot more than a standard stucco finish ($16 versus $13). The panels are deployed on the two street facades in tiers of differently sized ribs. Those variations break up the mass of the conjoined blocks and the sheer planes serve as screens to capture crisp patterns of sun and shade. Lateral cuts serve as backdrops to the roof terraces and are clad with Hardie board, layered in six tones of yellowish green that become lighter as they ascend. The white echoes the Neutra and several neighboring blocks and responds to changes of light. Handrails and metal staircases pick up on the green walls, which introduce a vibrant new element into the townscape. They even inspired another property owner to repaint a faded pink block in forest green. Perforated white metal panels screen the staircases, teak benches divide up the terraces, and the sharp edges are softened by landscape architect Mia Lehrer’s generous plantings.

Nearly all L.A. apartment blocks are as repetitive as a motel, but LOHA insist on diversified interiors, ranging from studios to lofts. O’Herlihy—like architects Michael Maltzan, Kevin Daly, and other contemporaries—understands that a younger generation wants to break free of the conventional layouts imposed on earlier generations. On Strathmore, the two- and three-bedroom apartments were configured by the developer’s interior consultant, but the plans are varied, and there are three duplex apartments on the fifth floor.

Studio 11024 is a deceptively complex building with well-varied fenestration that responds organically to the shifts of elevation and orientation. It raises the bar for Westwood Village and shows how architecture adds value for the owner, tenants, and neighbors. Ideally, it will not become another student rooming house, but will attract a lively mix of residents, and encourage other developers to aim higher, hiring talented architects rather than docile hacks. It should also stiffen the resolve of the Westwood Community Design Review Board, which rejected the previous scheme and enthusiastically supported this, but has sometimes been too tolerant of mediocrity.

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A Southerly Course
An elevated cycleway connecting to Pasadena's green streets is the centerpiece of a reimagined South Campus for Art Center.
Courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture / Tina Chee Landscape Studio

Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design acquired the iconic Jacobs Engineering Building, located at the end of the 110 Freeway, through the largest gift in the college’s 85-year history. Now, when you stop at the light at Arroyo Seco one of the first things you see is Art Center’s unmistakable orange dot logo. This is just one of the recent moves on the property acquisitions chessboard that has laid the groundwork for the college’s ambitious ten-year master plan designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

With the slogan “one college, one community,” the plan seeks to better connect the college’s Hillside and South campuses and proposes a mix of new facilities for the latter to be phased in over the next decade.

On the third floor of the former Jacobs building—still undergoing renovations—resides a sprawling 6- by 20-foot foam core model of the envisioned South Campus at 3/32 scale.


The model shows buildings in Maltzan’s signature white palette—just conceptual placeholders, he explained. Moreover, this isn’t just about buildings. “When buildings drive the mission it can be disastrous,” said Art Center president Dr. Lorne M. Buchman, who spearheaded the initiative. He described a tendency for institutions to be seduced by great buildings that ultimately drive up costs and don’t necessarily fit into the bigger picture of an academic mission.


For Art Center, part of their mission is to model the values they try to impart in students. For this reason, the plan embodies multiple levels of consideration: not just about living and learning, but also about mobility and connectivity—transportation is one of the school’s core programs.


With input from staff, students, and teachers, as well as the local community, Maltzan and his team have put together what he called “a supple armature that can evolve.”  The foundational elements of the plan include housing for 1,000 students (50 percent of the student body), studio spaces and workshops with courtyards, recreational facilities, a cafeteria, and community accessible retail, gallery, and event spaces. At the center is a dramatically elevated campus quad that bridges over the Metro Gold Line, sloping and terracing up three stories to foster connections between different buildings and programs. “This is all about making a more complete life for students,” said Lorne.


The “cycleway” for bicycles and carts (similar to golf carts) is planned to run through campus. This, says Maltzan, was inspired by the historic 19th-century elevated cycleway that once connected Pasadena to downtown. Maltzan’s version, envisioned as the central spine of the campus, would also connect to future bike paths in the city. This is part of a comprehensive transportation strategy that includes shuttles to the Hillside Campus and a fleet of ZipCars so students residing on campus are less dependent on their own cars.

Working with Arup, Sherwood Design Engineers, and Tina Chee Landscape Studio as part of a larger environmental agenda, Maltzan’s team proposed to transform Raymond Avenue, which defines the western edge of the South Campus, into a more pedestrian and bike-scaled street, complete with bioswales to form a green linkage Pasadena’s Central Park several blocks north. Other measures include facade improvements and system upgrades to existing buildings, including Craig Ellwood’s bridge building at Hillside, passive cooling for housing, a high performance central plant, and roof-mounted photovoltaics.

“I don’t know of too many schools taking on the goal of not just moving the campus forward but also being a real progressive agent for positive change on a broader level,” said Maltzan. As both urban design and campus design, the masterplan supports the college’s higher ambitions to connect to the city and the region.

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Hammer Museum Announces Expansion into Occidental Petroleum Tower
A bigger Hammer is happening in Westwood. The museum just announced that the museum a 99-year lease and will be expanding into 40,000 square feet of gallery and support space. In addition to remaining in their existing building, they are taking over square footage in the first five floors of the adjoining mid-century office tower by Claud Beelman, who in addition to designing the 1962 Occidental Petroleum building created the Superior Oil Company headquarters (aka the downtown Standard Hotel) and the Art Deco Eastern Columbia Building in DTLA. The  property recently purchased by UCLA, which will occupy floors six through sixteen of the tower. New York architect Edward Larrabee Barnes designed the original Carrara marble-clad Hammer Museum building in the early 90s, but in the years since it’s been renovated several times by L.A.’s own Michael Maltzan. He designed the Billy Wilder Theater, the Museum Café, and most recently the John V. Tunney Bridge. The Hammer did not say if Maltzan would be participating in the expansion. “There could not be a more ideal situation than to share our building with UCLA, with whom we have such a long affiliation. We believe this is the best possible outcome for the museum; our missions are aligned, we have a strong working relationship, and share a long-term commitment to the students and community,” said museum director Ann Philbin. “We are excited about our future plans to expand, improve, and transform our space.” According to the Hammer press release, the additional space will not only allow for larger galleries, but for ones dedicated to the Hammer Contemporary Collection and works on paper. A new study center for the UCLA Grunwald Center Collection, a classroom, and support spaces will round out the new scheme. To pay for the expansion and upgrade, the museum received a $25 million cash payment to be invested in what the Hammer calls its “quasi-endowment.” A capital campaign will follow. No date was given for the opening of the improvements.