Search results for "welton becket"

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Comment: LA's Homeless Design
The Architecture of Frank Gehry, organized by Brooke Hodge, at MOCA.
Courtesy MOCA/Squidds and Nunns

When LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) was founded 30 years ago, it was directed by Richard Koshalek, who had been trained as an architect and wanted to show the work of architects alongside top contemporary artists. Major exhibitions on the Case Study House program, Louis Kahn, Franklin Israel, and late modernism were enthusiastically received, but Koshalek had to struggle constantly with his board, which wanted to focus exclusively on art.

Now, years later, it appears that the board has won. Brooke Hodge—the imaginative curator of an exciting Gehry retrospective, as well as the more recent Skin and Bones (on the interplay of fashion and architecture) and inventive smaller shows—has been axed as part of a desperate attempt to balance the budget and remedy a decade of financial irresponsibility. Major exhibitions on Morphosis and the architectural photography of Luisa Lambri, scheduled for the fall, have been abruptly canceled.

On the brighter side, the Architecture + Design Museum (A+D) on Miracle Mile has recently achieved a measure of stability that it lacked during eight years of shuffling from one vacant space to another, always dependent on the charity of developers. Now it has a six-year lease on a spacious storefront in an ideal location on Wilshire Boulevard, across from the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA). At last it can raise funds and plan ahead.

Skin & Bones, organized by Brooke Hodge, at Moca

Director Tibbie Dunbar wants to reach out to schools and the public at large, using digital technology to bring architecture to life rather than relying on architect-designed boards and balsa models. If she realizes her ambitious goals, LA could eventually boast a showcase worthy of its history and potential: an institution to match the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the best architectural museums of Europe.

The need is pressing. It is a cause for celebration that, in contemporary art, LA has gone from provincial outpost to key hub, thanks to the energy of institutions and individuals, and because artists find it a congenial place to work. But for architects, the picture is still bleak. Often, their work is marginalized or ignored. There is a huge disconnect between the abundance of creative design talent in LA and the timidity or philistinism of the client base. Too often, institutions and public authorities settle for the second-rate. In San Francisco, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake spurred a dramatic renewal. In LA, the 1994 Northridge earthquake produced little but bureaucratic fumbling. Walt Disney Concert Hall was nearly aborted, taking 14 years to realize, and the public realm has stagnated.

Work by major firms, including Morphosis’ Caltrans District 7 headquarters, Rafael Moneo’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and Coop Himmelb(l)au’s School for the Performing Arts, were seriously compromised. USC is an architecture-free zone for which George Lucas’ Spanish revival film school is a perfect fit. Tepid contextualism is the theme at UCLA, and the fundraising campaign for the $185 million makeover of Pauley Pavilion makes no mention of the original architect, Welton Becket. Frank Gehry and Thom Mayne have won the Pritzker Prize and international acclaim but have secured few commissions on their home base, and other talented firms have had a tough struggle—even before the collapse of the market.

What's Shakin, curated by Brooke Hodge, at MOCA.

Koshalek had the vision to expand the mandate of MOCA to foster enlightened architectural selections behind the scenes, and to bring Art Center out of its ivory tower. For that last achievement he was hounded from his post, and is now directing the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The munificence of Eli Broad highlights the lack of philanthropy among other super-rich Angelenos. It’s unhealthy to become dependent on a single patron in the arts. In contrast to other great cities, LA is an archipelago of self-absorbed neighborhoods with little sense of the larger whole.

What’s needed is inspiring leadership—of the kind that has spurred a revival of architectural excellence and adventurousness in Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, and even the depressed cities of Ohio. It could be the mayor, the archbishop, university chancellors, CEOs of major companies, or the head of the school board. In every one of those areas, LA falls short.  A vibrant showcase, stirring public debate, exhibiting and promoting the best architecture, cannot make up for an absence of civic pride, enlightened clients, and generous patronage. But it can alert the public to what it is missing. A+D can set a lead and play the role of catalyst.

LACMA director Michael Govan is passionate about architecture, and might be persuaded to make architecture a part of his mandate—as it is at MoMA, SFMOMA, the Chicago Art Institute, and other landmark institutions. The Hammer’s Prouvé exhibit and Lautner retrospective were big hits, and director Ann Philbin has repeatedly demonstrated her commitment to architectural excellence. The Getty now has a department of architecture, acquiring major archives, and its deputy curator Chris Alexander recently convened (with AN) a meeting of 50 curators and activists to encourage them to communicate effectively and form the Southern California Architecture and Design Consortium.

All of these initiatives can advance the agenda. The fragmentation of LA could be turned to advantage if its diverse and scattered institutions were to make common cause. MAK, the LA Forum, the Italian Cultural Institute, and a score of others have distinct perspectives that could enrich the public discourse. A provocative exhibition or speaker or an introduction to the visceral experience of a great building can provide a moment of revelation and enrich the culture of a city that badly needs a lift.

A version of this article appeared in AN 05_07.15.2009 CA.

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Midcentury Mess
Minoru Yamasaki's Century Plaza Hotel is almost certainly bound for the wrecking ball.
Courtesy LA Conservancy

It would seem that the work of Minoru Yamasaki can’t catch a break these days. The now-deceased pioneering modernist—he designed Seattle’s Arch, New York’s Twin Towers, and LA’s now all-but-doomed Century Plaza Hotel—is known less for being one of the 20th century’s staunch modernist architects and more for being the architect of the damned, the doomed, and the destroyed.

His midcentury-modern Century Plaza has been a recent flashpoint in the ongoing debate between development and preservation in LA. Though the hotel sat quietly unnoticed but heavily used for decades, things heated up last December when the 726-room hotel’s new owner, local investor Michael Rosenfeld (who bought the property with the D.E. Shaw Group), released this seemingly pro-preservation statement: “Properties like the Century Plaza Hotel are one-of-a-kind; they have lasting value in any economic environment. This is a rare opportunity to buy a jewel in my hometown.”

The proposed Pei Cobb Freed-designed development.
Courtesy Curbed LA

But just a year later, Rosenfeld announced plans to raze the hotel and replace it with a mixed-use development containing two 50-story Pei Cobb Freed & Partners–designed hotel/residential towers. At a cost of $2 billion, the more than five-acre site will hold 100,000-plus square feet of office space, a 240-room Five Star hotel (still to be operated by Hyatt), 130 luxury condos, and nearly 105,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.

When the new plans were unveiled, Rosenfeld changed his pro-preservation tune: “The opportunity to redefine an urban center in one of the great international cities comes along once in a lifetime… The innovative design embraces the future of urban planning with an emphasis on pedestrian connectivity and sustainable design.” Rosenfeld and Co. also touted the new development as very green. The project is expected to be LEED Silver certified, and will use environmentally “correct” construction materials, with some structures featuring green roofs.

This was too much for local preservationists, who brought out their big guns in late April in a splashy, Hollywood-style press conference, held across the street from the Century Plaza in a screening room at talent agency CAA. In a surprise move, the Washington, D.C.–based National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that the hotel had been placed on their list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2009. Though inclusion on the list might seem merely a gesture, only six structures placed on the list in the last 22 years have been destroyed.

Large-scale development has already begun to surround the hotel.
Courtesy LA Conservancy

Unlike the buildings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, midcentury modern structures, especially those used for commercial purposes, have been a tougher sell in the preservation conversation. Modernist buildings can seem cold and unwelcoming, and have often seen little support from the public when threatened. The Welton Becket–designed office complex just down the road from the Century Plaza is headed for the chopping block this summer, with little fanfare and even less opposition.

Perhaps the biggest irony is the timing: This year marks the 50th anniversary of Century City’s founding. Leo Marmol, of Marmol and Radziner Associates, whose remodel of Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House in Palm Springs is among the storied acts of midcentury modern preservation, noted, “To make our cities more dense is a positive thing, and I support development. But Century City has seen a loss lately.” He added, “The question is, will they allow the continued destruction of the fabric of their history, or will they say enough is enough?”

The developer must now submit plans to the Planning Department and initiate environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act, which will likely take 12 to 18 months to complete.

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Unveiled: Pauley Pavilion
Courtesy NBBJ

UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, a utilitarian design created by modernist architect Welton Becket in 1965, is one of the most beloved buildings on a beautiful campus, and one of the most famous sports arenas in the world. A good reason why: a look at the banners in its rafters reveals that Bruin teams have won over 40 national titles while playing there, including ten in basketball alone.

Yet while once ahead of its time, the pavilion has become seriously outdated, with an aging infrastructure, too few fan amenities, and team facilities that pale in comparison to those of many other major universities.

Yesterday, NBBJ’s LA office unveiled Pauley’s long-rumored redesign, set to augment and update Becket’s work more than forty years later. Scheduled to be finished by fall 2012, the project presents a careful balance between celebrating history and looking forward. 

“We wanted to keep its character intact and respect it while improving it and giving it a modern face,” said NBBJ principal Scott Hunter.

Outside, the firm will add a new facade projecting from the arena’s concrete shell, consisting of a folded combination of steel, terra cotta, clear glass, and channel glass (the facade was originally going to be brick, to match the campus’ material palette, but officials later rejected that as too clashing with the arena itself and inconsistent with the goals of a modernization). Its main entrance, marked by an expanse of glass and a large new plaza, will be located to the north. A smaller entrance and plaza will be located to the southeast. The design, said Hunter, is inspired by the arena’s existing V-truss roof structure, whose now-iconic members will remain intact up above. Echoes of those trusses will be visible through the transparent sections of the facade.

Between the facade and the original shell, the expanded arena will have about 30,000 square feet of new concourse space, including three times as many toilets (a mention that got loud applause at the press conference) and about 25 more concession stands.

The firm plans to gut the arena’s existing interior spaces, adding new mechanical and electrical systems. To preserve Pauley’s feel, the seating bowl will remain intact, but sightlines and circulation will be improved, and the team will add about 1,000 new seats (all seats in the stadium will be refurbished, and many will be moved closer to the competition areas), and 25,000 square feet of underground space, which will include new locker rooms, film rooms, player lounges, offices, a weight room, and event rooms.

The project will cost $185 million, about $85 million of which will come from UCLA, and about $100 million of which will come from a private fundraising campaign. That campaign has thus far taken in about $50 million. The arena will remain open for much of the renovation, with the exception of the 2011-2012 season, when teams will play elsewhere.

The arena's trademark trusses will remain visible above the seating bowl.
Courtesy NBBJ
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Marvin Rand, 1924-2009
Courtesy the Rand family

Photographer Marvin Rand spent his life devoted to architecture. Starting in the 1950s, he stood at the shoulders of some of the most influential architectural figures of the twentieth century, leaving a record in images that still teaches us today.

Esther McCoy, Charles and Ray Eames, Louis Kahn, Welton Becket, Craig Ellwood, Cesar Pelli, John Lautner, Ray Kappe, Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne—a body of work that could have left any one satisfied. Not Marvin. Close to eighty years in age, he crossed over to the 21st century and started working with a new generation including such individuals as Michele Saee and Greg Lynn.

Never mind that heart problems continued to dog him, and that he almost always left one essential piece of photographic equipment back in the office, he continued to record important work by both young architects and established ones. He would not stop. He did not cede to the frailties of his body, even as his wife, Mary Ann Danin, in support of his determination, quietly eased his path. In his mid-70s, an age where many chose not to learn the new, he dropped his lifelong habit of developing his own film and went digital—forcing himself to engulf a whole new technology for bringing work to light.

Craig Ellwood's Case Study House 16.
Marvin Rand

His approach was not simply about images. He advocated on behalf of excellence in our field, and was a champion of great work. He recorded the works of Greene & Greene and meticulously scoured every inch of the Watts Towers.

Through McCoy, he discovered the work of Irving Gill, photographing it for an exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1958. Almost forty years later, he returned to the architect, spending a decade researching and traveling across the country to shoot images that documented not only Gill’s greatest work, but lesser known projects that were equally important. For the book that derived from this effort, Marvin often re-shot Gill homes at his own expense, which he had previously photographed. When I asked him why, he told me he felt that his original photographs did not adequately capture the spirit of the architect’s work.

“His photography transcends the mere documentation of the built environment,” said Michael Hricak in a letter to the AIA nominating Marvin for his Honorary AIA in 2003. “In a single thoughtful image, he is able to explain the intentions behind the work." Marvin liked to walk a structure with the architects he worked with because, he said, “I can bring [the architect’s] thinking and my thinking together. And then we have a philosophy that can work for that structure.”

We had many such walks.

The Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn.
Marvin Rand

I met him almost twenty years ago to this day; it was a shotgun marriage. Marvin was assigned by Angeles magazine to photograph one of my early houses. After the shoot, when I finally met him at a party at the owner’s house, he came right up to me and proceeded to tell me what I should have and should not have done to make my design better.  One might think I would have been shocked and angry with him, but his deep interest in architecture and in my work was rather infectious. Instead of being put off I thought to myself, “I could like this little fireball of enthusiasm.” We became instant friends and worked together ever since. Marvin refused to hire staff, so for two decades I am proud to say: I was Marvin Rand’s assistant.

I picked up many cigarette butts, wrappers, and all kinds of small (sometimes barley visible to the naked eye) trash to clear the way for Marvin’s photos. I was finally relieved from trash detail when Marvin went digital.  I became so accustomed to my clean up duties that I continued to do so even when it was not required.  Marvin would yell out to me his new favorite saying, “Larry don’t worry about that trash, just leave it alone.  I will take it out in Photoshop!”

Marvin was living history. When he began, Charles Eames offered him work—he would be invited to dinner along with several young colleagues to show slides at Eames’ home—and Esther McCoy, who he called his greatest influence, placed his first photographs in Living for Young Homemakers. He worked with Craig Ellwood and shot the Salk Institute for Kahn. But, as a youth, Marvin had no intention of being a photographer. He thought he would be a musician. He played the clarinet and the oboe in recognized youth orchestras. World War II changed that. He was drafted. “I wouldn’t carry a gun,” he said, “but I would carry a camera instead.”

For more than half a century, he used that camera to fight on behalf of our profession.

Ray Kappe shares his memories on the A/N Blog.

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Technical Support
Tom Bonner

On September 14 Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum reopened its doors after a $30 million makeover. The renovation, carried out by local firm Rios Clementi Hale, enhances the theater’s look and comfort. But most importantly it brings the theater’s somewhat makeshift technical operations into the 21st century.

The renovation was made possible through a $4.9 million allocation from LA County with the addition of donations from several individuals, foundations, and corporations.

The 745 seat circular theater clad in an abstract precast relief by Jacques Overhoff was built in 1967 by modernist architect Welton Becket. It makes up one third of Becket’s original Music Center in Downtown LA’s Bunker Hill, along with the Ahmanson Theater and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Visible changes include a new raised entrance hall, a much larger lobby including better views of its signature Abalone tile mosaic, and a swanky new below ground lounge. The renovation also incorporated new lighting, improved sightlines to the stage, new staircases, new and larger bathrooms, and a fairly conservative but more comfortable décor, including widened seating, new carpeting, and new zebrawood wall paneling and walnut trimmed ceilings. The theater’s dominant colors are now olive and brown, replacing a mostly blue palette.

But the most radical changes to the theater took place backstage, where supporting the cramped, outdated theater’s productions had often been a supreme challenge.

“I thought to myself how can you work here?” said Jennifer Reynolds, a senior associate for Rios Clementi Hale, commenting on the mazelike hallways of the former backstage spaces.

Improvements here include a larger loading dock, more space directly behind the stage, a new green room, new dressing rooms, a new hair and makeup studio, and new prop and wardrobe rooms. Much of this new space was made possible by relocating the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to the building’s roof. Work also included installing new electrical systems; new ceiling panels and baffles for better acoustics; new catwalks; a new sound mixing booth; and the addition of elevators replacing a difficult system of ladders and steep stairs.

Perhaps the biggest challenge, said Reynolds, was working within the constraints of the theater’s circular shape, which resulted in an endless series of tight wedges. But the firm was able to navigate the geometrical challenge successfully.

“We called it a Swiss watch. It didn’t want to change, but we changed it,” said Reynolds. “The people who work here are giddy.”