Search results for "hollywood"

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Belzberg Architects
All photos Hagy Belzberg

Los Angeles’ mega mixed-use downtown development LA Live recently opened its second phase—including a glitzy new plaza hemmed by retail—to mixed reviews in the design community. But amid the chain restaurants and flashing signs, there’s one sure architectural hit: the Conga Room (facing page and above, left and right), a salsa club once located in Hollywood, that draws hundreds of sweaty dancers and partygoers every night. In fact the place is so crowded that its design, focusing on the ceiling, is really the only thing you can see.

    

Made of triangular fiberglass panels (inspired by the triangular salsa step diagram and created completely by computer), the glowing creation curves and floats its way around the space, starting on the bottom level and tunneling its way through a hole linking the floors. In some places, the triangles cluster in contained bits, resembling little pyramids or flowers; in others they’re larger and more sinuous, resembling rippling water.

The entire project measures 14,000 square feet, including a glassed-in restaurant, three different bars—one has a wall cut out with stylized butterflies, another looks like a split-open papaya—patio seating, and a swank VIP lounge. Surreal/graffiti-style paintings and sculptures by local artist Sergio Arau are another highlight.

Back to "To Catch a Curve."

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L. Ron Hubbard Would Be Proud
Yesterday while brunching in Hollywood we happened upon the biggest sign we've ever seen. Of course this being LA, it belongs to none other than the Church of Scientology. On July 3 their big blue building at the corner of Franklin and L.Ron Hubbard Way (yes that's the name of the street) was officially fitted with a brand new sign that's 84 feet long, 16 feet tall, and weighs 5.2 tons. It's about three times the size of the former, well-known sign on the site. What's more the marker, which reads "SCIENTOLOGY" in big white letters,  is fitted with LED lights so the letters glow at night (unlike the famous Hollywood sign nearby, by the way). The sign, apparently, is part of a nationwide ad campaign to get the word out about the religion. That's all we're gonna say about that. Yep. We will not use this space to poke fun of Tom Cruise or John Travolta or anyone else. We swear.
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The Finished Line
Sunset over Hollywood Park.
Alkes/Panoramio

A recent decision by the Inglewood City Council has paved the way for a real estate development to replace Hollywood Park, one of California’s few remaining thoroughbred racetracks. After the council approved a final environmental impact report and zoning change for the $2 billion, 238-acre project on June 3, preservationists and horsing racing fans have been chomping at the bit to stop it.

The proposed project in the densely populated South Bay region of Los Angeles would create a new neighborhood with 3,000 residential units ranging from market rate single-family residences to multi-level apartment complexes. Commercial, retail and entertainment components are also planned, as well as 25 acres of open space highlighted by an existing lake in the center of the racetrack.

An existing casino would be updated and joined with a new 300-room hotel. Affordable housing is not currently incorporated into the master plan, but according to council member Ralph Franklin, the city will consider using the four acres put aside for civic use to develop housing for low-income residents.

A proposed redevelopment plan for Hollywood Park would replace everything but the tower-topped casino in the background.
Courtesy Wilson Meany Sullivan

Wilson Meany Sullivan is the developer of both Hollywood Park and Bay Meadows, a San Mateo racetrack that was demolished in 2008 to make way for a real estate venture resembling the one proposed in Inglewood. But the 82-acre development has come to a halt as a result of the economic downturn and is on hold for the time being. Currently, all that remains of historic Bay Meadows is a mound of concrete rubble.

That’s what worries opponents of the Hollywood Park development. The housing market in Inglewood, like the rest of the nation, has dropped out in the past year and there are already more than 500 homes in foreclosure within the same zip code as the proposed development.

The proposed Arroyo Plaza.
Courtesy Wilson Meany Sullivan

Diane Becker, a vocal advocate of the park and founder of Save Hollywood Park, says she does not understand how the city could allow the destruction of the landmark racetrack in light of what’s happened at Bay Meadows. “I would think any city would love to have something like this [racetrack]. It just doesn’t make economic sense to tear it down. Hollywood Park is too important,” she said.

Becker and a group of Hollywood Park supporters have been lobbying city hall, insisting that the destruction of the 71-year-old track will be a significant economic and cultural loss for Inglewood. Becker said she did not rule out future lawsuits to try to stop the project from going forward. She and the other supporters of the track see the mixed-use development as contributing to urban sprawl, adding nothing of architectural significance to the region.

Cinema Plaza.
Courtesy Wilson Meany Sullivan

But Kevin Tyrrell, a principal at L.A.-based Quatro Design Group, believes his design team is running a different race. (In addition to Quatro, the designers include Cooper Robertson & Partners of New York and San Francisco-based Baldauf Catton Von Eckartsberg. Mia Lehrer + Associates developed the landscape design.)

Tyrrell sees the development as urban infill and a way to intimately stitch together neighborhoods that are currently separated by the expansive grounds and asphalt parking lots. He says the team chose to focus on a variety of typologies rather than a specific architectural style in an effort to create a diverse aesthetic that might appear to have grown more organically. They emphasized the relationships between buildings, streets, and greenways, placing less prominence on the car.  “The plan creates walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods with a lot of open space,” Tyrrell said.


A postcard of the racetrack from the 1940s, during its inaugural decade.
Courtesy Metro Library and Archive/Flickr

In regard to the opposition to the project, Tyrrell said the designers take their responsibility very seriously. “There is the potential to have a major impact on a city,” he said. “We see this project for the transformational potential that it has.”

A few zoning issues remain to be resolved by the Inglewood City Council, such as rezoning the site away from commercial recreation, and approving proposed general land use amendments. A final public hearing on July 8 is expected to resolve these matters. Once finalized, Hollywood Park will remain open at least one more year, or until construction on the development can actually begin.

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Better Living

After several flush years, supportive housing for LA’s homeless faces an uncertain future. But that hasn’t stopped many architects from seeking such publicly funded projects to survive the economic downturn.

At the height of the economic boom in 2005 and 2006, a number of projects for homeless housing, often involving top architecture firms, secured funding. Michael Maltzan completed the Rainbow Apartments for Skid Row Housing Trust in downtown LA in 2006. He recently topped off another project, the New Carver Apartments, with 95 units of senior affordable and supportive housing arranged radially around a courtyard, and due to begin leasing in October. Killefer Flammang Architects Villas at Gower, a 70-unit permanent supportive housing project in Hollywood, should break ground in November. Koning Eizenberg is just completing the Abbey Apartments on Skid Row, while Pugh + Scarpa recently completed a 46-unit facility in Santa Monica called Step Up on Fifth. And Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects is collaborating with the Skid Row Housing Trust on an 82-unit site in downtown LA.

Despite this flurry, future funding is in jeopardy. If passed, proposition 1E, on the May 19 ballot, would let the state legislature redirect funds from 2004’s Mental Health Services Act—which provided $400 million in funds for supportive housing—back into state coffers. Furthermore, money from 2002’s Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act, or Proposition 46, has been disbursed more slowly than in the past, forcing non-profit developers to look for alternate funding sources.

The failure of the state to approve a budget has also delayed bond issues for publicly funded projects. Just as seized-up credit markets hurt the larger economy, one frozen sector has consequences for every other, explained Molly Rysman, director of special projects at Skid Row Housing Trust.

 

An supportive housing proposal by Lorcan O'Herlihy ArchitectsA supportive housing proposal by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects.
Courtesy Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects

The private sector is unlikely to make up the shortfall. As Tod Lipka, president and CEO of Step Up on Second, which provides housing for the homeless in Santa Monica, explained, “Giving hasn’t stopped, but people aren’t giving at the level they were before the recession.”

But despite the uncertain financial landscape, architects in Los Angeles continue to work closely with nonprofit developers on more affordable and supportive housing. In fact, with a relatively dire commercial market, more architects than ever are receptive to working with much tighter budgets in the public sector, said Lipka.

Nonprofit housing developers stress that they’re looking for architects with an innate sensitivity to the community they’re serving. “We want to create housing that doesn’t feel institutional,” said Rysman. Another criterion is speed. “There’s a certain degree of stop-and-go,” explained Dora Leong Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends, an affordable housing developer. “Responsiveness is critical, especially for projects funded with tax credits. Delaying any part of the process can jeopardize a project.”

One architect who has transitioned from commercial projects to publicly funded work is Lorcan O’Herlihy, who maintains that lessons learned in the private sector can translate into supportive housing design. “We take programmatic criteria—incorporate green roofs, cable systems for irrigation, landscapes into urban areas—and try to be inventive within strict parameters,” he said.

Is there a silver lining to the budget crisis for affordable and supportive housing? Gallo thinks so, especially as president pro tempore of the California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, plans to introduce a bill to provide a permanent revenue source for affordable housing. Gallo said the political environment may finally be ripe to pass such a bill: “One good thing that’s come out of [this financial crisis] is an understanding of the importance of having a place to call home.”

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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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Artistry on the Line
The Heller House, Beverly Hills (1950)
All images courtesy Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

The exhibition of Richard Neutra’s drawings at the LA Central Library adds another dimension to the meticulously composed images (most by Julius Shulman) that we’ve seen time and again. Here is the man behind the work, and the preparatory studies that fed into familiar buildings. An idealized self-portrait in charcoal is juxtaposed with the utopian vision of Rush City Reformed. Luxuriant plantings soften the rigorous geometry of the houses. A spiral parking structure Neutra sketched for Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924 draws on the curvilinear forms of Eric Mendelsohn, with whom the fledgling architect worked in Berlin, and it anticipates the rounded bays of houses he would build in LA. Curator Thomas Hines, author of the definitive Neutra monograph, has made an inspired selection from the UCLA archives to portray an architect who was also a gifted artist and a modernist with a strong romantic streak.

Universal Pictures Building, Los Angeles (1932-33)

Christmas, 29 Palms (1938)
 
 

Handsomely installed and thoughtfully explained, the drawings are arranged chronologically to trace Neutra’s career, from his early years in Europe through his 45-year practice in LA. They are also grouped by theme, to show how skilled he was in capturing the spirit of places he explored, natural forms, and the context in which he built. It’s fascinating to jump from the hothouse world of Vienna, where he mingled with such giants as Gustav Klimt, Arnold Schoenberg, and Sigmund Freud, to the tabula rasa of the American southwest. That was the fulfillment of Neutra’s dream, in the bleak aftermath of World War I, to escape the winters of northern Europe and live on an idyllic tropical island.

Adolf Loos turned the young man away from ornament and traditional architectural forms, and his earliest architectural drawing—a house for an estate in Berlin—has the same purity of line as his last. In contrast to R.M. Schindler, who constantly reinvented himself, Neutra was rigorously consistent. There are fascinating glimpses of unrealized projects, including an austere gym deftly linked to a Spanish-style villa in Santa Monica, a rooftop solarium composed of glass louvers for his VDL house in Silverlake, and the competition entry he developed with Schindler in 1926 for the League of Nations Headquarters in Geneva. The sketches show how comfortable he was with the language of Mendelsohn and Wright, and how quickly he found his own voice in the Lovell Health House, a timeless icon in the Hollywood Hills. They also reveal his importance as an innovator, pioneering prefabrication and novel systems of on-site construction, as well as developing new models for schools and affordable housing.

This exhibition is a layered artifact of extraordinary significance. It puts an archival collection on view in the most democratic forum in LA, at the heart of downtown. It illuminates the creative process and the multiple skills of an architect who, like so many other talented immigrants from Europe, enriched a provincial outpost. And there’s a poignancy in seeing how little of this vision realized. Though Neutra was prolific beyond the dreams of today’s architects, completing about 300 houses in addition to commercial and public buildings as far afield as Cuba, Frankfurt, and Karachi, he was repeatedly foiled by philistines and know-nothings, whose successors still have a decisive voice in the shaping of LA. Parents disparaged his model schools as “factories,” and the Elysian Heights housing development was condemned as “creeping socialism” during the red-baiting hysteria of the early 1950s.

League of Nations Headquarters, Geneva, with R.M. Schindler (1926)

And yet, we should be grateful for what was achieved, on paper as well as on the ground. Besides organizing three symposia, LAPL exhibitions director Gloria Gerace commissioned an innovative audio guide. Ray Kappe remembers the sliding glass wall in a Neutra classroom where he studied at age 13. Actress Kelly Lynch speaks of the unpretentious simplicity and livability of the Oyler house in Lone Pine, which she and husband Mitch Glazer restored. Leo Marmol and other Neutra specialists describe their close encounters. You can listen to these tributes by dialing 213-455-2927. It’s a great way to build anticipation for the exhibition itself.

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Better Living
Pugh+Scarpa's Step Up On Fifth, a homeless shelter of a different breed in Santa Monica.
Courtesy Pugh + Scarpa

After several flush years, supportive housing for LA’s homeless faces an uncertain future. But that hasn’t stopped many architects from seeking such publicly funded projects to survive the economic downturn.

At the height of the economic boom in 2005 and 2006, a number of projects for homeless housing, often involving top architecture firms, secured funding. Michael Maltzan completed the Rainbow Apartments for Skid Row Housing Trust in downtown LA in 2006. He recently topped off another project, the New Carver Apartments, with 95 units of senior affordable and supportive housing arranged radially around a courtyard, and due to begin leasing in October. Killefer Flammang Architects Villas at Gower, a 70-unit permanent supportive housing project in Hollywood, should break ground in November. Koning Eizenberg is just completing the Abbey Apartments on Skid Row, while Pugh + Scarpa recently completed a 46-unit facility in Santa Monica called Step Up on Fifth. And Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects is collaborating with the Skid Row Housing Trust on an 82-unit site in downtown LA.

Despite this flurry, future funding is in jeopardy. If passed, proposition 1E, on the May 19 ballot, would let the state legislature redirect funds from 2004’s Mental Health Services Act—which provided $400 million in funds for supportive housing—back into state coffers. Furthermore, money from 2002’s Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act, or Proposition 46, has been disbursed more slowly than in the past, forcing non-profit developers to look for alternate funding sources.

The failure of the state to approve a budget has also delayed bond issues for publicly funded projects. Just as seized-up credit markets hurt the larger economy, one frozen sector has consequences for every other, explained Molly Rysman, director of special projects at Skid Row Housing Trust.

An supportive housing proposal by Lorcan O'Herlihy ArchitectsA supportive housing proposal by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects.
Courtesy Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects

The private sector is unlikely to make up the shortfall. As Tod Lipka, president and CEO of Step Up on Second, which provides housing for the homeless in Santa Monica, explained, “Giving hasn’t stopped, but people aren’t giving at the level they were before the recession.”

But despite the uncertain financial landscape, architects in Los Angeles continue to work closely with nonprofit developers on more affordable and supportive housing. In fact, with a relatively dire commercial market, more architects than ever are receptive to working with much tighter budgets in the public sector, said Lipka.

Nonprofit housing developers stress that they’re looking for architects with an innate sensitivity to the community they’re serving. “We want to create housing that doesn’t feel institutional,” said Rysman. Another criterion is speed. “There’s a certain degree of stop-and-go,” explained Dora Leong Gallo, CEO of A Community of Friends, an affordable housing developer. “Responsiveness is critical, especially for projects funded with tax credits. Delaying any part of the process can jeopardize a project.”

One architect who has transitioned from commercial projects to publicly funded work is Lorcan O’Herlihy, who maintains that lessons learned in the private sector can translate into supportive housing design. “We take programmatic criteria—incorporate green roofs, cable systems for irrigation, landscapes into urban areas—and try to be inventive within strict parameters,” he said.

Is there a silver lining to the budget crisis for affordable and supportive housing? Gallo thinks so, especially as president pro tempore of the California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, plans to introduce a bill to provide a permanent revenue source for affordable housing. Gallo said the political environment may finally be ripe to pass such a bill: “One good thing that’s come out of [this financial crisis] is an understanding of the importance of having a place to call home.”

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Pieces Of History
Yesterday the Los Angeles Conservancy held its annual Preservation Awards at a packed ballroom in the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown LA. Some interesting tidbits we picked up about the winners: The Biscuit Factory Lofts Downtown used to be a Nabisco bakery, making Oreos and other treats. Cole's, the famous French Dip restaurant Downtown that opened over 100 years ago, is located in a former terminal for red car street cars. The day prohibition ended Cole's served 2,000 gallons of beer. Griffith Park's application for landmark status was 400 pages long. And the La Laguna De San Gabriel Park Historic Structures include Stella the Starfish, Peanut the Green Dolphin, and Ozzie the Octopus. The winners were all impressive. Here's the list: Biscuit Company Lofts (Aleks Istanbullu Architects and Donald Barany Architects) Cole's, Originators of the French Dip (Kelly Architects and Historic Resources Group) First Church of Christ Scientist, Pasadena (Architectural Resources Group) Griffith Park City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument Application Hollywood Palladium (COE Architecture, Architectural Resources Group and KKE Architects) La Laguna De San Gabriel Historic Structures Report and Preservation Plan (Garavaglia Architecture) Malibu Pier (Architecture & Light and Historic Resources Group) Mark Taper Forum (Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Harley Ellis Devereaux) Pisgah Village (Ena Dubnoff Architects)

Usher's Revenge?

On April 13, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew Jr. abrogated parts of LA’s SB 1818 ordinance, which compels local governments to craft their own rules rewarding density bonuses to developers who include a percentage of affordable housing units in residential projects. Former LA planning commissioner Jane Usher, who recently stepped down, had been an outspoken opponent of the measure.

In some cases, the LA ordinance provided bonuses 300 percent greater than those mandated by SB 1818. The ruling prevents the city from approving projects with density bonuses that exceed state law.

The ordinance has been the target of numerous lawsuits. One such suit, filed in April 2008 by a group of homeowners called the Environment And Housing Coalition Los Angeles (EAHCLA), argued that the city acted improperly by approving the ordinance, which allowed developers to increase density and height while reducing parking and open space requirements—all without environmental review. Judge McKnew agreed, and his decision throws an unknown number of proposed developments into jeopardy.

Proponents of the ordinance have said that it encourages affordable housing and limits sprawl. Foes have long argued that it was a giveaway to developers and speculators which would have resulted in a net loss of affordable housing as developers razed older apartment complexes to build profitable, market-priced condominiums with one or two affordable units.

In March 2008, then Los Angeles City Planning Commission President Jane Ellison Usher authored an email opposing the ordinance and inviting public action. In the now-famous missive, Usher pointed to language within the ordinance defining some projects seeking density bonuses as “ministerial,” thereby exempting them from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Usher noted that the ministerial designation was at odds with a Categorical Exemption issued by the Planning Department, which stated that all projects filed in accordance with the ordinance be subject to CEQA review.

Not surprisingly, Usher is pleased with the judge’s ruling. “It did justice to the legal requirements of CEQA,” she said. Although she was critical of SB 1818, asserting that the bill had developers “licking their chops,” Usher nevertheless saw an opportunity for Los Angeles to draft an ordinance that embraced a smart growth formula. “The city didn’t follow that path,” she noted.

Will Wright, Director of Government and Public Affairs for the Los Angeles Chapter of the AIA, believes the city’s intent was to cut through the “bureaucratic bog” and make it easier to bring projects to market, thereby increasing opportunities for low-to-moderate housing. Still, Wright sympathizes with those who feared the ordinance would destroy the character and scale of their communities, citing the “low levels of sophistication” that have plagued many residential developments. “Over the last 15 years or so, you’ve seen massive condo projects go up that have no character and no connectivity to the neighborhood, and this represents the monster,” he said.

Ric Abramson, founder of Workplays Studio Architecture, points to another quandary, namely that of instituting SB 1818 over a broad range of jurisdictions, citing the turmoil it has caused in West Hollywood. “That’s a community that had a very proactive and progressive affordable housing program in place, and when the state passed SB 1818, it completely upset their balance,” he said.

Councilmember Ed Reyes, who chairs the council’s planning and land-use management committee, was unavailable for comment, as were representatives of the city’s planning department.

While the city council may appeal Judge McKnew’s ruling, Usher hopes they will instead redraft the ordinance in a manner that will promote smart growth rather than sprawl-inducing densification. “I think that the city has to grab hold of its future growth pattern for traffic and environmental reasons—here is an occasion where the city can be a leader,” she noted.

When asked if she is hopeful that an ordinance embracing those principles might eventually be adopted, Usher let out a hearty laugh, adding: “There’s always room for hope.”

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Home Sweet Home
A conceptual rendering of the new museum.
courtesy A+D Museum

After years of nomadic existence LA’s A+D Museum, created in 2001 to “celebrate and promote an awareness of architecture and design,” is finally getting its own home, at 6032 Wilshire Boulevard, right across the street from the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) on LA’s Museum Row. The museum signed a six-year lease (with an additional five-year option) for its ground-floor space on April 17, and plans to occupy it in September. It left its former location on 5900 Wilshire—about two blocks east of the new space—on April 20.

Since its founding the A+D has bounced around LA, occupying locations donated by philanthropists like developer Ira Yellin, who gave the museum its first facility in Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building in 2001. It then moved to Santa Monica (2003), to West Hollywood (2003-2005), and finally to its most recent location in Miracle Mile (2006-2009), a large space donated by developer Wayne Ratkovich.

The new venue is on the ground floor of a small midcentury office building, and will be fronted by large storefront windows and bright signage that will welcome the public more immediately than the museum's most recent, set-back site. Design work for the raw, minimal space will be donated by Richard Meier & Partners and by Gensler. The builder has not yet been determined. Once the buildout is complete the museum will measure 4,800 square feet, including a 3,500-square-foot main gallery as well as room for offices, conference rooms, and project storage.

"We see this as our next big step,” said A+D’s president, the architect Stephen Kanner, who stressed the museum’s desire all along to stay in the Museum Row area, near major museums like the LA County Museum of Art, BCAM, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the California Craft & Folk Museum. “This will allow us to have a broader outreach and to have more shows because of the new stable location,” he said. Kanner added that the museum has been fundraising through top architects and designers in the city over the last nine months. The museum will announce several top donors at its fall fundraiser, he added.

Over the years the museum has hosted exhibitions about architects like Ray Kappe, and has put together thematic shows on emerging architects (New Blood: Next Gen), on the future of LA (LA Now!), on design-savvy developers (Enlightened Development), and on the destruction and rebuilding of New Orleans (After The Flood). Future shows—roughly four per year, said Kanner—will be split evenly between architecture and design. The museum had tended to lean more heavily toward architecture. Future exhibits, he noted, could feature production design, commercial design, graphic design, and film set design in addition to a variety of architecture-based shows. The museum will also focus more on outreach and education.

“It’s not just a museum for architects and designers, but a museum for the public,” said Kanner.  

Before construction begins, the A+D will host a pop-up exhibition in the new space from May 8 to 23 called UPCYCLING: Recuperating Past Lives, featuring art and design objects made from recycled materials. Its first exhibition in the completed space is not yet set, although A+D Director Tibbie Dunbar said that the museum will host the Society of Design Administration’s 2009 CANstruction event and exhibition in early October.

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Billboard Brouhaha
Illegal billboards plague LA, but a new ordinance passed by the planning department could cause more problems than it fixes.
LA Weekly

One day last fall, Kate Burkart-Paulson, a longtime resident of LA's Silver Lake neighborhood, was surprised to wake up to discover that the billboard outside her duplex on Silver Lake Boulevard had been converted into a digital display, shining directly into her living room. "We need to close our blinds at night because it's so distracting. It changes every few seconds," she explained. "It really changes the tone of the neighborhood."

Burkart-Paulson is one of many residents across the city troubled by billboards. In the past few years the city has settled several lawsuits brought by outdoor advertising companies—among them Clear Channel, CBS, and World Wide Rush, thereby allowing the companies to convert signs to both digital and so-called supergraphic billboards, which often span several building stories, despite a 2002 ban on new billboards in the city. As a result, the offending signs began appearing across LA in late 2008, inspiring the anger of community residents and anti-clutter proponents across the city.

Responding to pressure from community organizers, developers and outdoor advertising lobbyists, the City Planning Commission—facing the June expiration of their December 2008 temporary sign moratorium—approved a comprehensive new sign ordinance for LA on March 26 by a vote of 6-3. The measure will next be considered by the LA City Council. A date for that vote has not yet been set.

The new ordinance all but bans digital billboards and supergraphics in the city, except in 21 designated sign districts, including most of Chinatown, Hollywood and downtown, as well as parts of Century City, Boyle Heights and Miracle Mile. Hoping to address what has been seen as a relatively lax enforcement policy for billboards, the ordinance also calls for much stricter enforcement guidelines, including hefty financial penalties for violators.

"If I said you can park anywhere and never get a ticket, you wouldn't obey parking rules," said Craig Lawson, a land use consultant in LA who represents a number of local retail and residential projects. "It's the enforcement problem that is causing a signage problem." Jeff Aran, director of government affairs for the California Sign Association agrees. "The city should enforce the ordinance that's already on the books and abandon this ongoing waste of civic energy," he said.

Additionally, the ordinance requires a reduction in existing signage as a condition for establishing the sign districts. While the potential sign districts represent a compromise between competing interests, they've been met with cautious optimism. "This sign ordinance isn't perfect, but it's a big improvement over what's on the books now. Requiring meaningful off-site sign reduction as a condition for establishing sign districts could be a real benefit to neighborhoods suffering from the visual clutter and blight of billboards," declared Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, a non-profit opposing most outdoor advertising in LA.

But while the new ordinance, if passed, may satisfy some early opponents, the effect of the new regulations on the architecture and design industry still remains a question. Thus far, many architects have been concerned by the lack of visual analysis undertaken by the city regarding billboards. For instance, Bob Hale, managing principal at Rios Clementi Hale, pointed to LA’s unique horizontality, which he said makes it different from New York and other cities, though the city has yet to consider such distinctions. “It seems to me,” Hale said, “that the planning department is using the hue and cry of a community bombarded by digital billboards to do a wholesale recreation of the sign code from scratch, even though no one I know of has complained about [the existing sign code]."

John Kaliski, president of the AIA/LA chapter and principal at Urban Studio, called the changes a visual ordinance, not a billboard one. The challenge, he stressed, is approving a sign ordinance that balances competing interests to create successful legislation. "In general, we're seeking a balance between creativity in sign districts and sensible citywide guidelines to ensure the integrity of communities," Kaliski said.

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Announcing Winners: A New Infrastructure
An image from the winning entry, Mas Transit, by Joshua G. Stein/RadicalCraft, Aaron Whelton/AAW Studio, and Jaclyn Thomforde with Jacob M. Brostoff
Stein/Whelton/Thomforde/Brostoff

On March 21, SCI-Arc's SCI-FI program and The Architect’s Newspaper announced the winners of their open ideas competition, A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions for Los Angeles.

The competition, inspired by LA County Measure R—a half-cent sales tax hike that promises up to $40 billion in transit funding for the city— attracted 75 proposals from around the world. It offered architects, engineers, urban planners, and students a chance to propose new ideas for the city's transit infrastructure. Their entries focused on specific rail extension projects in the city and also take a look at larger-scale, interrelated planning challenges.

The competition jury included architects Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, and Neil Denari;  Aspet Davidian, director, Project Engineering Facilities, LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Cecilia V. Estolano, chief executive officer, CRA/LA; Gail Goldberg, director of planning, City of Los Angeles; Roland Genik, urban planner and transit designer; and Geoff Wardle, director, Advanced Mobility Research at Art Center College of Design.
 

PROFESSIONAL WINNERS

First Prize
Más Transit: Joshua G. Stein/RadicalCraft, Aaron Whelton/AAW Studio, and Jaclyn Thomforde with Jacob M. Brostoff

Más is regional high-speed rail for Los Angeles with a landscape to match. Promoting dense, organic development, it diversifies the communities in the built environment, making travel less necessary, easier and more predictable, and bypassing roadway congestion through a new raised infrastructure. Looping around the city, with connections to subways and buses, Más links local and inter-regional commuting; providing frequent service that will also sync up with the California High Speed Rail network. San Diego via más is less than an hour away, including transfer times; San Francisco is less than three hours away.

 

Second Prize
Infrastructural Armature: Fletcher Studio: David Fletcher, Dylan Barlow, Ryan Chandler, Daniel Phillips, Tobi Adamolekun

Recognizing the vital role that mobility, water, and sewage will play in Los Angeles' future, the city must begin to invest in a core armature of new bundled infrastructures which will allow the city to survive the impending reality of peak water and peak oil.  The city must reorganize along the matrices of transportation, water and sewer networks, and grow infrastructural tentacles out into the world to ship and receive.

 

 

Third Prize
Mag Luv: Osborn: Holly Chisholm, Kate Harvey, Armen Isagholi, Takeshi Kobayashi, Michael Pinto, Jared Sopko, Esmeralda Ward, Yuju Yeo

The scheme proposes eroding a portion of the freeway and supplanting it with a new object, mode, and form for adoration—Mag Luv. The high speed magnetic levitation peripheral train appropriates freeway, right of way, and “dream space” to become the mega structure of the Los Angeles transit system. The loop circumnavigates the city providing 12 hubs of activity, transportation, and power production.
 

HONORABLE MENTION: PROFESSIONAL

 

Mobility on Demand: RSA: Dwight Bond, Diane Tadena, James Wong

A combination of rail, light-rail, smart cars, bike share, and different bus systems will provide easy connections in and between cities. Multiple vehicle types provide users with choices among combinations of cost, comfort, and functionality. A commuter might choose to ride the train to work, pick up a smart car to attend a meeting, go to the gym, or pick up groceries before going back home. In creating a dense commercial and residential environment to support and foster the inevitable expansion of the transit system, the scheme also investigates alternative development strategies that are adaptable to the ever-changing conditions of our urban culture.

 

Green Tech City: NBBJ: Harry Bairamian, Hrant Bairamian, So Eun Cho, Tony Choi, Scott Hunter, Byoung Kweon, Anthony Manzo, Nnamdi Ugenyi, Jonathan Ward, Tim Zamora

This scheme created green-tech districts along the Westside expansion corridor stretching from downtown to Santa Monica. The plan likened itself to a living organism, including a Skeletal System composed of new green districts between stations; a respiratory system that included a 2.5-mile green park along the length of the transit system; and tendons, which were linkages to the community, like freeway bridges, human-scaled densities, walkability plans, urban parks, and agricultural zones.

 

Go Mixed-Modal: Tom Beresford

In 2000, LA Metro gambled that it could increase both ridership and transit efficiency by making a bus a little more like a subway: The Metro Rapid. Mixed-modal goes even further to suggest that any bus has the potential to go “local,” “rapid,” or “express” at coordinated points along its route to flexibly serve transit demand. A bus may go “express” by entering grade-separated express lanes shared with planned or existing rail modes, with the help of new frictionless electric power-transfer technologies and hybrid rail/road drive surfaces. The mixed-modal project offers a vision of what the Expo line might look like if it operated as the “trunk” of a regional transit tree with “branches” extending up and down existing Metro Rapid lines.


 

STUDENT WINNERS

First Prize
Glocalizing Los Angeles: Ryan Lovett

The physical separations between places of work and play have become outdated and burdensome. Meanwhile the divide between commercial, residential, agricultural, and manufacturing zones have become so exaggerated that the infrastructures needed to connect and sustain them crumble in lack of upkeep and congestion. In conjunction with newer, faster transit systems, this plan proposes a simple development strategy that collapses the distances between all the elements needed to support our lifestyles by suggesting that workplaces, as well as production of food and goods, be within walking distance.
 

 

Second Prize
Modular Diffusion: Alan Lu, Yan-ping Wang

In a car, the passenger can go from any given point to another in one continuous trip.  To achieve this level of mobility in tandem with an increase in roadway capacity, we introduce a mass transit system based upon a Modular Transit Vehicle (MTV for short).  This modular system would allow passengers to (1) board from a wide range of street stops, (2) travel along the freeway, and (3) take the freeway exit closest to the destination and drop passengers off there, all in one ride.

 

Third Prize
Freeways Are For Trains: Ben Abelman, Vivian Ngo, Julia Siedle

This team believes that Los Angeles need not invest in a “new” public transportation system but transform its existing transportation system of freeways into “trainways.”  By taking over “freeways” with rail tracks, a comprehensive expansion of the LA Metro will respond to the projects that are indicated in Measure R and will commence at a much lower cost due to taking advantage of the rights of ways established by the freeway.

 

HONORABLE MENTION: STUDENT

Feeding Community and the Gold Line
Roe Goodman
University of British Columbia

If we are to develop along a freeway we need to keep in mind that the surrounding residential neighborhoods need to access the train in a way that encourages a shift away from car dependency. This entry proposes a string of micro-scale infill developments along a bus line that feeds into the Eastside Transit Corridor. Positioned along newly developed commercial corridors, stops have waiting rooms that store bikes, serve as markets, and create a center of community.
 

 

Interstate 10
Tim Do, George LaBeth, Randy Stogsdill
SCI-Arc

This scheme proposes a reconsideration of the existing freeway corridor as a multi-function transit corridor. The existing freeway would be retrofitted with a new structure that over a series of stages adds layers of public and environmentally friendly transit options. As this second tier becomes more populated, greenscaping is added, converting the freeway corridor into a vibrant public space.

 

Cross-Link/Cross-Program
Minjeong Gweon
Cal Poly Pomona

Los Angeles’ current subway network relies too much on a centralized spoke-network approach. A more effective subway system should also include cross-linkages. This subway design project looks to develop a new cross-link between the existing red line (which connects Hollywood and Downtown) and the future purple Westside Extension line. The proposed connecting line would add three new stops: the first at Santa Monica Blvd. and Highland Ave, the second at Santa Monica and Fairfax, and the third at La Cienega. The connecting point to the red line would be at Hollywood and Highland, and the connecting point to the future purple line would be located at the Beverly Center.


  

ORGANIZERS' SELECTIONS

Fast, Fluid & Free: ODBC/ Odile Decq

This project takes advantage of LA’s polycentric character, developing a grid of multimodal transit systems, articulated on different levels within the existing city. On the scale of the city, the plan proposes a Free Car Transport System, on the model of free bike systems largely developed in Europe today. Electric cars will be available for hire throughout the city. Other proposals include Smooth Jumps over Motorways: stations that combine the urban proposal of green park links between the two sides of the freeways by building a station over them, and containing contain carparks, commerce, Free Car and Free Bike  stations.

 

The Answer Is Not Mass(ive) Transit: Wes Jones

Instead of the massive, resource-intensive, and inflexible infrastructure that results from top-down approaches to planning, this proposal argues, why not consider a flexible, pragmatic, small-scale, bottom-up approach? Introducing the Elov, a small, pod-like vehicle that fits into less space than a smart car and reduces the volume of traffic by serving the same number of occupants in only one quarter of the space. Because of its light weight and micromotor efficiency, the Elov can be charged overnight using home outlets, further reducing the required infrastructure.

 

EVENTS

Friday, March 27, 2-4 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Competition Winners and METRO Transit Officials
Metro Headquarters
Windsor Room, 15th Floor
One Gateway Plaza
Los Angeles
 
Thursday, April 2, 7-9 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Transit And The City Panel Discussion
MAK Center at the Schindler House
835 North Kings Road
West Hollywood

Tuesday, April 14, 7-9 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Transit and The Community Panel Discussion
GOOD Space
6824 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles

Friday, June 26, 1:45-3:15 pm
A New Infrastructure Discussion:
Architects And Transit Panel Discussions
AIA Mobius/ Dwell Conference
Los Angeles Convention Center
1201 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles


Sponsors for A New Infrastructure include AECOM, Arup, and Sussman/Prezja. The project is also funded in part by a grant from the City of Los Angeles' Department of Cultural Affairs.