Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is preparing to announce a final slate of projects for his "28 by 28" initiative before the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (Metro) board of directors this week. Garcetti’s effort aims to complete 28 regional transit projects before Los Angeles hosts the summer Olympics in 2028. The proposal includes a collection of projects already planned under a recently passed transportation funding ballot initiative called Measure M, urbanize.LA reports. Measure M is slated to bring $860 million per year to regional transit projects that Metro will utilize to diversify regional transportation options. According to a plan posted to the Metro website, Garcetti’s initiative includes 16 projects planned under Measure M and a previous transit measure. These projects include light rail and bus rapid transit (BRT) expansions across the region, as well as several highway improvement and widening efforts. The plan calls for expanding six light rail lines, which includes the completion of new light rail lines to Crenshaw in South Los Angeles, Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley, and Santa Ana in the southeast. Also included are a slew of regional BRT projects in the northern San Fernando Valley along Vermont Avenue and through Glendale. The collected projects have the potential to reshape the region’s urban geography, as evidenced by the explosion of transit-oriented development proposed along the recently extended Expo light rail line in West Los Angeles. The areas around the first phase of the Purple Line subway extension are already booming with high-density, mixed-use developments. Further information on the 28 by 28 plan is forthcoming. See the Metro website for the official Measure M transit expansion roll-out schedule.
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A new project under development by Oakland, California–based Lowney Architecture and developer Pinnacle RED aims to bring the East Bay its newest—and tallest—mixed-use tower. The forthcoming 36-story tower will be located at 1261 Harrison Street and will bring 185 apartment units, 120,000 square feet of Class A office space, and 12,000 square feet of commercial uses to downtown Oakland, potentially transforming that city’s downtown Chinatown neighborhood. The 440-foot tower is billed as the city’s only mixed-use tower under development that combines commercial functions with affordable and market-rate housing under one roof. The arrangement is a by-product of the development’s utilization of a density bonus, which allows the developer to build taller and more densely in exchange for providing affordable housing units on-site. The complex will be anchored on the ground floor by a market hall–style food court with a “locavore” focus. The tower is designed along the street to match the massing and “neighborhood rhythm” of surrounding commercial storefronts, according to Ken Lowney, principal at Lowney Architecture. The 11 floors above street level will be occupied by office spaces with the uppermost levels containing condominiums and maisonettes. Lowney told The Architect’s Newspaper that the lower level will house community-serving establishments that could potentially include current retail tenants occupying an existing commercial structure on the site that will give way to the development. Under the potential plan, a local bicycle shop will return to manage the building’s 185-stall bicycle parking facilities, for example. The project provides an automated 185-stall underground garage, though parking is not required for the site. The gridded glass tower complex grows from its contextual base in a canted fashion, splitting into two alternating masses as it rises up. The tower’s bifurcated facades are wrapped in a gridded frame that extends the depth of the building’s curtain walls out from each facade. The non-structural application of these gridded frames is a leftover from earlier design iterations that called for an externally-structured tower. Instead, the building is held up by internal beams and columns, a shear core, and moment frames. The glass panels that infill these frames are decorated with multicolored metal panels that are designed to reference surrounding conditions, with warmer, brick-like tones coloring lower levels and clear-blue panels populating the uppermost sections of the tower. In a statement, Mark Donahue of Lowney Architecture said,“We strove for a distinctive design by breaking up the building’s mass so that it appears as two towers, but is really one structure,” adding that the tower was designed to “match the façades of nearby, character-rich buildings.” The development is currently undergoing planning approval. 1261 Harrison Street is expected to take roughly two years to complete once plans are approved.
Skybridge to Heaven
Portland shoots for the region's tallest buildings with twin towers proposal
A recently proposed pair of twin towers by Portland, Oregon–based William Kaven Architecture (WKA) could become the tallest buildings in Oregon and among the tallest structures on the West Coast if built according to current plans. WKA is proposing a pair of diagrid-framed structures on a site formerly occupied by a regional U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Portland's Pearl District, with one of the towers rising 970 feet high. The towers would be connected near their apexes by a monumental sky bridge. The tower’s so-called “botanical bridge” would sit roughly 680 feet above grade according to current plans. The towers will also feature mid-body planted terraces and will be connected along the ground floor by a public park. The sky-bridge would create a new tourist destination for the city, according to the architects, on par with Seattle’s Space Needle and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. If completed, however, the tower's height would still fall a good deal behind the Wilshire Grand in Los Angeles by AC Martin and the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco by Pelli Clarke Pelli, which rise 1,099- and 1,070-feet high, respectively, due to their spires. The project site was recently purchased for $88 million by Prosper Portland, a local urban renewal agency that is seeking to turn the site into a mixed-use apartment hub, Willamette Week reports. In a recent Op-Ed for DJC Oregon, WKA principal Daniel Kaven laid out the argument for the firm’s twin tower proposal, calling the scheme a lynchpin for regional efforts to “fundamentally transform how people live in the [Pacific] Northwest” by creating an iconic, high-density node on a prominent urban site. In the article, Kaven argues that the region will likely see an influx of new residents as other regions across the country become burdened by climate change–related afflictions. The time to begin preparing for the influx of climate refugees is now—according to Kaven—and high-rise developments could provide a practical solution for adding more housing while also relieving residents of their cars. Kaven added:
“The towers are large enough to serve as a headquarters for a Fortune 100 company, such as Amazon, and would anchor the entire district both architecturally and financially. The towers and interlinking skybridge would be an iconic addition to Portland’s skyline and a destination for locals and tourists alike. The elevated garden would be a tropical respite from the gray of the city at any time of the year and provide breathtaking views of Mt. Hood and the entire city skyline.”For now, the WKA scheme remains just that—Prosper Portland began project solicitation earlier this month via an RFP, which is due January 19, 2018.
Four forthcoming developments planned for areas immediately surrounding the recently-opened Los Angeles State Historical Park in Downtown Los Angeles's Chinatown and Solano Canyon neighborhoods have the potential to completely reshape the industrial, working-class area into a new node for mid-rise, mixed-use urbanism. According to various reports and an environmental review, the four projects detailed below will bring up to 1,690 housing units, 92,406 square feet of retail and office spaces, and 2,962 parking stalls to several transit-adjacent lots currently occupied by industrial warehouses, parking lots, or hillside brush. The new 32-acre state park opened earlier this year after a lengthy approval and renovation process and will eventually link to a fully-restored Los Angeles River greenway. The largest of these developments will be the two-phase Elysian Lofts complex by developers Lincoln Property Company, S&R Properties, and architects Newman Garrison + Partners. The linear development will be located on a long, narrow site bounded by the Gold Line and Broadway. The southern end of the 8.08-acre site closest to the Chinatown transit stop will be developed first. That section will include 451 residential units—including seven live-work suites— and 9,871 square feet of ground-floor retail. This phase will also include 3,465 square feet of office spaces and a three-level subterranean parking garage containing 880 parking stalls. Phase one of the project will be distributed across three mid-rise towers rising between 7- and 14-stories in height with the tallest tower topping out at 155 feet. The second phase of the project will improve the northernmost section of the site with 469 units, 8,070 square feet of retail, and 2,000 square feet of offices. This phase of the development will also include 10 live-work units. This second three-tower complex will sit atop a three-story parking podium with 903 parking stalls and will bookend a linear park located between the two development parcels. Phase two will be distributed across three mid-rise towers rising 7-, 8-, and 14-stories in height with the tallest tower topping out at 170 feet. The northern section of the site will also host a two-story structure containing a rooftop pool for use by residents. Renderings for the project depict grouped clusters of variegated mid-rise towers clad in large expanses of glass with views oriented over the State Historic Park. The development also features tree-lined sidewalks along Broadway and internal walkways but does not physically connect to the State Historic Park. According to currently available materials, the development does not include an affordable housing component. Just below the transit stop at the foot of the Elysian Lofts site, architects Workshop Design Collective is working on a 50,000-square-foot adaptive reuse project aimed at transforming the historic Capitol Milling Building. The brick- and timber-truss structure dates to 1881 and is being designed to include an artisanal food hall, a microbrewery, and creative offices among other uses. The five-building complex will be connected by a series of indoor-outdoor spaces that include a mezzanine level, dining terraces, and a public staircase. Across the street, architects Johnson Fain and developer Atlas Capital Group are working on a new mixed-use complex called College Station that will contain 770 dwelling units, 51,000 square feet of ground floor commercial spaces, and parking for 1,179 cars and 899 bicycles. The development will be spread out across six structures situated above a two-story podium containing parking and retail. The cluster of mid-rise housing blocks would be connected by a terrace level located above the podium. Renderings of the project depict a mix of linear apartment blocks featuring projecting balconies, metal panel cladding, and vertical louvers. The controversial project has been scaled down over time due to community concerns that it would jump-start gentrification in the area. Chinatown’s median household income is roughly $22,754 per year according to Preserve LA, and while the development is expected to contain some affordable housing, it is unclear whether those units would be affordable to current longtime residents. Just down the street from College Station, Omgivning is working on a 19,000-square foot adaptive reuse complex that would transform an existing poultry processing plant into a creative office and retail complex for developer City Constructors. The project involves designing the creative office portion of the building into a new 10,000-square-foot headquarters for the developer with the remaining 9,000 square feet of space dedicated to restaurants and retail. These projects are currently in various stages of development and will join a growing number of long-term proposals for areas surrounding Chinatown, the Los Angeles River, and the adjacent Olvera Street and Civic Center neighborhoods that include a new master plan as well as a speculative proposal by AECOM to add 36,000 housing units to areas around the L.A. River. With construction ramping up and new schemes coming to light almost weekly, it’s clear that the areas around L.A.’s Chinatown will soon look very different than they do today.
A plan crafted by developers City Market of Los Angeles and architects Hanson LA to drastically reshape a large section of the Los Angeles Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (LACPC) yesterday afternoon. In all, the roughly ten-acre development includes 16 development sites that will ultimately render up to 945 residential units, a 201-key hotel, 312,000 square feet of educational and creative offices, 225,000 square feet of retail spaces, and 272,000 square feet commercial office areas if built according to current plans. Hanson LA is serving as the master plan architect for the project, and the firm has developed the site plan for the project as well as written design guidelines for the development that will guide “what we do for the next 100 years” on the site, Doug Hanson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN). Hanson, a principal at Hanson LA, said the plan includes establishing a site-spanning amenity level roughly 20 feet off the street that will connect various blocks by spanning over the sidewalk. The elevated park is set at the height of neighboring industrial structures in order to maintain a contextual relationship with the neighborhood. The terrace, according to Hanson, will “speak to the history of the site” as an industrial district populated by warehouse structures. The designers hope that the elevated park spaces can provide much-needed public seating and gathering spaces for the neighborhood. The two-block-wide development will be bisected along the ground floor by a series of retail-lined pedestrian streets, with the terrace level above spanning between new structures to create an outdoor mezzanine promenade. The designers released a set of new and updated renderings for the project in anticipation of the LACPC meeting that highlight the multifaceted urban dynamic the firm has sought to articulate across the site. Site design for the project has been guided by a desire to have “quality architecture” populate public and semi-public open spaces while maintaining view corridors toward iconic downtown vistas. “These aren’t massive, big buildings,” Hanson explained as he described the articulated and setback low- and high-rise placeholder forms that show up in the renderings. Structures will ultimately be designed by a variety of architectural teams according to Hanson’s guidelines and will rise from a single story up to 454 feet in height. The plans envision a sizable portion of the site dedicated to housing a satellite campus for a local university as well as a 744-seat multiplex theater, Urbanize.la reported. The developers are also seeking to transform the complex into a so-called “sign district,” a local designation that allows for the installation of large-scale, electrified advertisement and mural billboards like those coming to nearby areas. The Skid Row–adjacent development does not feature an affordable housing component but will pay over $11 million toward a funded dedicated to preserving and creating new affordable housing in the neighborhood. The project will next be reviewed by the Los Angeles City Council for final approval. A timeline for the project’s implementation has not been released, but the developers envision a roughly 20-year construction timeline for the development, depending on market conditions.
ArtCenter College of Design has unveiled renderings of a new, two-phase master plan created by Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA) that aims to reposition the college as an expansive, urban campus connected by pedestrianized open spaces, new housing, and student amenities. The new 15-year master plan for the university’s dual Pasadena campuses would boost enrollment by 500 students, bringing the total number of enrolled full-time students to 2,500. Plans include adding several new student housing towers, a mixed-use academic complex, two new quad spaces, pedestrian and bicycle paths and a cap over an existing light rail line right-of-way that transverses the site. The first phase of the project will bring two new eight-story housing towers to the north end of the campus containing 350 and 500 beds, respectively. The housing towers would be accompanied by a new quad that would span above the light rail line. The quad would be joined by ground floor amenity spaces in the housing towers that could include a new art supply store, student galleries, a campus cafeteria, and a coffee shop. Several existing buildings would receive internal upgrades and reprogramming during this phase as well. The first phase of the project is slated to be completed by 2020. Phase two of the project would bring the addition of a 220,000-square-foot housing and student center complex that would be capped by four eight-story towers containing up to 650 student beds. Plans call for potentially utilizing these structures as academic spaces as well. This complex would be located at the southern end of the campus and would replace an existing parking lot. This end of the campus would also receive a new elevated quad area that would be raised above street level to connect the new housing towers. Preliminary renderings of the complex depict planted terraces accessed by broad staircases and sloping landscape areas. These spaces would be overlooked by the new housing towers, which are depicted without detail in the renderings. A second satellite campus will receive internal upgrades, new solar arrays, as well as the removal of an annex building, Urbanize.la reports. Tina Chee Landscape Studio is slated to work as the landscape architect on the project. Plans call for the competition of both phases of the master plan by 2033.
A design team led by Perkins Eastman and Arup has been selected to redesign Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood. The team’s proposal beat out bids from Groundworks Office and Kuth | Ranieri Architects for the project, which is being organized by Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza and the American Institute of Architects San Francisco Chapter (AIASF). The Perkins Eastman scheme envisions filling in most of the existing plaza, which exists in a sunken configuration connecting city streets to the MUNI Castro Station subway stop via a descending, landscaped ramp topped by a sidewalk bridge. Instead of that arrangement, the proposed redesign will envision the plaza in a somewhat more traditional sense: Broad city sidewalks will cover the subway station entirely, with an access portal to the transit stop capped by a stepped amphitheater and open-air community room. The concept for the stepped ramp is billed as a “soapbox for many” and is a nod to Harvey Milk’s use of the site as a protest space where the activist and eventual San Francisco Supervisor would stand on a soapbox and give political speeches. The deck-clad steps will be accessible via an American with Disabilities Act–compliant stair-ramp. Perkins Eastman associate McCall Wood—one of the leaders of the design team along with associate Justin Skoda—said in a press release announcing the team’s selection, “Through his spirit and work [Milk] ignited a political awakening in the LGBTQ community. In order to best honor his memory, our goal was to create a place for the community, a place for people to be themselves and build solidarity. The hope is that visitors will be inspired to take up the mantle of Milk’s unfinished work and continue to fight for civil rights.” The plaza is the epicenter of an annual candlelight march commemorating the life of Harvey Milk, an aspect the winning team has integrated into the lighting scheme for the space. The plaza itself and the sidewalks surrounding the intersection of Market and 17th Streets will be populated by many vertical light elements designed to resemble candles, with each of the lamps to be dedicated to donors who contribute funding toward the project. The sidewalk cap will create a series of underground spaces that include storage rooms, a bathroom, a reception area, as well as a community room. These spaces will open up into the redesigned MUNI station, which will feature rainbow-patterned lighting schemes as well as didactic installations showcasing the life and accomplishments of Milk’s political career. A timeline for the project has not been announced. See the competition website for more information.
Eyes on the Cranes
Developer may tear down Jane Jacobs' West Village Houses
A housing development in Manhattan that was designed with the help of noted urbanist Jane Jacobs is threatened with demolition. New York-based developer Madison Equities has offered to purchase the West Village Houses, a low-rise development in the West Village containing 420 coop apartments, and wants to tear down all or part of them and replace them with high-rise housing, according to residents and preservationists familiar with the proposal. Bounded by Bank, Morton, Washington and West streets, the development consists of 42 five-story walkup buildings connected by gardens and other common areas. It was planned with Jacobs’ help in the 1960s, and designed by Perkins + Will. The first residences were completed in 1974. Madison Equities made the unsolicited proposal to redevelop the community this fall, and residents have been holding meetings this month to decide how to respond to it. The community’s board of directors has surveyed residents about the proposal and indicated it will seek competing offers before making any decisions. “We find ourselves horrified that such a proposal would be put forward,” one group of residents said in a statement. “We wonder why anyone would want to destroy the fruits of Jane Jacobs’ dream. We know that we have the greatest luxury of all, right here, right now; the luxury of living in the world Jane Jacobs imagined.” Jeffrey Lydon, an architect who specializes in preservation and a former board member who has lived at the West Village Houses for 35 years, said, “This is an enormously successful community. It’s been a great incubator for families, a great investment for people, and a great demonstration of what Jane Jacobs was talking about.” Beyond the residents themselves, preservations are also sounding the alarm. According to Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, “It’s the only development that [Jacobs] had a hand in designing. That gives it significance that extends far beyond Greenwich Village.” What distinguishes the houses is their site planning, which was oriented towards “simple, low-scale buildings with communal space rather than the high-rise options that were considered de rigueur at the time.” The plain brown brick buildings were constructed under the Mitchell-Lama affordable housing subsidy program. In 2002, the owners of the complex announced they were opting out of the program, and many residents faced enormous rent increases. A conversion to cooperative housing was completed in 2006, enabling most of the residents to remain either as owners or renters. Building high-rises on that site would be the “greatest disgrace to what Jane Jacobs wanted,” said architectural historian Francis Morrone. Morrone acknowledged that the buildings themselves are not great architecture, due to a tight budget intended to keep costs down. “It’s only a very pale reflection of what she had in mind.” What’s significant, Morrone said, is that Jacobs and the other planners were concerned about how the West Village Houses embody “a model for housing in the West Village.” He added, “The scale and color of the materials help that area of the Village keep the character it has.” Madison Equities’ offer comes one year after urbanists around the world celebrated the centennial of Jacob’s birth, on May 4, 1916. Despite their connection to Jacobs, the Houses are not protected by local landmark designation. The development was left out of the Greenwich Village Historic District Extension designated by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2006. Madison Equities declined to discuss the company’s offer. An overview of the proposal released by the community’s board of directors states that Madison Equities has promised guaranteed sale prices for those wishing to sell, and luxury amenities for those wishing to stay. It calls for the residents who wish to stay to move out of their residences while construction is underway, and then move into the new high-rise housing once it's completed. “The fact is, 1,000 people live there, roughly speaking, and 1,000 lives are at stake,” said Robert Kanigel, author of Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane Jacobs, published last year. “It’s set against the pattern of Manhattan becoming unaffordable for the middle class, and that’s one of the things Jane Jacobs tried to address.” With the expiration of a community-wide tax abatement slated for March 2018, residents have been looking for solutions to keep the apartments affordable. They say they fear they won’t be able to afford the high real estate taxes the now-sought-after neighborhood commands. Residents say they’ve tried to get help from the Mayor’s office and state legislators, but no solutions are forthcoming. They also referred to a 20-year plan suggested by the city’s Department of Housing, Preservation and Development that would limit sale options for owners, but many owners in their sixties and seventies expressed reservations about it. The Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, did not respond to a request for information. A plan to sell a parking garage the coop owns in order to preserve affordability, put forward by a previous board of directors, is currently still theoretically open for a vote by the owners. But that vote is now being discouraged by the current board members while they decide how to respond to the developer’s offer, say opponents of the demolition plan. Berman said the current “contextual zoning” for the community allows buildings to rise no more than 60 to 65 feet along the street wall and 80 feet within the block, so any proposal for high-rises would require rezoning approval from the city before construction could begin. He said his organization would prefer to see the existing buildings remain and the residents not displaced. Ultimately, he said, “it is our hope that we will be able to find a solution that preserves as much as possible of the original design and the affordability.”
AN speaks with the architect behind L.A.'s beleaguered Parker Center
The Parker Center complex in the Downtown Los Angeles Civic Center is quickly moving toward demolition in recent months as the City of Los Angeles begins to make headway on a new master plan for the district. The complex originally opened in 1955 and was designed by legendary L.A. architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates as a headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department. The building has been featured prominently in films depicting the city and is largely intact, architecturally speaking. The complex, however, was controversial from its inception. The police headquarters takes up a full city block in an area that was once part of the commercial heart of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, a factor that weighed heavily on and ultimately derailed recent efforts to grant historic status to Parker Center. On top of that, the complex carries a great deal of psychological baggage due to its use as a base of operations by the LAPD during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, an event associated with widespread police abuse and dysfunction. Perhaps understandably, instead of saving the structure, city agencies are instead working full-speed toward organizing its demolition. Urbanize.la reports that the city recently sent out RFPs to interested parties to solicit demolition bids; estimates put the cost of demolition at $12 million. The complex will be replaced in coming years by a yet-to-be-designed office tower containing 712,500 square feet of office space and 37,500 square feet of ground floor retail, according to a draft master plan for the area. The existing eight-story International Style structure is defined by a primary, tile-clad facade that bears the name of the building in midcentury-era script. The abstract, rectilinear office mass sits on a series of one-story piloti and was considered state-of-the-art for its time. On a Los Angeles Conservancy page dedicated to the complex, a quote from a July 1956 issue of Popular Mechanics describes the building as follows: “Ultramodern in all respects, the new eight-floor Los Angeles Police Building makes available to the city's police department the most scientific building ever used by a law-enforcement group." Behind the main facade, the building’s expenses are clad in alternating bands of ribbon windows and blue tile mosaics. Along ground floor areas, the complex features a large lobby space defined by glass enclosures that provide visual indoor-outdoor connections. Like many of contemporary works of architecture built in Los Angeles during the time, the complex featured integrated public art that complemented the architecture. The lobby space contains a series of public artworks, including a bronze sculpture along the exterior titled “The Family Group” by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. The lobby’s interior spaces are highlighted by a large mural by Joseph Young titled “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” depicting various city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with Louis Naidorf, one of the designers of the complex, to learn more about the project. Naidorf worked for Becket for over a decade starting in 1950, a stint that included design work on the iconic Capitol Records tower in Hollywood when the architect was just 24 years old. Naidorf explained that the conceptual idea of placing an office tower over thin piloti was Becket’s idea, and that Naidorf himself had designed “the entire first floor, [including] the auditorium and the lobby, the concession stand, and the parking structure.” Naidorf explained that fellow legendary midcentury designer Richard Dorman was the author of the police and jail wings of the complex, with Naidorf designing exterior treatments for those areas as well as an accompanying security gate. He said, “My job was to design a welcoming setting—something light airy, friendly, and courteous.” In describing the design of the interior lobby, Naidorf had proposed a “battery of telephones to call bail bondsmen from, with a floated panel spanning across the structural columns. The mounted telephones—with a mural at the front that had some liveliness—gave people a degree of privacy and tucked that less-than-happy aspect of the lobby out of view.” Naidorf described the era surrounding the early post-war boom during which Parker Center was built as a “strange period that, in effect, wiped out the lives of a generation of architects” who had been educated before the Great Depression, but who, because of the economic collapse, the deprivation caused by the ensuing global conflict, and their age, were never drafted for the war and had been left bereft of professional opportunity as a result. In this period, Naidorf explained, any architects of the time found work on Hollywood film sets as set designers, working in light timber framing and plaster. He told AN, “People old enough to be our parents were just getting licensed” during the tumultuous era, adding, that “architecture had been in the tank” for the preceding decade. Younger architects like Naidorf —who was “three days out from UC Berkeley” when he was hired by Becket’s office—found themselves enjoying a great deal of responsibility and creative agency consequently. Naidorf lamented the loaded and problematic history of the building. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” Regarding the proposed demolition of the Parker Center, Naidorf said:
Buildings need to be seen as mute elements in this society. The police from that time are probably mostly dead. The most productive thing is not to destroy it; it’s to find some good and productive use for [the building] that serves a good civic purpose. Perhaps that purpose should be related to the needs of people who have not been listened to very much. I don’t know if spending the money to tear it down and then rebuilding it is in our best interest. There are areas of the site that are less significant; the parking structure could go away, for example. It won’t be seriously missed. If you wanted to—remove the jail wing. But the building [overall] is really a pleasant, adaptable office building with a useful auditorium and a welcoming lobby that can go to many new uses. To throw away a piece of the city’s history—as well as throw into the recycling bin the narrative of that building—seems to me very foolish.
Today the City Planning Commission (CPC) heard development updates from East New York, the first city neighborhood to be completely rezoned under comprehensive affordable housing rules passed in 2015. To achieve the goals of the rezoning, the East New York Neighborhood Plan was approved in April 2016, and now, a year and a half later, there are 1,000 affordable units in the pipeline, plus an 1,000-seat school, and safety-in-mind streetscape improvements along major thoroughfares like Atlantic Avenue to link new developments together. The rezoned area spans 190 square blocks and is the first to apply Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH), a suite of rules that require a certain percentage of housing be designated as permanently affordable. In addition to building affordable housing, the East New York plan aims to preserve existing affordable units, while offering legal services to tenants, providing support to homeowners at risk of displacement, and transitioning families in the shelter system into local permanent housing. As far as new construction goes, the city estimates that 6,000 units of affordable housing will be built over the next 15 years. The latest—and largest—of these developments is Chestnut Commons, a 274-unit complex by Dattner Architects on a vacant city-owned site on Atlantic Avenue, near busy Conduit Boulevard. In the affordable housing world, Dattner is best known for Via Verde, an ecological housing complex in the South Bronx it completed with Grimshaw in 2012. Here, the New York City firm is kitting out a 300,000-square-foot complex, called Chestnut Commons, with solar panels, specially-glazed windows, natural lighting, and other design features from the passive house movement that improve building performance by minimizing solar heat gain and thermal bridging. In addition to shared roof terraces for tenants, amenities will include a black box theater operated by a local arts nonprofit, a kitchen incubator for jobs training, and a CUNY Kingsborough satellite campus. The ground floor of the 14-story building will sport retail spaces, and new streetscaping will connect the complex to a cleaned-up Atlantic Avenue corridor (map). The apartments will be geared towards families, though there's no word yet on the units' sizes. At the CPC meeting today, though, a representative from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development (HPD) confirmed the development will be 100 percent affordable. Half of the units at Chestnut Commons will be available to households making 60 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $51,540 for a family of three. After that, 15 percent of the units will be open to families making 30 percent of the AMI, 20 percent of the units will go to households at 40 AMI, and 15 percent will be available to those at 50 AMI. HPD is working with MHANY Management, the Urban Builders Collaborative, and the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) to develop the project. The levels of affordability were a major point of contention when the neighborhood plan was passed last year. According to a 2015 report from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer's office, more than half of the affordable units to be developed under the neighborhood plan are too pricey for current residents. (The mayor's office disputed the findings.) Last year, the city confirmed that any HPD-sponsored project in East New York will be 100 percent affordable to families earning between 30 and 90 percent of the AMI.
At the recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) Fall Meeting in Los Angeles, architect Frank Gehry made surprising remarks concerning the future of the Los Angeles River in a wide-ranging interview with Frances Anderton, host of KCRW's DnA: Design and Architecture. During the discussion, Gehry told Anderton, “You can’t build habitat and you can’t build space for recreation in the river,” meaning the removal of the river’s concrete-lined bottom. He emphasized his statement, adding, “I can tell you it will never happen,” before explaining that removing the concrete lining at the bottom of the river—as has already been done along a three-mile-long section surrounding Griffith Park—would drastically reduce the channel’s ability to safely carry away storm waters from L.A.’s periodic downpours. Gehry explained that removing the concrete would only be possible if the channel itself was made much wider, saying, “If there’s grass at [at the river’s bottom] you’d need to make the river seven times wider.” Gehry pointed to the Army Corp’s analysis, which is focused predominantly on the channel’s ability to handle massive storm surges, as the main reasoning for this statement. The comments cast doubt on the ever-growing list of L.A. River-related restoration that see ecological and recreational use as being central to the future of the river. Up and down the length of the 51-mile-long river, various local agencies, landscape architecture, and architecture firms are working on proposals envisioning a lush, socially-activated river. At least three new bridges are in the work, as well as several new housing developments, parks and even, a plan to bring 36,000 housing units to areas surrounding the river. Gehry’s comments raise the question—Is L.A.River in danger of finding itself up the creek without a paddle?
Open Space is the Place
Lawrence Halprin's L.A. projects star in landscape architecture symposium this weekend
The Cultural Landscape Foundation (TCLF) will be holding a day-long symposium on November 4 at the Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles in conjunction with the opening of The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin, a photographic exhibition based on Halprin’s body of work. As its name implies, the symposium—titled Landscape as Catalyst: Lawrence Halprin’s Legacy and Los Angeles—will focus on the seminal landscape architect’s lesser-known Los Angeles–based projects. The symposium will “examine the influences and accomplishments” of Halprin’s Los Angeles work and will be held as part of a series of national public events organized by TCLF honoring Halprin’s local and national legacy. The Architect’s Newspaper's West Editor Antonio Pacheco will be moderating a panel discussion at the event titled Focus on SoCal: Maguire Gardens, the Open Space Sequence, and Plaza Las Fuentes. The panel discussion will delve into key works from Halprin’s Los Angeles–area legacy. Speakers on the panel include Robert Maguire III, the Los Angeles developer who commissioned several of Halprin’s L.A.–based projects; Merry Norris of Merry Norris Contemporary Art who led the art and sculpture programs for these projects; Douglas A. Campbell of Campbell & Campbell landscape architects; and Patrick Reynolds, Parks Manager and City Landscape Architect for the City of Culver City. Campbell served as the associate landscape architect for the Grand-Hope Park and Maguire Gardens. Los Angeles Open Space Sequence Halprin’s work in Downtown Los Angeles is typified by the so-called Los Angeles Open Space Network, which was an outgrowth of a 1980 proposal by developer Maguire Partners for “A Grand Avenue,” a linear spine of parks and civic spaces that would be both “people-oriented and activity-generating,” according to the TCLF website. The 11-acre plan was never fully realized but helped to lay the foundation for a collection of four public open spaces along Hope Street that work in tandem to further the urban and social life of the downtown area. Included in this sequence are Crocker Court (now Wells Fargo Court) at the base of SOM-designed, 54-story Crocker Tower complex from 1983; the Bunker Hill Steps at the base of the Pei, Cobb, Freed, & Partners' 73-story Library Tower from 1989; Library Square (now Maguire Gardens) surrounding the Bertram Goodhue–designed Los Angeles Central Library from 1926; and Grand Hope Park surrounding the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) from 1993. The sequence of spaces was designed to stitch Bunker Hill's postmodern towers together with a forthcoming apartment and condominium district to the south known as South Park. The public open spaces—designed alongside other skyscraper and plaza complexes in the area—were meant to create a series of leisure and recreational nodes throughout the district and came to fruition hand-in-hand with postmodern-style architectural projects designed by nationally-recognized firms. The open space projects represent landmark works of Halprin’s late career that utilize water features, dynamic and carefully-staged processions, and symbolic planting and architectural configurations to shape the perception of open space in L.A.’s downtown area. Much like Freeway Park in Seattle, the entire sequence was designed as an interconnected trail of plazas, forecourts, and parks that offer a variety of leisure spaces while also navigating the 100-foot difference in elevation between the top of Bunker Hill and the FIDM campus. The difference here is that by the early 1990s, Halprin was engaged full-tilt with multiple facets of the postmodern style—softening austere, mirrored corporate abstraction at the Crocker Court end of the sequence while repurposing historical symbols and elements in the Bunker Hill Steps and Grand-Hope Park projects. Plaza Las Fuentes Plaza Las Fuentes in nearby Pasadena, on the other hand, was built in 1984 as part of a new mixed-use development for the satellite city’s downtown core. The plaza accompanied an eight-story office tower and 12-story hotel and shopping complex—also developed by Maguire Partners—designed by architects Moore Ruble Yudell. The plaza features Moorish Revival arcades, decorative tile walls designed by the artist Joyce Kozloff, and is populated with sculptures created by Michael Lucero. The park’s geometric fountains guide occupants through the plaza’s stepped site, incorporating sculptures, fountains, and plantings throughout. For more information on and tickets to the Landscape as Catalyst: Lawrence Halprin’s Legacy and Los Angeles symposium, see TCLF’s website.