Search results for "multi-family residential"

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Big Deal
The project features streetfront retail with residential units above.
Courtesy Gensler

Earlier this month, the Santa Monica City Council approved Bergamot Transit Village Center, a development put together by Hines and designed by Gensler. The contentious 767,000-square-foot project is one of the biggest in the Los Angeles area. It includes 473 residential units, 26 artist work/live units, over 370,000 square feet of creative office space, 15,500 square feet of restaurant space, and almost 14,000 square feet of retail space.

The development stretches along Olympic Boulevard between Cloverfield and Centinela. It consists of five buildings, each five to seven stories tall, each to be built by a different developer. Hines itself is not taking an active role in the construction of the property. The company is instead seeking entitlements, which dictate the kinds of buildings that can be developed.

Gensler's Bergamot Transit Village Center includes staggered facades, street-level retail, and several varied buildings. It took six years to receive approval.

The buildings differ in color, transparency, and scale through different facade treatments, such as undulating vertical metal screens, balconies that switch from floor to floor, and soft wooden shading elements on the residential blocks. All this variety breaks up the large scale of the project. An expansive public plaza opens at the corner of Olympic and Cloverfield. In the plaza sits a curved building, with bridges on three levels connecting to adjacent mixed-use space. The multi-family residential zone includes a neighborhood park and landscaped pedestrian paseo.

Despite the city’s approval of the project, some locals and officials have been outspoken in their opposition. They have criticized the lack of affordable housing (and lack of housing in general), the overall scale and massing of the project, traffic and parking impacts, and limited pedestrian access and enclosed open space.


“This doesn’t do anything to solve the jobs-housing imbalance in the city,” said Richard McKinnon, a member of the city’s planning commission. “We don’t want a repeat of the Water Garden (a suburban-style office complex nearby) which is uninspiring, overdone, and has no street life,” he added.

The design underwent four iterations before the Planning Commission approved the current version. Proposals to increase housing, including the number of low-income units, were rejected. The project is expected to add an annual $420,000 to the city’s general budget, as well as a one-time tax revenue injection of approximately $1.7 million. Estimates on job creation, including construction jobs, are slightly more than 2,300.

Also in Santa Monica, Pelli Clarke Pelli was recently selected to redesign the 86-year-old Fairmont Miramar Hotel. Pelli is known locally for his Pacific Design Center and internationally for the Patronas Towers in Malaysia, the world’s tallest twin towers. The plans call for the replacement of two old buildings by three new ones. The hotel’s historic Palisades Building will be restored and renovated. The plan also includes a one-acre public garden on the corner of Wilshire and Ocean and retail along the corner of Wilshire and Second Street.

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The Architectural Billings Index Ticked Up in January. You'll Never Believe What Happened Next.
After the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) posted positive gains in January, the question everyone was asking was, "What comes next?" Today, the AIA's monthly report answered that question with a bit more good news. The ABI was measured at 50.7 in February, which is up slightly from a  January score of 50.4. So, how did this happen? The change was due to strong numbers posted in the South (52.8) and the West (50.5). But dragging the group down, the Northeast and Midwest both scored below 50 with scores of 48.3 and 47.6, respectively (any score below 50 indicates a decline). By sector, multi-family residential had the best month at 52.5, followed by commercial/industrial (51.9), institutional (49.6), and mixed practice (46.6). While the ABI saw a slight gain overall, the new projects inquiry index, dropped from 58.5 to 56.8. These postings, though, were likely negatively impacted by February's severe weather. “The unusually severe weather conditions in many parts of the country have obviously held back both design and construction activity,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement. “The March and April readings will likely be a better indication of the underlying health of the design and construction markets. We are hearing reports of projects that had been previously shelved for extended periods of time coming back online as the economy improves.”
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Architecture Billings Index Starts Year With Slight Gain
After months of slowed growth at the end of last year, the Architecture Billing Index ticked up slightly in  January. The ABI score was measured at 50.4, up from 48.5 in December—and that’s good news because any score above 50 means positive growth. The positive number was largely due to growth in the South (53.5) and the West (51.1). The ABI dipped below 50 in both the Midwest and Northeast, with scores of 46.5 and 43.6, respectively. By sector, multi-family residential (51.8) and commercial/industrial (50.9) showed the strongest growth, while mixed practice (48.4) and institutional (46.5) both failed to post gains. And while January’s overall ABI was above 50, the new projects inquiry index dropped slightly from 59.2 to 58.5. Overall, January was a pretty good month. “There is enough optimism in the marketplace that business conditions should return to steady growth as the year progresses,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker in a statement.
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Architecture Billings Index Dips for Second Month. Is the Recovery Slowing?
Following a period of extended growth, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), which is compiled by the AIA, declined for the second straight month, down to 48.5 in December from 49.8 in November (any score below 50 indicates a decline). The news is not entirely bleak, however, as new project inquiries rose to 59.2 up from 57.8. The regional breakdown reflects a reversal of fortunes during the recovery. The Northeast, long the leading region for the ABI, is now trailing the other three regions, with a paltry score of only 42.8. The long suffering West now leads at 53.2, followed by the South at 51.2. The Midwest is also mired in negative territory at 47.0. By sector, multi-family residential leads at 53.8, mixed practice follows at 51.0, commercial/industrial at 47.1, and institutional work trails at 44.8. AIA chief economist made a cautionary statement: "What we thought last month was an isolated dip now bears closer examination to see what is causing the slowdown in demand for architectural services." Stay tuned.
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November Billings Reveal a Drop in Design Services for the Second Month in a Row
All good things must come to an end. Following a robust six months, the demand for design services has simmered down.  In November, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) slid from 51.6 in October to 49.8 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). This the second month in a row that the ABI has experienced a small dip. “Architecture firms continue to report widely varying views of business conditions across the country.  This slight dip is likely just a minor, and hopefully temporary, lull in the progress of current design projects,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD.  “But there is a continued uneasiness in the marketplace as businesses attempt to determine the future direction of demand for commercial, industrial, and institutional buildings.” Across the country, regional averages fell by several points. The West took the biggest hit with numbers tumbling to a low from 55.9 in October to 50.2 in November. It was a slow month for the Northeast as well, dropping to 47.5 from 49.7 in October.  The South also went through a bit of a slump, dipping more than two points to 52. The Midwest came out the best, remaining steady at 51.6. Figures revealed that the commercial/industrial sector came to a crawl last month, falling most dramatically from 53.7 in October to 48.6. All the remaining sectors experienced a decline in November as well: multi-family residential (55.2), mixed practice (53.1),  institutional (47.7). In more bad news, the project inquiries index dropped from 61.5 to 57.8.
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October Architecture Billings Slow After Months of Strong Figures
After a three-month streak of positive growth, the Architecture Billings Index revealed a small dip in the demand for design services. The ABI score slid down from 54.3 in September to 51.6 in October (any score above 50 indicates an increase). AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said that the tumultous political climate—read Government Shutdown—contributed to the drop in activity last month. “There continues to be a lot of uncertainty surrounding the overall U.S. economic outlook and therefore in the demand for nonresidential facilities, which often translates into slower progress on new building projects,” said Baker. “That is particularly true when you factor in the federal government shutdown that delayed many projects that were in the planning or design phases.” October was a month of mixed results for architects across the country. Numbers rose slightly in the the South, jumping from 54.1 in September up to 54.4 in October. The Midwest also came out strong climbing to 51.6 from 51. The West, though, took a bit of a nosedive, falling from 60.6 to 55.9. The Northeast (49.7) also didn't fare quite as well as the previous month. There was a surge of multi-family and residential projects last month. The sector climbed up a couple of points from 55.6 to 57. Meanwhile figures showed a decline for the other sectors: commercial/industrial (53.7), mixed practice (53.2), and institutional (50.2). The rise in new projects inquiry, however, bodes well for the future—moving from 58.6 to 61.5 last month.
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September Billings Report Show Steady Positive Growth for Architecture Economy
The slow days of the recession are long gone. Recent figures indicate that September was another robust month for the architecture industry. The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose from 53.8 in August to 54.3 (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings).  AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said that this upswing in the demand for design services is a reflection of the industry's new and advanced design and business practices. “The prolonged economic downturn that has affected the design and construction industry has actually resulted in the increased productivity levels as reported by architecture firms,” Baker said. “In addition to new approaches to business challenges, a very competitive marketplace, the utilization of new technologies, and a renewed focus on efficiency have architecture firms realizing all-time highs in workplace productivity, and these new efficiencies can greatly benefit clients from a project timeline and budget standpoint,” continued Baker. Some regions fared better than others last month. The West came out strong, jumping nearly 6 points from 54.8 to 60.6. The South also showed positive growth increasing from 51.9 to 54.1. The Midwest dipped down to 51 from 52.8, and the Northeast also slipped several points from 54.4 to 50.7. The commercial/industrial and multi-family sectors have been busier than usual. The former spiking up several points to 57.9 from 54.8, and the latter climbing to 55.6 from 52.1. Mixed practice, however, tumbled down to 55.4, and institutional projects experienced a slight drop from 50.8 to 50.4. For the second month in a row the project inquiries index has taken a dive, falling from 63 to 58.6.
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Summer Continues to Soar with Strong August Billings Report
Recent economic figures from the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) revealed that summer finished on a high note with a significant rise in the demand for design services. The ABI score for the month of August jumped more than a full point from July climbing up to 53.8 from 52.7 (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, sees positive growth for the industry, but remains cautious about the future. “As business conditions at architecture firms have improved eleven out of the past twelve months, it is fair to say that the design professions are in a recovery mode,” Baker said.  “This upturn signals an impending turnaround in nonresidential construction activity, but a key component to maintaining this momentum is the ability of businesses to obtain financing for real estate projects, and for a resolution to the federal government budget and debt ceiling impasse.” All three regions except for the South experienced an upswing in billings. Numbers for the West (54.8) rose sharply by more than three points from July. The Midwest also made considerable improvement, jumping from 50.8 the previous month to 52.8 in August. The Northeast (54.4) remained steady, increasing by just a smidgen. The South (51.9), however, didn't fare as well falling by more than two points. All in all, the different sectors came out strong. The numbers for mixed practice indicated strong progress, surging from 56.9 to 60.1 in August. Commercial/Industrial (54.8) and Institutional (50.8) sectors remain in good shape, whereas, multi-family residential dropped down to 52.1 from 53.3 in July. Even as the ABI score shows signs of improvement in the industry, unfortunately, the project inquiries tumbled from 66.4 in July to 63.0 in August.
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Small Scale, Big Change
Runyon Group's Platform, designed on the site of a former car dealership by Abramson Teiger Architects in Culver City's Hayden Tract.
Courtesy Abramson Teiger Architects

It used to be that Americans dreamed of moving to the idyllic suburbs. But cities are undergoing a major revival. Based on the Census Bureau’s estimates, from July 2011 to July 2012, cities with more than a half million residents grew faster than their suburbs. Meanwhile a 2012 residential trends report by the Environmental Protection Agency confirms that between 2000 and 2009, 21 percent of new residential construction occurred in previously developed areas.

To quote Casey Lynch, principal at Los Angeles real estate development company LocalConstruct, “Infill development is the ‘new normal’ in real estate.” With it comes the rise of small-scale development.

Over the years, this type of targeted development—enhanced by measures like LA’s Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance, which allows owners to divide larger lots into smaller parcels—has become an avenue for growth both in real estate and in architecture. What was once untested territory has even piqued the interest of larger developers, heating up competition for once-overlooked properties. Just ask brothers Hardy and Kevin Wronske, principals of architecture and development firm Heyday Partnership, which builds small lot homes in LA.

Platform’s layered compositions and contemporary details differentiate the project from the cookie-cutter designs often commissioned by large developers.

“We’re getting outbid more often on properties,” said Hardy. But they aren’t too worried. Despite increased competition, Heyday has honed a strategy founded on good design, close attention, and efficiency. “By becoming focused on one product type, you become the best at it,” said Hardy. With three small lot developments and seven entitled projects under its belt, Heyday has proven it can deliver.

Another small outfit, LA-based Linear City Development, concentrates on turning old industrial buildings in downtown into vibrant, mixed-use projects. With architect Aleks Istanbullu, they transformed a 180,000-square-foot warehouse into Biscuit Company Lofts, 104 live-work units over popular eatery Church & State. Linear City also turned, with Clive Wilkinson Architects and Donald Barany Architects, the Toy Factory Lofts, a 250,000-square-foot warehouse, into 110 live-work units atop 12 double-height commercial spaces. At 7+Bridge, three industrial buildings became living spaces with a nearby Italian restaurant, Bestia, and a speakeasy.

Linear City’s future plans for Barker Block, their hugely successful development in LA’s Arts District (left). LocalConstruct is branching into new markets, in this case a residential redevelopment in Boise, Idaho (right).
Courtesy Linear City; Courtesy LocalConstruct

“Part of our goal is to bring people back to the center of the city to save them from being dependent on the car,” said Yuval Brenner, principal at Linear City and a downtown LA resident. “We’re trying to develop an urban core that can provide services you need within walking distance.”

While Linear City’s improvements are thoughtful but minimal (“It’s a canvas for future residents,” said Brenner), ambitious design works hand in hand with Heyday’s expertise. Heyday uses standard materials in new, creative ways, allowing them to build more cost effectively while delivering on decent profit margins. “Anybody can build a nice house if you have lots of money. The same goes for a crappy house, if you have no money,” said Hardy Wronske. “The challenge is to build homes at a decent cost, but to still provide high design.”

Barbara Bestor’s Blackbirds, a multifamily development for LocalConstruct in LA’s Echo Park neighborhood.
Courtesy Barbara Bestor Architecture

Their creativity is paying off with brisk sales. All six homes within their LEED-rated Buzz Court project in Silver Lake sold within a little over a month of its public introduction. The development was recently part of the exhibition “By Right/By Design,” at Woodbury University’s WUHO Gallery, showcasing residential projects that have pushed the envelope of multi-family residential design. At the height of the recent housing crisis, in 2010, all 15 homes in Heyday’s Rock Row development in Eagle Rock sold out within a month.

Efficiency and good design aren’t the only tools in the small developer’s arsenal. Often living in the same neighborhood as their projects, small developers become sensitive to the needs of the community. They act as curators, introducing elements that they as locals need and want to see in their neighborhoods.

Culver City–based real estate company Runyon Group brings in specialty brands and designers for its projects. Founder Joseph Miller is working with local firm Abramson Teiger Architects to transform a four-acre auto dealership site on the industrial lot-cum-creative office and arts haven Hayden Tract into eight spaces connected by gardens, populated by specialty retailers and room for seven creative lofts.

Heyday developed and designed Buzz Court, a popular small lot development on Silver Lake’s Rowena Avenue.
Nico Marques / Photekt

“For a long time this wasn’t a desirable neighborhood, but now you’ve got companies like Beats by Dr. Dre and galleries like Blum and Poe moving in,” said Miller, a Culver City resident. “What we were missing was a nexus. We’re in the middle of all these creative industries without a central gathering spot.” That’s what he hopes Platform would be for Culver City.

Rather than build malls for mass consumption, Miller is tailoring his development for a more nuanced market, requiring each retailer to bring something unique to the table. Two confirmed tenants are New York chef Michael White, who will be opening his first west coast restaurant, and Blue Bottle Coffee, which is making a foray into the LA market. “I feel like we’re not in the real estate business,” said Miller. “We’re in the business of eating great food and shopping in great stores and figuring out what makes great neighborhoods.”

Their proximity to their projects provides another competitive edge. They can more easily reach out to the community and work closely with the city. “Large developers aren’t able often to really send principals to develop meaningful relationships with community stakeholders. They’ll hire expediters to do that for them,” said Mott Smith, principal of Civic Enterprise Associations, a small development firm that works in emerging neighborhoods of Southern California.

Over the past two years, Civic Enterprises has been working with the Los Angeles County Health Department to iron out the regulatory requirements for an unprecedented multi-tenant, wholesale food manufacturing facility in Northeast LA. According to Smith, the facility is meant to be the equivalent of a co-working space, but geared toward local small- to medium-sized food producers. His firm is in negotiations to acquire the property, and Smith hopes to start construction by the end of the year. By exploring new development types and following them through to implementation, his firm has become a pioneer, reaping the highest benefit while paving the way for others to follow.

Linear City’s 7+ Bridge brings courtyards and greenery to Downtown LA’s Arts District.
Courtesy Linear City

Civic Enterprise is only one example of a smaller developer’s nimbleness. Lynch’s LocalConstruct is another. “The biggest advantage we have as smaller developers is the ability to act quickly on investment opportunities and to recognize emerging trends in niche markets. We can also often take on entitlement risk that larger developers can’t or won’t because of acute local market knowledge,” said Lynch.

Since its inception, the company has transitioned from single-family to multi-family construction as market conditions have changed. Last year, LocalConstruct began working with Barbara Bestor Architects on Blackbirds, 18 small lot homes clustered around a living street. This year, the company is setting its sights on turning the oldest hotel in Idaho, Owyhee Plaza, into office, retail, and residential spaces with the help of Portland, Oregon–based architecture firm Bebee Skidmore and Idaho firm TAO.

While bigger developers may threaten to take some business from small developers, they aren’t competitors in all scenarios. “You do and don’t compete with big developers,” said Liz Faletta, curator of the By Right/By Design exhibit at WUHO. Civic Enterprises has sometimes worked with a larger developer on projects. In 2011, after securing the entitlement, Heyday Partnership sold what was to be a 19-house development in Eagle Rock to Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders.

To ensure the continued success of smaller, local developers, Faletta recommends the city provide more tools to give them the flexibility they need to stay ahead of the trends including selectively allowing the densification of single family areas, addressing rent control, and reducing parking requirements. Small developers should also keep abreast of LA’s newly-re-launched comprehensive zoning code revision effort. “Planning and policy play a huge role in making this profitable or not.”

Changes in policy notwithstanding, what sets smaller developers apart from their larger counterparts is the amount of personal investment they make in each project. “Part of our motivation isn’t just economic opportunity,” said Smith. “It’s a chance to help make Los Angeles.”

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July Architecture Billings Going Strong as Average Compensation Stagnates
Summer isn't slowing the demand for design services, according to the AIA's latest economic figures. In fact, numbers are on the rise. The AIA's Architecture Billings Index (ABI) for July increased more than a full point spike in non-residential construction activity from June's ABI score of 51.6 to 52.7 (any score above 50 indicates positive growth). Most notably, the new projects inquiry index produced positive results with a substantial increase from 62.6 the previous month to 66.7 in July. While numbers lapsed in most regions in July, the Midwest came out strong climbing to 50.8 from 48.3 in June. The Northeast fell more than a point from 55.6 in June to 54.3. The West slipped ever-so-slightly from 51.2 to 51.1. And the South dropped to 54.2. Mixed practice was the only sector to pull through and show significant progress shooting up more than four points to 56.9 in July. The other industry sectors experienced a small decline: commercial / industrial (54.2), multi-family residential (53.3), institutional (50.6). “There continues to be encouraging signs that the design and construction industry continues to improve,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement. “But we also hear a wide mix of business conditions all over the country, ranging from outstanding and booming to slowly improving to flat. In fact, plenty of architecture firms are reporting very weak business conditions as well, so it is premature to declare the entire sector has entered an expansion phase.” In spite of the industry's promising growth, the same positive trend has not been reflected in the compensation for architecture positions. AIA published its recent compensation survey, revealing minimal change in salaries since the recession in 2008. "Between 2011 and 2013, average total compensation for architecture positions—including base salary, overtime, bonuses, and incentive compensation—increased only slightly over one percent per year, barely more than the average increase in compensation between 2008 and 2011, when the construction sector was still in steep decline," the report read.
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June Architecture Billings Index Show Numbers Are Still on the Rise
Numbers are staying strong. AIA's Architecture Billing Index for the month of June has revealed steady, but positive growth. The June ABI score of 51.6 reflected only a slight drop from May's score of 52.9, and still indicates a general upswing for the non-residential construction industry. More projects will likely be on the horizon. The new projects inquiry index reported a significant climb in numbers to 62.6 from 59.1 the previous month. “With steady demand for design work in all major nonresidential building categories, the construction sector seems to be stabilizing,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, in a statement.  “Threats to a sustained recovery include construction costs and labor availability, inability to access financing for real estate projects, and possible adverse effects in the coming months from sequestration and the looming federal debt ceiling debate.” Across the country, the numbers were generally up with the exception of the West, which experienced a slight dip to 51.2 from 52.1 in May. It was, however, a particularly robust month for the Northeast which came out with a score of 55.6. The South also finished strong with an uptick to 54.8 from 50.9 last month in June. And even the Midwest saw progress with a score of 48.3. All sectors remain on solid footing but institutional has slowed down a smidgen: commercial / industrial (54.7), multi-family residential (54.0), mixed practice (52.4), institutional (51.8).
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Wide Angle Lens
Peter Alexander's PA and PE, 1990.
Peter Alexander / Courtesy Pacific Enterprises

Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future 1940–1990
Getty Center
Los Angeles
Through July 21

New research on LA architecture and urbanism has been piling up for more than thirty years, but it is only with Overdrive: LA Constructs the Future 1940–1990 at the Getty that we get an opportunity to see much of it spread out before us in one place.

For a city often critiqued through the blur of glib myth, this panoramic view should change the way we perceive its architecture and urbanism. Curators Wim de Wit, Christopher Alexander, and Rani Singh lay the long-overdue groundwork for a more accurate and more useful architectural manifesto about LA, with new vistas on unheralded architects, overlooked building types, and unsuspected planning history.

The wall of the final gallery drives this point home. Where the Case Study houses (undeniably brilliant but only a fraction of the city) have been in the spotlight of other exhibits, this wall broadens the focus to show a panorama of housing innovations. Side by side with the familiar Case Study houses are high density multi-family housing (from low rise Baldwin Hills Village to low rise and high rise Park LaBrea) and the revolutionary mass-produced tract housing given Modern expression by Palmer and Krisel, Edward H. Fickett, Jones and Emmons, and others. These tracts, not the Case Study houses, made the dream of Modern middle class housing a widespread reality.

Carloz Diniz's rendering of Pacific Design Center by Cesar Pelli for Gruen Associates.
Edward Cella Art & Architecture

In the same spirit of reassessment, Overdrive gives a more balanced view of the region’s commercial and car culture architecture alongside residential architecture. In Southern California’s broadly democratic urban society, coffee shops, offices, car dealerships, and shopping centers were all part of an everyday modernism. But “everyday” does not mean poorly designed or insignificant. When LA architects ranging from John Lautner, Armet and Davis, and Edward Killingsworth, to Smith and Williams, Ray Kappe, and Victor Gruen applied their talents to such buildings, they fulfilled one of the earliest hopes of Modernism: to bring design based on the convenience, ease, and delight of modern technology to the average person. As presented in Overdrive, this turns out to be one of Southern California’s greatest contributions to Modernism.

The exhibit cannily shows how architects creatively interpreted the new conditions of Southern California’s multi-centered suburban metropolis, and then how those concepts continued to evolve. For example, Overdrive includes pleasing and functional movie theaters by S. Charles Lee, and then their reverberation through the city and culture in Richard Neutra and Philip Johnson’s drive-in churches in Orange County.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by Welton Becket & Associates, ca. 1960 (left). Capitol Records by Louis Naidorf of Welton Becket & Associates, 1954 (right).
Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust; Louis Naidorf / Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust

Is LA ready to accept a new narrative about its history and its significance—one that’s not based solely on a few exquisite glassy houses? Can we embrace everything from the appealing Googie coffee shops of Armet and Davis to Morphosis’ Kate Mantilini restaurant, from the Music Center to Disneyland? Overdrive makes a strong case for each of these as part of a closely-knit fabric, not as isolated artifacts.

It’s refreshing to see the large corporate architecture offices recognized as part of our architectural history, alongside the smaller atelier or avant-garde architects who have usually been the focus of LA’s international reputation. With designs and planning honed on California’s aerospace and high tech campuses, these firms are also examples of LA’s aesthetic diversity. From the sculpted volume and tight glass skin of Cesar Pelli and Gruen Associates’ Pacific Design Center to the geometrically warped arcades of Edward Durell Stone’s Perpetual Savings tower, these firms indicate a wide range of aesthetic taste and experiment.

The work of these large firms is still controversial (evidenced in the proposed destruction of William Pereira’s LACMA campus), but Overdrive drives home the fact that these once-shunned buildings are part of the culture of inclusiveness, experiment, and quality design that is seen across the spectrum of LA architecture as the challenges of each decade are faced.

Art Center campus by Craig Ellwood Associates, 1976. Drawing by Carlos Diniz, 1968.

Carlos Diniz / Courtesy Diniz Family Archive and Edward Cella Art and Architecture


While Overdrive admirably includes many architects and buildings that have not been part of the official canon, it has not achieved a fully balanced view. Probably the most glaring example is the slight presence of Charles Moore, whose intellectual leadership opened a path for the profession out of the doldrums of establishment Modernism. He had a global reach, but was rooted in LA. Moore figures in the 1970s and 1980s, decades that launched a new chapter in the city’s architectural history with Frank Gehry, Cesar Pelli, and the younger generation of the so-called Los Angeles School. These decades are problematic for the exhibit, because their themes and ideas are still at work today.

Southern California design, we learn, is marvelously interconnected, without the clear, comfortable distinctions we’ve assumed exist between high art and popular design. That point is underscored by the inclusion of Victor Gruen’s innovative concept for Millirons department store (1947) next to Frank Gehry’s Edgemar shopping center (1984)—especially when we learn that Gehry worked with Gruen at the beginning of his career.

What is clear in Overdrive is the story of a remarkable creative flowering throughout the second half of the twentieth century in Southern California. Now we can see that it was broader, more diverse, and more inclusive than we generally thought.