Search results for "downtown los angeles"

Placeholder Alt Text

Walk This Way

Colorful crosswalk installation lights up paths to the Broad Museum
Venezuelan-born artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has completed work on a new art installation at the Broad Museum in Los Angeles that utilizes blocks of pastel-colored paint to activate the crosswalks connected to the museum. The installation was developed by the Broad with the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation and the artist himself as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA (PST), an ambitious multi-venue exploration of Latin American and Latino art currently taking place across the Los Angeles region. The installation, titled Couleur Additive, was installed along the four crosswalks located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the crosswalks connects the Broad to the Disney Concert Hall located on a block north of the museum. Cruz-Diez is a highly-regarded figure in the Kinetic-Optical art genre, an experimental color theory-based form of artistic exploration initially developed in the 1950s. Cruz-Diez, who recently turned 94 years old, developed his approach based on the assumption that the perception of color in the human eye constitutes an autonomous reality that changes based on position, time, and perspective. His works, according to Ed Schad, assistant curator at The Broad, create art “through and around” the side-by-side collision of the installation’s green, orange, yellow, and blue hues. Schad’s team undertook great pains to comply with the City of Los Angeles’s permitting process for the installation, which required that the paint be applied in such a way as to retain the original sidewalk striping in its entirety. As a result, the paint swatches exist independently from the typical white crosswalk striping. The paint itself was applied by student-artists from the nearby Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts, a complex designed by architects Coop Himmelb(l)au. Joanne Heyler, founding director of The Broad said in a press release, “Carlos Cruz-Diez’s practice challenges the traditional relationship between art and the viewer, and between the viewer and the urban environment,”adding, “His new work Couleur Additive activates the public space around The Broad, embracing Grand Avenue and bringing the museum out into the daily life of pedestrians and our visitors, highlighting the ideas of an important Latin American artist whose career has spanned seven decades.” The public art installation will be featured alongside explanatory materials displayed inside the museum and in conjunction with educational workshops put on by Learning Lab, an arm of the Cruz-Diez Art Foundation. The installation is on view through the year and into 2018.
Placeholder Alt Text

Autumn in L.A.

LOHA, JFAK, and top L.A. firms to present at AN’s Facades+ conference in Los Angeles
At The Architect’s Newspaper, we are busy getting ready for the upcoming Facades+ conference in Los Angeles taking place October 19th and 20th at the LA Hotel Downtown. The conference will bring together a wide collection of L.A.-based designers and practices ready to share their knowledge and expertise. Below, we bring you some highlights from AN’s recent coverage of some of our featured speakers! SOM, along with Los Angeles-based P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S and developer City Century, unveiled plans earlier this year for a three-tower complex named Olympia slated for a 3.25-acre site in Downtown Los Angeles. The mega-project plans to include 1,367 residential units, 40,000 square feet of retail space, and 115,000 square feet of open space, with the towers climbing to 43, 53, and 65 stories in height. Paul Danna and José Luis Palacios, Design Directors at SOM Los Angeles and Garth Ramsey, Senior Technical Designer, have been our partners in organizing upcoming Facades+ in Los Angeles. They will appear onstage with Keith Boswell—SOM’s Technical Partner—and Mark Kersey—from Clark Construction—to speak about the new Los Angeles Federal Courthouse. Architects John Friedman Alice Kimm (JFAK) recently completed work on the La Kretz Innovation Campus in Downtown Los Angeles. The 61,000-square-foot “sustainability factory” will act as a green tech-focused start-up incubator space that also collects rainwater to feed an onsite public park and is powered by sunlight. The complex is designed to facilitate daylight penetration into interior spaces and features public gathering areas and a robot fabrication lab. Alice Kimm, co-founder at JFAK will be giving an afternoon presentation at Facades+. A new four-story apartment complex designed by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA) is currently under construction at 1030 N. Kings Road in West Hollywood, California. The 30-unit condominium complex will feature cantilevered corners, faceted facades, and perforated metal panel and wood cladding as well as partial courtyards that will bring light and air into each unit and the building’s circulation spaces and common areas. The cut-outs will also hold balconies for the units. Lorcan O'Herlihy, founder of LOHA, will be giving a morning presentation at Facades+. Koning Eizenberg Architects (KEA) recently completed work on the new Temple Israel of Hollywood complex in L.A., a new addition to the 91-year-old Spanish Colonial style synagogue. The new wing carves out a communal courtyard for the complex that is wrapped on one side by a folded aluminum shroud. The addition’s main interior gathering space features a drop-down ceiling made from CNC-milled maple wood as well. Both co-founder Julie Eizenberg and principal Nathan Bishop of KEA will be delivering a keynote address at the conference. Visit the Facades+ website to learn more and sign up for the conference.
Placeholder Alt Text

I Robot

MARS Pavilion experiments with robotic construction
How do two young designers get to participate in an invite-only robotics conference in Palm Springs, California, organized by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos? First, you have to be creative; second, you have to get your work online, and finally, you have to be lucky. Joseph Sarafian and Ron Culver, AIA were classmates at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Graduate School of Architecture and Urban Design in Greg Lynn’s studio. They were exploring how to use digital design to create unique components that could be fabricated using state-of-the-art industrial robotics, the kind of robots that build cars. They developed a system that allowed the designers to go directly from a digital image to physical reality. Their prototype eventually found its way onto the internet. Then, according to Sarafian, “We got an email from Amazon’s team out of the blue, after seeing our robotic concrete research 'Fabric Forms’ on blogs and websites.” They were invited to attend what Amazon calls their MARS Conference (Machine learning, Automation, Robotics, Space exploration). Like a private TED Conference, the MARS Conference brings together business leaders, academics and others pushing the envelope of technology.  

The resulting MARS Pavilion prototype—including an exhibition and video of the design process—is currently on view at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in the Los Angeles Arts District.  The pavilion will be up through Saturday, October 7 and has been sponsored by CTS Cement and Helix Steel.

Besides acquiring The Washington Post and Whole Foods, Jeff Bezos owns Blue Origin, a space exploration company that is intended to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The Blue Origin company motto is “Gradatim Ferociter,” Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously.” This motto might also apply to the work of Sarafian and Culver. The MARS Pavilion by their firm Form Found Design (FFD) is the first robotically-cast concrete pavilion in the world. While it is intriguing to look at, what is more important than its image is its method of design and construction. The MARS Pavilion consists of 70 unique, robotically-cast “wishbone” shaped components that are all bolted together with an identical steel connection detail.  Using the robotic precision of large ABB industrial robots, they achieved a tolerance of 1/16 inch. This is extraordinary in concrete construction, where the usual level of tolerance is ¼ inch—It’s an improvement of 400%. All the MARS Pavilion forms are derived from concrete’s most inherent quality, compression. Walter P. Moore performed a structural engineering analysis and recommended one-inch "Helix Steel" twisted fibers for reinforcement rather than traditional re-bar. This provides greater flexibility. The goal is to allow for the precision fabrication of a wide range of design components at low cost. Ron Culver described their approach as “a true digital workflow where previously unbuildable complex geometry is now feasible.” In downtown Los Angeles, for example, Diller Scofidio + Renfro designed the Broad Museum proposing many unique concrete forms. Due to cost constraints, the design had to be simplified so that only the oculus (a curved opening at the front of the building) survived the value engineering and cost-cutting process. FFD believe their approach will allow design variation in concrete with no additional cost. FFD envisions many future applications including creating economical housing solutions for developing nations. Sarafian explained, “We are interested in exploring this fabrication technique to create an easy-to-assemble housing prototype for developing countries.” The MARS Pavilion installation is on view through October 7th at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum, 900 E 4th St, Los Angeles, CA 90013, tickets are available for the closing reception here. You can follow Follow their FFD's work on Instagram @formfound_design
Placeholder Alt Text

Jail No More

L.A. picks three finalists for Lincoln Heights Jail redevelopment
The dilapidated and boarded-up Lincoln Heights Jail—a five-story, 229,000-square-foot art deco and modernist complex adjacent to the Los Angeles River—is on the verge of transformation as L.A. City Council officials prepare to implement redevelopment plans for the three-acre site. Sandwiched between Downtown Los Angeles and the city’s economically-stressed Eastside neighborhoods, the shuttered complex is one of the city’s most prominent historic landmarks. The triangular site sits in the city’s Cleantech Corridor and is written into the Cornfields Arroyo Seco specific plan as well. Those designations help poise the site for the type of high-end industrial redevelopment that is currently remaking the nearby Arts District while also threatening nearby communities with displacement. The jail was built in 1927 and was designed to hold 625 prisoners, though by the 1950s, it imprisoned more than 2,000 individuals, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy. Because of overcrowding, it was expanded in 1953 with a modernist wing. The jail has played an important role in the city’s history, holding individuals arrested during the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 and the Watts Riots of 1965, for example. Individuals who had been arrested over suspicions regarding their sexual orientation were also imprisoned at the Lincoln Heights jail, which even contained a separate wing dedicated to incarcerating gay prisoners. The jail was decommissioned in 1965 and became vacant in 2014. Currently, developers CIM Group, WORKS, and Lincoln Property Company are each vying for the opportunity to remake the site. Developer CIM Group has proposed redeveloping the site as a mixed-use district called “The Linc” containing offices, housing—including multifamily and low-income units—retail shops, restaurants, and a community garden. The proposal calls for converting the art deco portion of the structure into a hotel with a rooftop restaurant. The 1953 addition would be converted to residential use while a triangular structure on the far end of the site will contain a single story of retail programming. CIM has partnered with architects LOHA, LA Más, and landscape architects Superjacent for the proposal. Nonprofit housing developer WORKS—Women Organizing Resources Knowledge and Service—is looking to re-envision the site as a community-driven enterprise called “Las Alturas.” The complex would include 122 housing units, including 66 permanent supportive housing and 47 moderate-income homes. The proposed complex would also include a community center, child care facilities, theater, and generously-landscaped areas designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA). Mia Lehrer, principal at MLA explained to The Architect’s Newspaper that the WORKS-led proposal represented “the kind of community-focused investor you imagine exists but you don’t get meet very often,” adding that the design team included partnerships with Cal Poly Pomona’s agriculture program, and architects Omgivning and Killefer Flammang Architects. A third proposal by Lincoln Property Company, Rios Clementi Hale Studios, and Fifteen Group is also on the table. That scheme—called the Lincoln Heights Makers District—calls for a commercial- and manufacturing-focused district containing four acres of open space. The plan includes 268,250 square feet of residential space, including an affordable housing component; 220,000 square feet of commercial space; and 57,000 square feet of manufacturing and retail spaces. The designers envision repurposing the existing jail facility as a manufacturing center with associated housing and commercial spaces located alongside.  The project has been proposed by the developer as part of a larger scheme that includes an adjacent, privately-owned 3.2-acre site that will contain live/work spaces. The proposal would include connections to the L.A. River as well as outdoor community-oriented leisure and work spaces.  The schemes are currently being vetted by the City's economic development committee before heading to the full City Council for consideration. The City Council is expected to decide on the proposals as soon as this fall.  
Placeholder Alt Text

High Life

L.A.’s expanding subway line spurs first crop of luxury towers
By the time currently planned extensions to Los Angeles’s Purple Line are completed in 2024, the subway line will run from Downtown L.A. to Westwood, roughly nine miles further than it does today. Work on the extension is well underway, and, not by coincidence, the first crop of Purple Line–adjacent luxury high-rise housing projects recently came online, providing a glimpse at what L.A.’s residents can look forward to as transit starts to rework surrounding neighborhoods. As speculative developments, the new crop of towers represents a sort of trial run for transit-oriented luxury housing in L.A. The new buildings are not innovative so much as they are novel, imported typologies for a city in which the wealthiest denizens typically occupy mountainside perches, not the tops of towers. These first projects share a few qualities—namely that several came into being as the worst of the Great Recession hit, products of not only hard work but also a litany of delays, project sales, and redesigns. Their final manifestations, hard-fought as they were, hint at some of the shortcomings the recession generated: generic podium-and-tower massing, use of conventional materials like smooth stucco and glass, and generous, if not overly fussy, shared amenity spaces.
Downtown, two projects—the TEN50 apartments by HansonLA and Atelier DTLA by San Francisco–based Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB)—will bring a combined 514 units to a dense neighborhood already connected to the existing transit network. The TEN50 condominium complex, which features an architecturally dynamic form despite its conventional construction systems and materials, was first approved over a decade ago, but did not enter construction until 2015. The 151-unit complex rises 24 stories and features 5,900 square feet of groundfloor retail. The tower is wrapped in expansive window assemblies and features projecting balconies. At one corner, planar massing shifts as multistory, undulating curtainwall-clad volumes jog in and out of the main building mass, creating a series of overhanging terraces. The building’s most striking amenity? A drone landing pad on the sixth floor designed in anticipation of robot-based on-demand delivery services. Two blocks closer to the subway line, SCB’s 33-story Atelier DTLA apartment building features 363 luxury rental units in a black glass-clad tower. The structure features an expansive fifth floor amenity level complete with swimming pool, planted terraces, bocce court, and a shared lounge carved out from the main building mass. The tower’s rooftop terrace has wraparound views and a second swimming pool. The apartments themselves feature generous interior designs by Rodrigo Vargas Design, with bedrooms and living areas oriented around the tower’s slightly canted and sometimes cantilevered exterior walls.
In Koreatown, the Purple Line’s current terminus, Steinberg Architect’s 190-unit 3033 Wilshire bolsters the “linear downtown” running along Wilshire Boulevard. The tower’s floor-to-ceiling curtain-wall facades are interrupted by vertical spandrels; along the tower’s most prominent corner, the walls gently angle inwardly, creating long, tapered balconies. The larger units are designed with bedrooms spaced far enough apart to accommodate shared living arrangements, according to the architects. A podium-level dog run is fronted by a series of private terraces adjacent to the space, while operable awning windows and inset balconies rhythmically interrupt the tower’s stucco-clad facade along this exposure. The 40-story Ten Thousand Santa Monica tower by Handel Architects is decidedly the most high-end of the bunch. The 283-unit tower was completed in 2016 and features canted exterior facades and a broken envelope that provides each of the six to eight units per floor focused views and variable outdoor patio spaces. The units feature interior design by Shamir Shah Design and include 10-foot-tall ceilings throughout, as well as fancy finishes like Italian titanium travertine, statuary marble, limestone, and walnut flooring. The higher-end units feature 16-foot-tall living areas. The complex also boasts water-wise landscaping by Meléndrez, including a two-acre private park that faces south and is lined with 12-foot-tall privacy hedges.
As these projects fill up with new tenants, eyes across the region will be turned toward how the completed towers interact with their surroundings and whether they facilitate pedestrian-oriented lifestyles. A big question moving forward will be whether developers and city agencies can forego their penchant for oversized parking podiums and whether, when faced with fewer budgetary and entitlement restrictions, architects and developers will begin to truly work toward a locally derived variant of the luxury tower typology.
Placeholder Alt Text

Hollywood Hills

Richard Neutra’s Chuey House, a midcentury marvel, could be torn down
In the Hollywood Hills of California, a house by esteemed late architect Richard Neutra is in danger of being bulldozed. The midcentury modern home is listed on Redfin but is being marketed as a "truly unique development opportunity." The Austrian-American architect practiced for most of his career in Southern California, designing the iconic house for poet Josephine Ain Chuey in 1956. Located on 2460 Sunset Plaza Drive, the house offers expansive views over Los Angeles, taking in sights such as the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Park Observatory, Downtown Los Angeles, Century City, and Santa Monica. However, this may in fact be the property's downfall. Such sights are listed by Redfin, but missing is any description of the building. Redfin's description of the "lot" fails to include the glass walls Neutra designed, or the decking that cantilevers over a cliff and merges outdoor and indoor living. Chuey, unlike Redfin, was chuffed with the architect's work. "You are an alchemist who has transmuted earth, house, and sky into a single enchantment,” she wrote in a letter to him after moving in. “I can only hope that I can in some measure grow up to the wholeness and balance embodied here.” The poet lived in the house with her husband, the painter Robert Chuey. As Jamie Robinson of The Spaces notes out, Sylvia Lavin’s book Form Follows Libido: Architecture and Richard Neutra in a Psychoanalytic Culture, said that "[both] Mr. and Mrs. Chuey thought of the house as a device that would increase their creative energies." More fuel for creative energies was also present, as the house was also home to LSD experimentation by Timothy Leary. This too is omitted from the listing. The listing in fact includes very few images of the house, with most being of the views out over the Hollywood Hills. All this points to the indication that the house is not being sold as a place to live, but rather as something that can be knocked down.
Placeholder Alt Text

No Small Potatoes

L.A. developer is bringing live-work units to Downtown Boise

With the 159-unit Fowler and 37-unit Water Cooler projects, Los Angeles–based developers Local Construct are expanding their horizons by building for a growing niche of budget-conscious transplants seeking classically urban qualities like walkability and affordable density in Boise, Idaho.

Casey Lynch, cofounder of Local Construct, explained that Boise is “more progressive in terms of land-use and transportation planning” than larger municipalities, which allowed the developer to implement and expand on its existing suite of best practices.

The firm’s seven-story Fowler, designed by Holst Architecture, is a subtly zigzagging complex that includes 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and five ground floor live-work units that allow residents to “live above the shop.” The iron-washed brick and troweled-stucco block features gridded facades made up of punched openings that overlook the street and a central courtyard.

Local Construct also partnered with package-handling start-up Parcel Pending to create a package room outfitted with refrigerated lockers that alert residents when their packages arrive.

The developer, with The Architects Office (TAO) and Beebe Skidmore, is simultaneously working on the three-story Water Cooler apartments, which features protruding plywood-clad sections interrupted by white stucco massing. The wood-siding-clad bump-outs overhang the ground level storefront spaces, providing shelter above the building’s entrances. The building will contain seven live-work units along the ground floor, and 900 square feet of retail.

Both complexes are far into the construction process and are expected to open to tenants later this year.

Placeholder Alt Text

Barely There

Herzog & de Meuron reveal mountaintop campus project in L.A.
Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron has revealed renderings for a new 447-acre mountaintop campus for the Berggruen Institute, a policy-focused consortium of think tanks funded by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen. The complex—made up of a collection of subdued structures that occupy only roughly 10% of the overall site—is being planned to include a private residence for Berggruen’s family, 15 scholars’ residences, and a series of gardens strung along a publically-accessible linear park. The campus is anchored on its southern end by a low-slung research center with views towards Downtown Los Angeles. The campus will be located on a mountaintop that was formerly used as a landfill; the project site consists of a portion of the mountainside that was scraped and flattened in the 1980s in order to cap the landfill. That previously-disturbed 32-acre section of land will contain the development in its entirety, with the remaining 415-acres of the property persisting in a more-or-less natural state. The linear site is organized with the private residence at its north end, the scholars’ residences at the center, and the linear park and research center at its southern tip. The research center—dubbed “the Institute Frame” by the architects—consists of a rectangular structure containing a large courtyard at its center. The building is lifted 12 feet off the ground and contains a variety of indoor-outdoor connections along the elevated sections. The Frame’s courtyard will contain natural landscaping, a spherical 250-seat lecture hall, and a large reflecting pool, among other components. The frame structure will also house visiting scholars in a collection of apartments, with plans calling for 26 scholars-in-residence units and 14 visiting scholar units. The Frame Institute will also contain meeting rooms, study spaces, offices, artists’ studios, media spaces and dining and reception areas, according to the release. Regarding the pared-down architectural approach, Jacques Herzog of Herzog & de Meuron told the Los Angeles Times, “We want to use the spheres in the purest possible way, to make them almost immaterial. Not an expression of new technologies or a heroic engineering solution. They shouldn’t show any sign of effort or structural expression. We were just interested in this idea of the purity of the form—in its innocence, so to speak.” In a press release announcing the project, Nicolas Berggruen stated, “By building our campus here on the Pacific coast, we hope to advance the position of Los Angeles as a world center for ideas, linking the East to the West. By commissioning this visionary design from Herzog & de Meuron, we demonstrate our intention to make an important contribution to the architecture of Los Angeles and the world.” Gensler will work as the executive architect on the project, with landscape design to be performed by Michel Desvigne Paysagiste and Inessa Hansch Architecte. Although the project has already begun initial planning review, a timeline for the project has not been released.
Placeholder Alt Text

Flat Top

70 story tower coming to Downtown Los Angeles
New York–based architects ODA and Miami-based developer Crescent Heights have revealed new renderings for a 70-story apartment tower slated for Downtown Los Angeles. The mixed-use development will be located at the intersection of 11th Street and Olive Street; it aims to bring 794 apartments and 12,504 square feet of ground floor commercial space to downtown’s South Park district. The midcentury modern–inspired tower has been dubbed 1045 Olive and is being shepherded by the city through an expedited permitting process thanks to California’s ELDP program, a measure that guarantees sped-up approval for projects that invest over $100 million in the state’s economy. Renderings for the building depict a rectangular, flat-topped tower resting on a parking podium. The tower’s midsection is interrupted by a multistory amenity complex that features large corner openings several stories in height. One of the large cutouts along this area contains an outdoor pool and deck overlooked by glass-clad amenity spaces that include an indoor gym. The building’s conventional floors are wrapped in protruding wood-clad balconies in an effort to bring the outside indoors and challenge the standard thinking on residential tower designs in the downtown area, Curbed reports. The architects took an unusual approach with regard to the design of the parking podium, which is wrapped in apartment units that overlook the street. The tower, if completed to a height of 810 feet as currently designed, would become one of the tallest residential structures in the region, though it would fall roughly 165 feet below the recently proposed 925 S. Figueroa tower designed by CallisonRTKL. Developer Crescent heights is also working on a pair of other high-rise developments in the area, including the controversial Palladium Residences designed by Natoma Architects in Hollywood and the Handel Architects–designed Ten Thousand tower in Beverly Hills. An official timeline for 1045 Olive has not been released; see the project website for more information.
Placeholder Alt Text

Check It Out

Johnson Favaro’s long-delayed Main Library in Riverside, California gains steam
Riverside, California’s long-delayed Main Library redevelopment plan is showing signs of life, as a new design proposal by Los Angeles–based architects Johnson Favaro has come to light and begun a public vetting process. The proposal calls for a three-story, 35,000-square-foot library to be located at the site of the city’s former Greyhound bus terminal. Renderings for the $40 million project depict a proud structure raised on a set of piers that frame a generous covered outdoor breezeway at the base of the building. The building's lower levels are occupied by a local history archive as well as support functions designed to serve the site's open spaces. Much of the library’s interior volume will be contained within a double-height space located above the breezeway. The structure’s main facade is punctuated by a large oculus that overlooks the street and offers views into the library. The building will also feature a south-facing terrace on the second floor that will be oriented toward nearby mountain views. The Press-Enterprise reports that the interiors will come with stationary bicycle desks that can be used to power electronic devices. The complex will also include a business incubator and a toy and tool lending library. Johnson Favaro’s proposal is planned to take up approximately one-third of the site in order to allow the remaining portions to be developed as a high-rise, mixed use private development sometime in the future. The firm is master planning the remaining portions of the site in preparation for future construction. In a press release, Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey boasted about the planned library’s broad appeal, saying, “Libraries have evolved into information centers that serve everyone from young children checking out their first books to adults who are looking to re-enter the workforce. Riversiders of all ages can look forward to an amazing place that focuses on exploration and innovation.” The project is currently undergoing a public comment period prior to the submission of an environmental impact report. City agencies plan to break ground in 2018 and have the building completed in 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

2018 Groundbreaking

Gehry’s Grand Avenue towers in L.A. roar back to life
The long-stalled Grand Avenue Project by Gehry Partners in Downtown Los Angeles has roared back to life over the last year and is now slated for a 2018 groundbreaking. Urbanize.la reports that newly-filed construction permits for the $290 million project call for bringing 128 condominiums, 214 market rate apartments, 86 deed-restricted affordable housing units, and 305 hotel rooms to one of the most prime sites in Downtown Los Angeles. These components will take shape across a pair of towers, one 39-stories tall and the other rising 20 levels. The project also calls for 200,000 square feet of commercial spaces along the ground floors of the complex, which surrounds a central paseo that will bisect the site. The development’s multi-faceted towers are composed of shifting, boxy volumes that slide pass one another and grow narrower as each mass climbs higher into the sky. The paseo will be capped on the Grand Avenue side by a large public plaza. The project has been in the works for over a decade and was originally devised as the first phase of Grand Avenue’s redevelopment. The project has been delayed for so long, however, that later phases of that plan, like the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Broad Museum, have already come to fruition. The project is slated to take four years to build, with final occupation taking place sometime in 2022.
Placeholder Alt Text

Northern Exposure

This designer created a live-work prefab development for Detroit’s growing creative class

Detroit is full of surprises. From the Mies-designed Lafayette Park to the currently disassembled Heidelberg Project, small enclaves throughout the city challenge the perceived image of a city that has lost 60 percent of its population in the last 50 years. Tapping into this potential of small community spaces, Edwin Chan and his Los Angeles–based design practice EC3 have recently completed True North Detroit, a half-acre live-work community.

Specifically designed to cater to Detroit’s growing creative population, True North comprises nine lightweight prefabricated Quonset huts in the Core City neighborhood about two and a half miles northwest of the downtown. Core City has not seen any significant construction in over 60 years, and the area surrounding the project mostly consists of vacant lots.

“The majority of Detroit’s housing stock is either out of date or completely dilapidated,” Edwin Chan said. “Rather than being determined by ‘market demands,’ True North’s design is an inclusive and aspirational vision to create a new typology of affordable housing and to promote alternative, creative lifestyles in one of the world’s most iconic cities.”

The small complex of vaulted buildings is arranged in such a way as to provide access from the street and produce open outdoor communal spaces. Security, views, and privacy were also considered in the strategic orientation of each structure. The shape of the Quonset huts was also modified from the typical semicircular section to better serve the targeted residents.

Elongated and heightened wall space was produced for hanging art for production and exhibition. Kitchens, bathrooms, and utilities were moved into a center “island” and built out of a durable polycarbonate. Translucent and transparent polycarbonate was also used throughout to provide generous light and extra security. Radiant concrete floors, finished plywood, and other inexpensive materials and construction methods help keep the spaces affordable. The apartments range from 475 to 1,600 square feet, all with a lofted space above the kitchen area that can be used as a bedroom or additional workspace.

Even before its completion early this summer, True North received an honorable mention in the 64th annual P/A Awards in the community category. Far from the massive developments happening in the city’s downtown, projects like True North attempt to add to the city in more elegant way. As such, True North is the first of an iterative plan designed by EC3 to build on another seven acres in the neighborhood. It would seem that it is unavoidable that Detroit is going to be a testing ground for architectural and urban innovation. Projects like True North will hopefully prove that this can be a positive, and truly progressive, experience for the city.