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Post-Election Debrief

AIA outlines 6 key post-election issues to pursue with new Congress
As the architecture industry’s chief lobbying organization, it’s the American Institute of Architects’ job to get the issues architects care about up to Capitol Hill. It hasn’t always made decisions that resonate with everyone on both sides of the aisle, such as its pledge to work with President Trump, and it's been accused of being too slow to respond to obvious problems instigated by the government, like the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent new rule on asbestos. But it has continued to battle in the political arena on behalf of architects across the country and revise its plans based on its constituents' goals. This year, as part of 2018 AIA President Carl Elefante’s vision, the AIA is urging architects to exercise their role as architect-activists and “take a seat at the table” in order to guide leadership at the local, state, and federal government levels on the future of American cities. Following last week’s midterm elections, the AIA held a “Post-Election Debrief” to outline six key issues it’s set to focus on as the new United States Congress takes shape. Affordable Housing It’s no secret that many cities across the country are experiencing an affordable housing crisis. From Naples to New York, Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, it’s harder than ever to find reasonable rent and mortgages for the nation's low-income families. The AIA wants to expand the current Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) and push for a similar program catered to middle-income households. Proposed by Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the Middle-Income Housing Tax Credit would allow participating states the chance to receive federal tax credits based on population with 60 percent of units saved within a rental property for residents earning up to the median area income. Some see this motion as an unnecessary waste of federal resources, as it takes away from the poorest of the poor, and argue that changing exclusionary zoning laws would have essentially the same impact. Sustainability Numerous American cities have committed to reducing energy consumption by 2030 in an effort to comply with the 2016 Paris Agreement to combat climate change. New York’s own grand goal is to cut 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To do so, the city must focus on retrofitting its existing buildings with energy efficient materials. The AIA says it will continue to back legislation that helps developers do this, though right now, it’s a very costly task. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1), which passed last December, does a lot to incentivize property improvements for individual-income business owners. However, it raises the after-tax cost of retrofitting a building for energy improvements. To combat this, the AIA believes such investment should be credited as a “qualified improvement property,” so more property owners will be interested in greening their standing structures.   Resilience Natural disasters are wreaking havoc on coastal American cities and beyond. Each hurricane, wildfire, and tornado season brings more devastation than the year before. While architects can’t control Mother Nature, they can support in-need communities in numerous ways once disaster strikes. The AIA seeks to expand its Safety Assessment Program (SAP) in order to train more architects with the skills necessary to analyze buildings post-hurricane, windstorm, or flood. Additionally, Congress passed the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (DRRA) last month which gives states more room to manage post-disaster rebuilding efforts, as well as greater investment in preventing serious damage from occurring in the first place. Through a new National Public Infrastructure Pre-Disaster Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, communities can plan and build resiliency projects with fair federal funding. School Safety Mass shootings are a nationwide epidemic. Architects may not have much jurisdiction over the design and security of nightclubs, open concert venues, or religious institutions, but they can impart their expertise into the future of educational architecture. This August, the AIA launched its school safety initiative, calling for schools to receive more federal funding and grants for architectural and design services. The AIA also wants the government to help create a new public resource full of best practices and design guidelines for architects to use in order to mitigate violence in schools through well-thought design. AIA representatives have spoken out on this matter already at the White House and in front of the U.S. Department of Education as well as Homeland Security. The new Sandy Hook Elementary School designed by Svigals + Partners opened this fall and has been lauded as a prime example of the kind of “open architecture” now needed for 21st-century schools. The AIA plans to introduce legislation on safe school design to the new Congress in the coming year. Architecture Firms A section of the federal tax code forces a high tax on any foreign entity investing in a U.S. commercial real estate property if they supply up to a certain percentage of funds. This law, called the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA), was enacted in 1980 and partially repealed by Congress in 2015. The AIA believes it still stops new projects and jobs from reaching architecture firms by discouraging investment in local communities. The AIA is urging Congressional leaders to sign as cosponsor of the Invest in America Act, which would fully repeal FIRPTA and potentially bring 147,000 to 284,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy while providing hundreds of billions of dollars of investment in infrastructure, affordable housing, and more. Student Loan Debt In 2013, the AIA and the American Institute of Architecture Students (AIAS) introduced the bipartisan National Design Services Act to help emerging architectural professionals with student loan assistance in exchange for community service. According to the bill, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would either reimburse students on their tuition who worked in underprivileged areas on public projects or provide grants for internships at community design centers. The bill was reintroduced to Congress in 2015 but has sat stagnant since. The AIA is asking architects to write into their local Congressperson to educate them on the initiative and call attention to how the student debt problem affects rising architects. To learn more about these issues and contact your local Congressperson, visit the AIA’s Architect Action Center.
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Blue to A, Red to B

L.A. looks to rebrand its Metro lines using letters and colors
The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is moving to rename its new and existing rail and bus rapid transit lines. Metro staff this week recommended a new plan that aims to create a “clear, consistent, [and] uniform wayfinding system” for the transit authority and its 34 million annual riders. The proposed changes would replace the existing color-based nomenclature—Blue, Red, Purple, Gold, Orange, Silver—with letters and colors for the system’s major lines. If adopted as proposed, the transition to the new naming system could begin as early as 2019 when the Blue Line re-opens as the A Line after extensive renovations. In coming years, the so-called Regional Connector project currently being built to connect a pair of lines that dead-end into Downtown Los Angeles will come online, as well, reorganizing and consolidating the number of existing transit lines. Officials hope that the new naming system reduces confusion and makes traveling across the system smoother for local strap-hangers and tourists alike. The proposed policy is a result of extensive study and ridership polling that asked respondents to choose between different configurations of numbered, colored, and lettered options. Eventually, it was decided that a combination of approaches worked best and allowed for the most flexibility, considering that many of the forthcoming lines and extensions are still in the early planning stages and the ultimate configuration of the transit system is still unknown. The changes come as the city works to dramatically expand L.A.’s transit system before the 2028 summer Olympics. Before then, Metro aims to complete 28 major transit projects across the region, including the construction of several new lines and extensions, in addition to the Regional Connector project.
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I Said, Hop In

Google fills a historic timber hangar with its sleek new Los Angeles office
The Spruce Goose, a derogatory nickname for the Hughes H-4 Hercules, only flew once, but the largest plane ever built (entirely out of wood, to boot) continues to live on in pop culture ephemera. The plane has found a permanent home in Oregon’s Evergreen Aviation Museum, but the Los Angeles hangar where the Spruce Goose was built is getting a second shot at life. Under the timber hangar’s four-story-tall roof, ZGF Architects has completed a voluminous open office for Google that celebrates the building’s aeronautical heritage. Inside the 450,000-square-foot Playa Vista space, ZGF has restored the building’s historic Douglas fir “spine,” a series of curved ribs that support the ceiling, using wood salvaged from the hangar. Any leftover wood was used for furniture throughout the office. The Spruce Goose hangar was the largest timber building in the world when it was completed, and ZGF and engineers Arup mostly kept true to that legacy by scattering wooden finishes throughout and leaving the ceiling exposed. An enormous ship-like structure at the office’s core anchors the circulation routes and staircases to each floor, and according to ZGF, creates a “unique building-within-a-building design.” The hangar had largely laid dormant until Google took it over as a tenant, though in the past it’s served as a soundstage for films like Titanic and Avatar. In renovating such a cavernous space, ZGF punched skylights throughout the 750-foot-long building’s roof to maximize the amount of incoming daylight. The office space also features plenty of aviation-themed conference rooms, a fitness center, cafes, a 250-person event space, and aerial boardwalks that connect the first, second, and third floors. A “perception sculpture” made up of 2,800 hanging steel balls has been installed in the central atrium, that, when viewed from a specific angle, reveals the airy shape of the Spruce Goose plane. The references to Howard Hughes’s and the site’s place in aviation history is also celebrated throughout with placards and stories about the building, the Spruce Goose, Google, and L.A. Although Google has approximately 1,000 employees in the city, it’s unclear how many will work out of the Spruce Goose office. ZGF is no stranger to designing for tech giants and is currently part of the team renovating Microsoft's Redmond campus. “Los Angeles is an ideal home for Google’s newest office,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, who was on hand for a tour of the building over the weekend. “Our city is a hub of innovation, creativity, and homegrown talent that shaped the aerospace industry in the past and that’s redefining the tech sector today. “Expanding Google’s presence in Playa Vista connects an historic building with our dynamic future, a site that will serve as a hotbed of scientific excellence and economic success for years to come.”
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Another Rail Yard Story

Atlanta council members green light controversial $5 billion Gulch project
It’s official. Atlanta is about to take on one of the most ambitious and controversial building projects in its history. Last Monday, in a midnight vote before election day, the Atlanta City Council approved a $5 billion proposal to redevelop “The Gulch,” a 40-acre swath of sunken rail yards and parking lots in downtown Atlanta. Thanks to the decision, CIM Group, the Los Angeles-based agency that’s been eyeing the site for some time, will now likely receive a large government subsidy as the sole bidder on the project. CIM’s big plans for The Gulch came to light last November when people started speculating the meaning of an impact fee assessment filed with the city that month, which proposed the redevelopment of over 10 million square feet of publicly-owned land next to the Philips Arena. Over time, it became evident that CIM, a company founded by the brother of Atlanta Hawks owner Tony Ressler, was responsible for the filing and wanted to offer The Gulch to the city as part of Atlanta’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2. Despite news that Amazon will definitely not be coming to Atlanta, it seems that CIM’s plans to revitalize The Gulch are still underway. The scope of the project is nearly unparalleled, comparing only in size to Manhattan’s 28-acre Hudson Yards neighborhood and CIM’s 27-acres Miami Worldcenter development. Within The Gulch, the developer aims to create 9 million square feet of office space, one million square feet of retail, as well as room for residential and hospitality. The “mini city within the city” will sit atop a podium of parking garages and connect with a new grid of streets and parks. It could include more than a dozen new buildings, completely reshaping the city’s skyline. Newly-elected Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is a large supporter of the project. Leading up to last week’s vote, she started a massive campaign to “Greenlight the Gulch,” asking for the public and the city council to approve the around $1.9 billion subsidy package for the private project. In a tight 8-6 vote, her plan won out. Though the government is now on board, many locals aren’t game. Critics of the project say the area should be dedicated to a new transit hub (an idea that started in 2012), while others argue that an increase in luxury housing will raise rents and property taxes in low-income communities near downtown. While Bottoms's proposal requires CIM to build at least 200 units of affordable housing within The Gulch and invest $28 million into a citywide trust fund for affordable housing, some still hope for a better deal. Many say the process for approvals has been rushed and the public hasn’t gotten enough say. Since CIM’s plans were unveiled last year, things have moved at an unprecedented speed. Even opponents seem eager to build something in The Gulch, but only if it benefits the city, not the just owners who develop it. Given CIM’s large-scale goals for the site, this will be a fight with the public for decades to come.
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Paradise Lost

California fires claim over 7,000 structures and displace over 270,000 residents
A pair of particularly destructive wildfires that burned through the weekend in California have claimed over 7,000 structures and caused a wave of displacement across the state. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the so-called Camp Fire grew to more than 105,000 acres over the weekend as it swept through Butte County in Northern California, devastating the town of Paradise. The fire quickly became the deadliest and largest wildfire in California history over the weekend, a record that has been broken every year for the last three years in a row. The blaze has so far claimed 6,713 structures, including 6,453 homes and 260 commercial buildings. It is expected that close to 15,000 other structures are threatened by the fire, which is currently 20 percent contained. So far, 31 people have died and over 100 are reported missing. Reports from the frontlines of the blaze indicate that much of the town has been destroyed, with journalists on the scene fielding calls to check in on particular properties and posting block-by-block surveys of the devastation on social media. It is expected that between 90 and 95 percent of the city was destroyed, leaving its 27,000 residents to seek shelter across the housing-strapped region.

In the Santa Monica mountains that ring Los Angeles, the 85,550-acre Woolsey Fire has forced the temporary displacement of over 250,000 people as the cities of Thousand Oaks and Malibu and surrounding mountain communities were evacuated in advance of the fast-moving blaze.

Curbed reported that the fires have threatened several historic Hollywood filming locations and other notable structures located in the scenic mountains, including a replica of the set from the television series M*A*S*H and the recently-restored historic Sepulveda Adobe complex. Distressingly, the fire also reportedly consumed the Santa Susana Field Laboratory, a former Rocketdyne laboratory from 1949 that housed experimental nuclear reactors as well as radioactive waste.

Many architecturally-significant structures are also at risk, including important works by Frank Gehry, Wallace Neff, John Lautner, as well as several of the Case Study homes, Curbed reported.

Several of the wealthy areas hit by the fire have seen heavy losses, as well, including the destruction of several celebrity-owned mansions in Calabasas and Malibu. The homes of pop stars Miley Cyrus, Robin Thicke, and Neil Young and others were destroyed by the inferno, E! Online reported.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Woolsey Fire is 15 percent contained.

Regarding California’s increasingly destructive and lengthening fire season, Governor Jerry Brown told The LA Times, “This is not the new normal; this is the new abnormal.” Brown added, “And this new abnormal will continue certainly in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years. Unfortunately, the best science is telling us that dryness, warmth, drought, all those things, they’re going to intensify. We have a real challenge here threatening our whole way of life, so we’ve got to pull together.”

The fires touched off a series of antagonistic—and “ill-informed”—tweets from President Donald Trump, who erroneously blamed the fires on “gross mismanagement” of the state’s forests. Fire officials instead point to the increasing effects of climate change, as well as growing so-called “wildland-urban interface” zones where human occupation and the state’s natural landscapes come into contact, as key causes for the latest series of conflagrations.

Because the state’s populated urban areas have gradually slowed development and downsized population capacity over the decades, much of the state’s explosive population growth has largely occurred in increasingly-far-flung and precarious areas, where drought-ridden brush is easily combustible and sprawling communities are perfect targets for wind-swept flames.

Crews in the state are working to battle the flames as winds, temperatures, and humidity levels work against their favor. AN will bring more coverage of California’s fires as information becomes available.

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#LightTheFight

Watch out for glowing black trucks this World AIDS Day
In honor of World AIDS Day, renowned conceptual artist Jenny Holzer will release a mobile exhibition that will shine a light on the history and current impact of the AIDS epidemic. This December 1, a fleet of five, pitch black trucks featuring LED signs will embark on a journey around the city, showcasing quotes by poets, artists, educators, activists, and people living with HIV and AIDS. The installation, #LightTheFight, is curated by Holzer in partnership with the NYC AIDS Memorial, a project she completed in 2016 that features a series of granite paving stones engraved with Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem Song of Myself. Studio AI designed a white, angular pavilion to house the memorial. The roving billboard project, another text-based artwork by Holzer, signals the launch of the memorial’s Arts and Education Initiative which will bring immersive programming to the city. “It’s crucial to maintain awareness that the AIDS epidemic is live, in New York and around the world,” said Holzer in a statement. “The messages on the trucks’ screens, contributed by feeling people, could comfort those affected by AIDS and reignite fires in bellies to end AIDS forever.” After an interactive ceremony and performance at the memorial site, the trucks will drive up and down Manhattan, animating the special words in black and white with an occasional burst of color to stress the messages on screen. Holzer told The New York Times that the texts will feature a variety of sentiments from tenderness to grief. Throughout the night, the trucks will make pit stops at historically significant locations and sites such as the LGBT Community Center, Times Square, Hudson River Piers near Christopher Street, and the Meatpacking District. At each location, signature condoms designed by Ms. Holzer will be distributed along with educational material on HIV, AIDS, and LGBT rights. #LightTheFight isn’t the first motor vehicle-based installation Holzer has created. IT IS GUNS debuted earlier this year in New York and Washington, D.C., in protest of gun violence. Leading up to the midterm elections this week, Holzer put together a series of tourist buses in Los Angeles, encouraging people to vote. Learn more about #LightTheFight here.
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Rough Ride

Virgin Hyperloop One hits major bumps in the wake of Saudi controversy
One of the world’s most dogged transportation professionals—and former head of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA)—will now head up Virgin’s venture into high-speed rail service. The Verge reported that Jay Walder has left his role as CEO of bike-sharing company, Motivate, in order to lead Los Angeles–based Virgin Hyperloop One, which appears to be in financial trouble after it publicly laid off 40 staff members yesterday. Walder will replace Rob Lloyd, who ran the young company for three years but stepped down for undisclosed reasons. After serving stints in both Hong Kong and London, helping both growing cities overhaul their mass transit systems, Walder comes to Virgin Hyperloop One with serious street cred that largely centers around the financial and physical success at his previous jobs. In his latest position, he led Motivate through a massive upswing, improving and expanding New York's Citi Bike and similar programs across the county. Motivate was acquired by Lyft this summer. During his tenure at the MTA, Walder instigated technological advancements and tried to pull the organization out of its never-ending financial troubles, despite his rocky time there. The news of Walder’s appointment comes as the transportation technology startup aims to spur more investment and build its first fully operational high-speed rail in India. The planned route will take people from Mumbai to Pune in just 25 minutes. Last month, Saudi Arabia nixed a deal to construct a hyperloop in that country after former chairman Richard Branson criticized the kingdom’s alleged killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Saudis announced a $1 billion investment in Virgin Galactic, another venture by Branson, after Branson stepped down as the chairman at Hyperloop. While Hyperloop’s former chief executive Lloyd hasn’t explicitly named the controversy as his main reason for leaving the company, he did refuse to attend Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Future Investment Initiative conference late last month where the organization planned to make the hyperloop deal official. There they aimed to begin conducting a feasibility study on “the Vision 2030 Hyperloop Pod,” which Lloyd and his team unveiled last April. With Branson and Lloyd gone, Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has stepped in as the new chairman. His company, DP World, a UAE-based shipping and logistics group, is now Virgin Hyperloop One’s largest investor. Virgin Hyperloop One is currently testing its latest technology at a site in Nevada’s Mojave Desert and aims to begin construction on a six-mile test segment in India in 2019. It's working on a feasibility study for a Missouri track as well. Because of Walder’s track record of bringing struggling transit organizations into the 21st century and creating financial gains for giants like Motivate, many think his “real world” knowledge will bring tangible momentum to the futuristic Virgin Hyperloop One.
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Knit Nature

Anticipated Incarnations of Jenny Sabin Studio’s LUSTER
Nature as a model for architectural forms has been mimicked as imagery since the first archetypal building, and now, natural biological systems are reaching a heightened interest in emerging fields of architecture, science, and material structures as biomimicry. In Metamorphosis of Plants, Goethe’s scientific understanding of “dynamic archetypes” focused on transformation and evolution rather than fixed forms and species – notions undeniably reimagined in the adaptive system of variant cellular structures and surfaces of Jenny Sabin Studio’s LUSTER. Rather than imitating nature, scaling up data or images found in nature, a canopy structure is created through an understanding of morphology relationships between generative and computational design. Building on her previous collaborations with biologists, Sabin’s representation of nature, as in in Sir D’Arcy’s “On Growth and Form,” is recast using 3d seamless knitting developed with Wholegarment technology. As an engaged visitor immersed from dusk to nightfall in Sabin’s knit structures at House of Peroni New York debut exhibition of LUSTER curated by Art Production Fund, variable instances of growth are staged, playing out in a luminous performance of surfaces, rising and falling, as if inverted stalagmites captured in-formation. Like Goethe’s “sensuous dynamic archetype,” Sabin’s co-evolutional structure and materiality is animated by an opening and closing cellular system, distressed and stretched into unique yet familiar shapes. The systematized fabric sprouts a second life with striation patterns coming alive in alternating light and color transformations, where, one by one, photoluminescent knit fiber links are activated to release light. Sabin’s sensory and material choreographies create haptic desire. They set up responsive behaviors between the naturally swaying textured archetype and the human body, finding semblance in Tropos, Ann Hamilton’s topography of irregular patterned variegated horse-hair fibers’, or more closely in habitus’s gigantic hung textiles twirling in perpetual motion to the sound of their own mechanism. Moving beyond the organic, Sabin’s ethereal fabric surfaces dislodge the static experience to engage the body as perceptual devices - a testimony to human curiosity, sensory indulgence, and bodily silhouettes. Similar to spherulite formation in crystalline cell structures that start as circular forms and collide and transmute into morphing geometries due to different growth rates, Sabin’s geometric assembly of parts to whole appear as mutations of the circle. Each part, either growing slowly in the canopy above, or rapidly descending as a figure hovering above the ground. Moving away from masculine, formulaic, cartesian space that relies on mathematical principles, Sabin refers to more feminine, systemic, network assemblies that don’t follow a rigid order. The porous, soft, intimate nature of the knit engages the visitor’s desire to touch and peer into. Non-programmed openings generate organic distribution of holes, giving the cone’s structures a degree of autonomy. Sabin’s approach blurs the boundary between the objectivity of science and subjectivity of our perception. Originally an error in the calculation of density of holes, a tightly stitched ring around each individual hole produced “knots,” offering added rigidity to the overall forms and becoming a design parameter to eliminate unwanted sagging. Soon to be transported to 3 distinct environments and contexts, perhaps LUSTER’s most transformative power aims beyond its luminous essence through its formally responsive capacity for site-specific conditions. Adjustable distribution tension in the nylon webbing that supports the stretchy knit surfaces, along with zipper seam joints in areas that anticipate alternate configurations, the adaptive nature is masterfully built into her piece - transforming as a whole through its parts. House of Peroni’s 1-day lifespan installations and local artist interventions curated by Art Production Fund, incite visitors to witness how this ephemeral canopy might yield reincarnations of itself as a responsive archetype. From New York’s West Village industrial building at the edge of the Hudson river, to a converted indoor/outdoor warehouse in Los Angeles, an exterior waterfront space in Miami, and historic property in Washington, perhaps this project’s greatest luster is achieved by remaining in flux, shifting our perception of light and space as if the knitting machine was compelled to stop at its own intrinsic interval of time, capturing the beauty of the unfinished work of nature. Exhibition dates and collaborating artists: Nov. 8th.: Jeanette Getrost, Los Angeles; Nov. 14th:  Michelle Weinberg, Miami; and Nov. 28th Lu Zhang, Washington.
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Shohei in L.A.

OMA unveils fresh renderings for its first cultural project in Los Angeles
The Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), Gruen Associates, and Studio-MLA are working toward a November 11 groundbreaking for the new Audrey Irmas Pavilion, an addition to the historic Wilshire Boulevard Temple in Los Angeles. Ahead of this weekend’s groundbreaking ceremony, OMA has unveiled a batch of new renderings of the 55,000-square-foot cultural center. The two-story, trapezoidal pavilion will contain two large event spaces within its sloped walls, including a rooftop terrace designed by Studio-MLA. The main gathering space along the ground floor will be elliptical in nature and will provide arched openings along two of the principal facades. The second space will run perpendicular to the ground floor space and will be outlined as a trapezoid along the opposing set of exterior walls. The terrace will stream daylight through the pavilion via a circular opening. The addition will allow the temple to offer supportive services for its congregants, including hot meal programs and medical clinics, Urbanize.LA reported. Renderings for the project depict a singular volume skinned with hexagonal stone cladding, with each of the stone tiles containing a rectangular glass block at its center. Gruen Associates is working as the executive architect for the project, which was designed by OMA partners Shohei Shigematsu and Rem Koolhaas. In a press release announcing the groundbreaking, Shigematsu said, “Focusing on communicating the energy of gathering and exchange, the pavilion is an active gesture, shaped by respectful moves away from the surrounding historic buildings, reaching out onto Wilshire Boulevard to create a new presence.” Shigematsu added, “We are thrilled to break ground on this significant project that will provide a new anchor for the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the broader Los Angeles community.” The project represents OMA’s first cultural commission in the region and will join the firm’s forthcoming First and Broadway Park—also designed in collaboration with Studio-MLA—in Downtown Los Angeles and The Plaza, a mixed-use shopping complex slated for Santa Monica, as other works under development nearby. Plans call for the Audrey Irmas Pavilion to be completed by 2020.
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Reshaping Grand Avenue

Gehry’s long-awaited Grand Avenue Towers are headed to construction
At long last, The Grand, a Gehry Partners–designed mega-project slated for a site across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, is finally moving toward construction. Having been in the works since 2004, the proposed $1 billion complex has faced various delays and funding hurdles over the last 14 years despite the project's high-profile status. When initially envisioned by architect Frank Gehry and developer Related Companies, the mixed-use high-rise complex was considered a marquee development that would anchor a forthcoming, multi-block arts and entertainment district. But as delays piled up, smaller ancillary projects like the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Broad Museum and The Emerson, a 19-story apartment tower, came online first. Now, instead of starting up the district's transformation, the complex might end up capping it off. After laying dormant for years, the project stirred back to life in 2017 after Chinese real estate firm CORE infused the development with $290 million in much-needed financing. In a surprise move, the developers filed for construction permits in August 2017. This week, the Related Companies announced it has amassed the $630 million needed in financing for the project, The Los Angeles Times reports, indicating that construction could begin as soon as the end of this month. If the timeline sticks, the complex is due to finish construction in 2021 and will eventually feature a 430-seat cinema, a 309-room hotel, and a 39-story residential component with 113 condominiums and 323 apartments, 20 percent of which will be subsidized. Renderings unveiled earlier this year depict a block-long terraced complex that steps back from the street as it rises. A pair of deconstructed, multi-faceted towers rise on either side of a central retail corridor. The project's three above-ground podium levels front the Disney Hall and are shown brimming with retail and restaurant establishments in renderings. These spaces feature broad, open-air shopping terraces and a central courtyard designed with seating areas and a sculptural awning. The two-tower complex will join a growing number of mixed-use developments that are on the way to sites scattered around the Grand Avenue district and the adjacent Civic Center area. City and private entities are working across these areas in an effort to break down the mono-functional post-war zoning plans that reshaped Downtown Los Angeles during the 20th Century and severed much of its residential uses. Other residential projects on the way nearby include a mixed-use tower from Gensler, a pair of condominium towers from AC Martin, as well as a new park designed by Office of Metropolitan Architecture and Studio-MLA.
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Wake Up, Dematerialize

L.A. artist designs glitchy facades to revitalize stale housing models
If you are one of the many people concerned that apartments in American cities are all starting to look too much alike, there might be hope for you yet. Los Angeles–based artist and educator Elena Manferdini of Atelier Manferdini is currently working on a collection of glitchy apartment facades that aim to break up the monotony of some of those developments. With her designs, Manferdini is hoping to "re-open a discussion on the role of fantasy in art and architecture" by bringing beguiling geometric patterns and bright colors to at least seven multi-family complexes envisioned by FMB Development and a collection of other local architects, including Archeon Group, Dean Larkin Design, and Open Architects. Los Angeles–based FMB bills itself as a "community-oriented developer of luxury residential real estate," including the types of market-rate apartments that some Los Angeles homeowners might view as obtrusive in their neighborhoods. That's where Manferdini steps in by designing structures with interlocking blocks of patterned surfaces and expanses of varying opacity that work to simultaneously highlight and break down each of the proposed buildings. Manferdini explained that the designs are driven by the idea that, "facades are important for the city at large because they are inevitably the background of our public imagination." Manferdini added, "Facades negotiate how the privacy of human interactions come to terms with a surrounding cultural context." In L.A.'s densely-packed, low-slung urban neighborhoods, where privacy comes at a premium, sites are strictly limited in terms of height and allowable bulk, decorative elements help play a role in bridging the visual gap between existing housing stock and the types of multi-unit complexes needed to address the region's housing crisis. Manferdini's work for FMB builds on a series of exhibitions she crafted as part of her artistic practice, including the Graham Foundation–supported Building the Picture, a collection of drawing-photograph hybrid images that were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. For the exhibition, Manferdini created a series of fictional patterned facades partially inspired by some of the Chicago-based work of Mies van der Rohe. The layered, abstracted images proposed methods for obfuscating the underlying scale and window patterning of the hypothetical apartment structures by combining oblique and projected patterns on a collection of planar and faceted building forms. Manferdini explained further, saying, "The work insinuates that surfaces now have an unprecedented ability to be embedded simultaneously with optical affect and cultural associations," a concept that is ideally suited for testing in the real world through its application on the apartment buildings in question, according to the artist.

At 1017 Sierra Bonita, for example, Manferdini uses blue, white, and black Trespa panels, custom fritted glass, and gray stucco to lend a three-story apartment block atmospheric qualities. Hanging plants and balconies filled with hedges and landscape design by Green Republic Landscapes further dematerialize the five-unit building.

The Trespa panels make another appearance in red, blue, and black at 1408 Poinsettia, where Manferdini has arranged ascending striped patterns with vertical building elements that camouflage each of the three-bedroom small-lot subdivision homes. At 1139 N. Detroit, Manferdini pursues a more subdued approach by using custom-designed mosaic tiles and painted stucco. In each of the projects, Manferdini works to play off of the architectural elements using unconventional patterning and color choices, perhaps a welcome approach for Hardie-panel weary observers. The designs are due to come online soon: Many of the projects are currently undergoing planning review, and 1408 Poinsettia is currently under construction.
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Best of the West

AIA | LA design awards highlight Southern California’s best design
The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles chapter (AIA|LA) has announced its annual design awards winners for 2018, highlighting the work of many of the region's most creative and thoughtful architecture practices. Awarded across three categories—Design, Next LA, and Committee on the Environment (COTE) LA—the organization's award program is designed to recognize achievements in overall design, highlight the work by emerging designers, and bring attention to hallmark sustainability-focused projects. Within each category, awards are ranked into "honor," "merit," and "citation" rankings.

Design Awards

This year's design category awards acknowledge a wide array of project types, from an undulating transit station in Seattle by Brooks + Scarpa to a Modernist-inspired winery by Bestor Architecture. The highlighted projects feature simple geometries that come outfitted with performative architectural elements like screen walls and shading devices that not only lend formal interest to each project but also manipulate light in essential and evocative ways. A full list of the design winners is below:
HONOR AWARDS
Animo South Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA
Parallax Gap
Washington, DC
Camelot Kids Child Development Center
Los Angeles, CA
KeltnerCo Architecture + Design
Mariposa1038
Los Angeles, CA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA)
Fenlon House
Los Angeles, CA
Martin Fenlon Architecture
Mayumi
Culver City, CA
ShubinDonaldson
MERIT AWARD
Ashes & Diamonds
Napa, CA
Stoneview Nature Center
Culver City, CA
Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
UCSB San Joaquin Student Housing
Santa Barbara, CA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
Studio Dental II
San Francisco, CA
Montalba Architects, Inc.
 
CITATION AWARDS
Angle Lake Station
Seattle/SeaTac, WA
Brooks + Scarpa
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab
Chicago, Illinois
HDR | Gensler with Clive Wilkinson Architects
Advanced Stem & Design Institutes
Los Angeles, CA
 
G-Cubed
Los Angeles, CA
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
2018 AIA|LA Design awards jury:
Steve Dumez, FAIA – Principal and Director of Design, Eskew+Dumez+Ripple
Elaine Molinar, AIA, LEED AP – Partner and Managing Director – The Americas, Snøhetta
Brett Steele, AA DIPL, HON FRIBA, FRSA – Dean, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture
 

Next LA Awards

AIA|LA's Next LA Awards highlight unbuilt or in-the-works projects that push the envelope in terms of design or programmatic configuration. Synthesis Design + Architecture's Nansha Scholar's Tower in Guangzhou, China, for example, is formally inspired by smooth river rock cultural artifacts known as Gongshi and features a pair of pass-through elevated terraces that cycle air through the mid-rise tower's core. R&A Architecture and Design's Sunset Tower, on the other hand, proposes to use extended, undulating floor plates to create variable balcony and terrace spaces for a speculative development in West Hollywood. A full list of the Next LA winners:
HONOR
Boyle Tower
Los Angeles, CA
MUTUO
MERIT
Apertures
Mexico City, Mexico
Belzberg Architects
The New Center of Science & Technology in Suzhou
Shishan Park, Suzhou, China
Kevin Daly Architects
Pioneertown House
Pioneertown, CA
PARA-Project
Camp Lakota
Frazier Park, CA
Perkins+Will
Mercado El Alto
Puebla, Mexico
Rios Clementi Hale Studios
CITATION
MLK1101 Supportive Housing
Los Angeles, CA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
Sunset Tower
West Hollywood, CA
R&A Architecture + Design
Nansha Scholar's Tower
Guangzhou, China
Synthesis Design + Architecture & SCUT Architectural Design & Research Institute
2018 AIA|LA Next LA awards jury: 
David Benjamin – Founding Principal, The Living, and Assistant Professor at Columbia GSAPP
Mario Cipresso, AIA – Associate Principal, Hawkins/Brown
Elizabeth Timme – Co-Founder, LA-Más

COTE LA Awards

The Committee on the Environment (COTE) LA awards focus on performance and sustainability. Gensler's CSUN Sustainability Center at the California State University, Northridge, campus in the San Fernando Valley utilizes recycled materials and furniture, makes efficient use of passive lighting, and features solar-powered electricity and hot water. The Arizona State University Biodesign Institute C complex by ZGF Architects, an Honor award winner, delivers energy savings of over 44 percent when compared to existing campus laboratories. The full list of COTE LA winners:
HONOR
Arizona State University Biodesign Institute C Tempe, AZ
ZGF Architects
CSUN Sustainability Center
Northridge, CA
Gensler
 
MERIT
Otis College of Art and Design Campus Expansion Los Angeles, CA Ehrlich | Fisher   UCSB BioEngineering Santa Barbara, CA Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners   West Hollywood Automated Parking Garage West Hollywood, CA LPA, Inc.   CITATION Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, Pitzer College Claremont, CA Carrier Johnson + Culture  
2018 AIA|LA COTE LA awards jury: 
William Leddy, FAIA – Founding Principal, Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
Douglas E. Noble, FAIA – Director, Master of Building Science USC School of Architecture
Anne Schopf, FAIA – Partner, Mahlum Architects