Search results for "downtown los angeles"

Placeholder Alt Text

50/50 Chance

Stalled California housing bill could give architects chance to redesign the state’s cities
California needs 3.5 million housing units. That’s more housing units than currently exist in most states. This shortage—California ranks 49th in housing units per capita, ahead of only Utah—developed slowly but has metastasized into a true crisis, with housing costs rising to untenable levels for all but the most well-off Californians. In considering how and where to add a volume equivalent to all of Virginia, a key question is, what state—or, rather, what city—will those new units look like? Will they look like the tract homes of Phoenix? The row houses of Philadelphia? The high-rise apartments of New York City? The triple-deckers of Boston? The genteel mansions of Richmond? Or, perhaps worst of all, the mid-rises of Hollywood? The answers depend in large part on where new housing gets built. A recent bill in the California legislature almost provided the answer—almost. Senate Bill 50, sponsored by San Francisco–based State Senator Scott Wiener, would have mandated increased housing densities around major public transit lines and “jobs rich” areas throughout the state by requiring cities to permit multifamily buildings of up to five stories by right. Wiener contended that California needs more housing and that the best locations are those that enable residents to minimize commuting by personal automobiles. A relatively late amendment would have eliminated single-family zoning, permitting homeowners to build up to four units on any single-family lot, and limited the high-density provisions to counties of over 600,000 residents. California has always maintained a tense relationship with density, often failing to plan for it while suffering its ill effects all the same. SB 50 could be the catalyst to help the state abandon its suburban fetishes once and for all. An updated version of a bill that Wiener sponsored last year, SB 50 nearly made it out of the State Senate until Appropriations Committee Chair Anthony Portantino scuttled it with a procedural tactic, refusing to bring it to a vote in committee. The move put an abrupt end to what had arguably been the most heated debates over land-use legislation in state history. SB 50, like many other recent controversies related to development and housing in California, did not inspire neat loyalties. While its core support came from the increasingly influential YIMBY movements and core opposition came from homeowners, the politics were messy at best. Conservatives could love its relaxation of regulations but hate its emphasis on dense urbanism. Liberals were more intensely fractured. SB 50 appealed to values of inclusion and of progressivism, be they socioeconomic or aesthetic. For some, the bill served the cause of equity simply by potentially creating more housing. Other liberals saw it differently. Advocates of social justice feared SB 50 would empower capitalist developers while displacing and disenfranchising vulnerable populations through eviction and demolition. Older liberal activists, especially in suburban areas, put their economic interests first, recoiling from the prospect that increased housing supply might depress their property values. Many of them protested SB 50’s potential to interfere with “neighborhood character.” (Wiener’s antagonist Portantino represents La Cañada Flintridge, a comfortable suburb north of downtown Los Angeles.) Institutionally, the League of California Cities and many city councils statewide condemned SB 50 for trampling on “local control,” asserting that land use decisions have always belonged to municipalities and municipalities alone. Many mayors, however, including those of Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, praised SB 50 for giving cities a new opportunity to ease their housing crisis—and to do so equitably statewide, forcing housing-phobic cities to approve their fair share of housing rather than ignore demand and dodge their obligations in the name of municipal sovereignty. By some accounts, a full 97 percent of California cities failed to meet their state-mandated housing goals in 2018. The California chapter of the American Planning Association controversially opposed SB 50, citing concerns about technical aspects of the bill’s language, even though many of its more progressive members favored it. Chapters of the American Institute of Architects did not take a position on it. Design rarely factored into these discussions explicitly, but its influence cannot be overlooked. Fears about changes to “neighborhood character” often accompany prejudices about “undesirable” racial or socioeconomic groups. They also refer to lousy design. Many homeowners recoiled against SB 50 out of fear that modest cottages might be overshadowed by a new triplex next door or crowded by the addition of an accessory dwelling unit. Urban activists took aim at even bigger targets. Opponents of growth in Los Angeles in particular have long railed against what they consider oversized, ugly, and excessively capitalistic apartment buildings. Such enormities often occupy full city blocks and rise five or six stories, with wood framing above one-story concrete bases. They have been the mainstay of Hollywood’s decade-long growth spurt and have arisen in many other moderately dense neighborhoods around the state. Revulsion is, often, completely justified. Large but underwhelming, and expensive but unrefined, such developments have poor detailing, clunky dimensions, and, often, antagonistic relationships with the street. They have neither humor nor grace nor character, and they succeed at one thing and one thing only: housing many people. Typically, those people are well off—or at least are pretending to be. While California’s housing crisis has many causes, it’s not unreasonable to say that lousy design is one of them, and it’s not unreasonable for opponents of SB 50 to make apocalyptic predictions about aesthetics. This is the backdrop against which architects should contemplate the revival of SB 50. Wiener has pledged to bring it back next year, and the appetite for major housing legislation remains fierce—before long, some version of SB 50 will pass, and the opportunities for architects and architecture will be profound. The quality of design that follows the passage of the next version of SB 50 will, without exaggeration, determine the look, feel, and function of California cities for at least the next generation. Many opponents of SB 50 criticize it as a "giveaway" to capitalist developers. If architects are to support the next version of SB 50, they should want to be seen as stewards, not opportunists. Upzoning around transit stops will create entirely new transit-oriented neighborhoods. Places that currently consist of park-and-ride lots and single-family homes will rise to five and six stories, with less parking than most zoning codes currently mandate. That’s like taking a cookie cutter to San Francisco’s Mission District or Los Angeles’s Koreatown and depositing the result in bedroom communities and office parks. Of course, California has hundreds of major transit stops and jobs centers (over 200 light- and heavy-rail stations alone), and the whole point of SB 50 is to distribute development statewide so that neighborhoods grow gradually. Even so, some places will be transformed sooner rather than later. In a state where many residents are mortally afraid of density, the choices that architects make will determine whether the new urban California is a dream or a nightmare—they can stumble into the latest versions of capitalist postmodern, or they can reflect on everything we have learned about the benefits of density. Designs have to be thoughtful, attractive, and socially conscious. They have to celebrate density, enhance the public realm, and give California cities a sense of style and character that they have lacked for decades. (Likewise, cities’ design guidelines and review boards will have to get savvier.) If SB 50’s single-family home provision survives (which seems unlikely), it will create a bonanza for residential architects. They will get to re-learn the art of the duplex, triplex, and quadplex—typologies that used to be common in California but have been all but extinct since the Truman administration. But new homes must not realize neighbors’ worst nightmares. They must not loom over their predecessors. They must not be large for largeness’s sake. In short, they must treat neighbors as clients. Whatever lawmakers intend for SB 50, the public will render its final judgment according to how architects seize the moment. Whether they like it or not, architects bear the final responsibility to fulfill the public trust. Of course, the real beauty of SB 50—if it comes to pass and if it works as intended—will be invisible. That will be the opportunity to craft affordable and humane housing for hundreds of thousands Californians.
Placeholder Alt Text

Fractured Future

Cracks found on L.A. Times building ahead of controversial development
In January, several cracks appeared on the exterior of the historic Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. While some have suggested the fissures may be due to ongoing transit construction next door, preservationists also say they could signal a larger problem—one that could threaten a controversial, mixed-use development on the site. The Times Mirror Square project comprises the restoration of the L.A. Times’s flagship building, a 1935 structure by Gordon Kaufmann, as well as a 1948 addition by Rowland Crawford—both recently landmarked buildingsas well as the build-out of two apartments towers in place of what’s now a William L. Pereiradesigned office structure from 1973. Vancouver-based developer Onni Group bought the five-building complex in 2016 and has since been through a fraught preservation battle to move the project forward. But now, the sight of cracks have people wondering what it will mean for the mega-project’s future. “Who is responsible for this?” said preservationist Richard Schave, co-founder of historic L.A. tour company Esotouric, in reference to the cracks. “It’s the $64 million question. That number refers to the cost of phase one construction on the Regional Connector project, L.A.’s massive rail line expansion. A new station is under construction next door to Times Mirror Square and the agency building it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), may be responsible. Metro is already monitoring the cracks of the L.A. Times buildings using geotechnical sensors. Details on the severity haven’t been released yet, but some think Metro may be forced to provide data for the final environmental impact report (EIR) of the Time Mirror Square project, which is due out in a few months. Don Spivack, a former administrator at the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, said if the cracks on the structure are one to two millimeters, there’s nothing to worry about. “They may be cosmetic, not structural cracks,” he said. “But this complex has a tangled history due to its layered construction. Each building was individually engineered and connected to the others in ways that permitted passage between them. If some of those connections were not properly engineered at the time or modified later, the question stands whether or not this poses a risk to their preservation.” This isn’t the only issue. There’s a history of subsidence on buildings in the area when subways are built, and seismic activity has also likely caused them to move over the years, according to Spivak. The L.A. Times reported that, so far, cracks have been noticed in the cafeteria, newsroom, and the Pereira-designed garage of the complex. Visible cracks on the facade can be seen on the first floor of the Crawford Building (a.k.a Mirror Tower), and on its northwest facade at the corner of 2nd and Spring Streets, across from Regional Connector construction. While the idea that the building is sinking has sparked fear, Spivack and John Lorick, a former vice president at the L.A. Times, said it would be nearly impossible for that to be true. They also remarked on the overall neglect that Times Mirror Square had suffered under its last owner, Tribune Media. But, they said, any demolition and construction on or near the site could inevitably alter the historic structures—and Onni Group doesn't have a great track record with that.  “I was not completely surprised when I first read about the damage to the [Kaufmann and Crawford] buildings," said Lorick. "Although the reported damage was attributed to subway construction, I had always eventually expected to read about some accidental but irreparable damage to the Crawford and Kaufmann buildings during demolition or construction on the site because of the complex interconnection of the buildings and their foundations.” When asked for comment, the developer didn’t respond by the time of publication. The L.A. Department of Building & Safety told AN that once the project goes through the entitlement process at City Planning, inspectors will investigate any structural issues brought to light.
Placeholder Alt Text

Selling Sunset

Tower project pits Gehry against the father of the L.A. Conservancy

It’s not often that Los Angeles moves to demolish one of its 1,158 Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM), a list of relics that includes Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, and three of the city’s majestic Moreton Bay Fig trees. But if developers Townscape Partners had their way, their Gehry Partners–designed 8150 Sunset project could do just that.

The controversial three-tower 8150 Sunset development aims to bring 229 apartments—including 38 low-income homes—and 60,000 square feet of commercial programming to the site of the Lytton Savings bank, a commercial structure with a folded concrete roof designed by local architect Kurt Meyer in 1960, an advocate for architectural preservation in L.A.

Designated HCM no. 1137 on the HCM list, Lytton Savings was recognized in 2016 after Gehry’s project was initially proposed. If demolished, it could be the first time a city monument is intentionally destroyed in 27 years, following the demolition of the A. H. Judson Estate—HCM no. 437—in 1992. The site of the Judson Estate, a mansion designed by George H. Wyman, the architect of L.A.’s Bradbury Building, remains empty to this day. In 1985, the deliciously gaudy Philharmonic Auditorium—HCM #61—in Downtown Los Angeles was also reduced to rubble and remained vacant until 2017.

This troubling legacy haunts Steven Luftman and Keith Nakata, two preservationists fighting to save Lytton Savings. They have been trying to work out a way to relocate the structure, though a new site and funds to relocate the 180-foot-long building have yet to materialize.

“It's a long shot, but it's important to make a try,” Luftman explained while highlighting the lengthy and complicated effort, adding, “The biggest obstacle to moving it is the building’s sheer size.” A recent 180-day grace period to create a plan to move the building expired on April 30, clearing the way for the developers to seek a demolition permit.

Like many buildings in Los Angeles, Lytton Savings has a hotly contested history that goes back to its prior incarnations. The structure was built atop the site of the former Gardens of Allah, a collection of bucolic hotel villas frequented by famous personalities, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Greta Garbo, and Ronald Reagan.

Frank Gehry, however, has no nostalgia for Meyer’s bank. “I came to L.A. when the Gardens of Allah were still there and was witness to [Bart Lytton] tearing them down,” Gehry said. “The way it was done was ruthless.”

Gehry explained that he was bothered by “the history of [how Lytton Savings] got there” and that he “didn't feel compelled to fight to keep it,” adding, “I offered to live with it, but the client did not want to.”

“Four of my buildings have been torn down without anyone asking,” Gehry added. “It’s kind of a better way to have it happen.”

Placeholder Alt Text

For Better or Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler helps turn 1920s building into Santa Monica Proper Hotel
Prolific Los Angeles-based interior designer Kelly Wearstler adapts a 1928 Arthur E. Harvey–designed building into a new 271 room luxury hotel. Located in Santa Monica’s downtown core, the new locale features Spanish and Moorish details that accentuate the historic building’s original Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. Check out the rest of the project on our new interiors site, aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

I Wanna Be Down

ArtCenter to take over old Main Museum space in Downtown Los Angeles
ArtCenter College of Design is making a play for the old Main Museum space in Downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Pasadena, California-based college has signed on to take over the 6,250-square-foot facility that had been occupied by The Main Museum until late last year when the institution abruptly and mysteriously shuttered.
ArtCenter president Lorne Buchman told The Times that the new space will give the school a foothold in L.A.’s bustling downtown, which has seen a flurry of arts-related activity over the past 20 years as major cultural venues and institutions have sprung up and expanded to the area. The move, according to Buchman, will also change ArtCenter’s reputation for being located in “the hinterlands” of Pasadena, a wealthy suburban enclave located 10 miles east of Downtown L.A.
Buchman said, “I’m excited about our students being able to be in that location and engage that community—that will make a huge difference.” The announcement came roughly six months after Main Museum director Allison Agsten penned a brief letter on the museum’s website announcing that ArtCenter and The Main Museum’s founder, real estate developer Tom Gilmore, were discussing “future plans [for] the space.” The announcement scuttled expansion designs for The Main Museum by Tom Wiscombe Architecture that would have added a new roof terrace to the Hellman Building, a historic mercantile office building opened in 1903.
Under the new agreement, ArtCenter will lease the space for $1 per year for the next 10 years and will have the option to renew the lease in the future.
The ArtCenter outpost will join the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Broad Museum and the forthcoming wHY-designed Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles as recent newcomers to the Downtown L.A. art scene. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles recently announced that it would be relocating its architecture galleries from the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood to the Frank Gehry–designed Geffen Contemporary outpost in nearby Little Tokyo, as well.
Placeholder Alt Text

Coming Attractions

Atlanta amps up its entertainment industry with 27-acre Pullman Yard development
There’s a blighted train depot east of downtown Atlanta that’s getting the Hollywood treatment. In an upcoming $100 million mixed-use project, the historic Pullman Yard in the Kirkwood neighborhood will transform from a 27-acre underutilized industrial site into a new “creative city” for the entertainment industry. Spearheaded by the site’s new owner, Atomic Entertainment, the plan involves building a series of lofts, co-working spaces, a boutique hotel, retail, restaurants, and an outdoor concert venue to attract startups and other creatives to the east Atlanta site. A new set of renderings of the Pullman Yard masterplan was recently unveiled, featuring designs by Brooklyn-based studio OCX and Raleigh, North Carolina, firm Hobgood Architects. Atomic, led by two Los Angeles-based film producers, aims to turn the 115-year-old former railyard into Atlanta’s newest moviemaking mecca, a pedestrian-centric campus devoted to the city’s $9 billion film and television industry, and its booming music scene. Adam Rosenfelt of Atomic believes the entire project will become a “paradigm for development” going forward. “We’re coming at this from a slightly different perspective as people that work in a collaborative art form,” he said. “This is our first building project, so we’re trying to figure out how to build a mixed-use lot blending the creative and cultural economies of food, entertainment, living, and working, rather than setting up space for the traditional big-box retail economy, which could have easily overtaken this historic area." The site itself is formally known as Pratt-Pullman Yard and encompasses 12 buildings totaling 153,000 square feet. Constructed in 1904 as a sugar and fertilizer processing plant, it eventually developed into a repair facility for railroad sleeper cars, and during World War II, it housed munitions manufacturing. It has most recently served as the backdrop for scenes in futuristic films such as Hunger Games, Divergent, and the critically-acclaimed action movie Baby Driver. In 2009, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, though it has suffered from serious neglect for decades. In 2016, it was designated a local landmark. The site’s main facilities, two brick-and-steel, barn-like warehouses, will be renovated under Atomic’s vision as the central architectural focus of the preservation project. The renovation is part of the first phase of construction, now underway, and is led by OCX and local firm Lord Aeck Sargent. The rest of the masterplan, designed in collaboration with Hobgood Architects, includes upgrading other existing structures, constructing new buildings, and integrating a site-specific landscape component by James Corner Field Operations. Karen Tamir, principal-in-charge on the project, said Field Operations may use local relics in new ways to preserve the yard’s industrial roots. They’ll also add a new piece of parkland that stretches from the center of the site to the south as a nod to the old railroad delineation. “There’s also a large swath of woodland to the east of Pullman Yard that we’ll connect via existing trails, so overall there’ll be ample greenery and room for exploration and relaxation,” Tamir said. “We won’t, however, propose many trees for the historic core because traditionally, they weren’t there when the yards were built.” Keeping the site’s existing industrial conditions, while simultaneously promoting a verdant outdoor environment means thinking critically about the logistics of jobs that will take place there. To accommodate pedestrians and trucks coming in and out of the facilities, Luke Willis, principal of OCX, intends to connect all programs on-site via a diagonal axis that cuts through the various building blocks. “This allows us to diversify the building typologies and program use to ultimately contribute to the mixed-use development that Atomic envisions for their creative city.” At the heart of the campus will be the renovated warehouses and a series of soundstages, one of which will be born from an existing 20,000-square-foot steel-clad structure situated near Roger Street, which is the entrance to Pullman Yard, and the rail line leading to downtown Atlanta. Rethinking these historic structures, among other playful design ploys to attract residents and visitors, will make Pullman Yard both a live-work-play destination and a place that not only showcases its former value with pride but also brings new value to the city today, according to Rosenfelt. An official completion date for Pullman Yard has not yet been revealed, but Atomic hopes to finish the renovation projects by the end of 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

OMA Heads West

Jason Long and Shohei Shigematsu plot inventive works across California

Although the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has been in business for decades and keeps a steadily growing constellation of offices around the globe, the firm has, until recently, had a relatively modest profile on the American West Coast.

But things are changing. As West Coast cities pursue new building efforts—including new neighborhoods, ecologically sensitive public parks, and experiments in multiuse complexes—OMA’s brand of frank intellectualism has slowly found a preliminary foothold in California.

The firm’s expanding Golden State presence includes a recently completed urban master plan for Facebook’s Willowbrook campus in Menlo Park, a residential condominium tower in San Francisco, as well as a trio of inventive projects in Los Angeles. Over the next few years, these projects are poised to join the Seattle Central Library and the Prada Epicenter Los Angeles, both from 2004, OMA’s only completed West Coast projects to date.

The latest westward push represents an ascendant energy emanating from the firm’s New York office, where OMA partners Jason Long and Shohei Shigematsu lead many dynamic projects taking shape across the continent and in Japan. When asked if a new California outpost was in the works for OMA, Shigematsu replied, “It’s always been a dream of ours,” before adding that current conditions were favorable but not exactly right for a potential OMA West branch. “Maybe if we get more projects out here.”

First and Broadway Park (FAB Park)

Also created in collaboration with Studio-MLA, the new First and Broadway Park in Los Angeles is set to contain a playful 100,000-square-foot retail, food, and cultural programming pavilion that anchors the ecologically sensitive park. The pavilion will be capped with an edible rooftop garden and a dining terrace that overlooks L.A.’s City Hall.

Along the ground, the park will be wrapped with ribbons of bench seating, elements fashioned to create interlocking outdoor rooms and plazas surrounded by native oak and sycamore trees. Water-absorbing landscapes around the seating areas are designed to harvest and retain rainwater while solar collection and a “Golden California” landscape lend the project its ecological bona fides.

The Avery (Transbay Block 8)

Related California’s crenelated 575-foot tower, known as The Avery, is part of a larger development created in conjunction with Fougeron Architecture for a blank site in downtown San Francisco’s bustling Transbay District.

For the project, the designers have carved a generous paseo through the buildable envelope for the site, creating a new retail and amenity plaza while also lending a tapered look to the 55-story tower. The gesture animates views for a collection of condominiums, market-rate apartments, and affordable housing units while also bringing sunlight down into the paseo and to the mid-rise block designed by Fougeron. Currently under construction, the tower is expected to open in 2019.

Audrey Irmas Pavilion

The Audrey Irmas Pavilion is the firm’s first cultural and religious project in the region. The trapezoidal building shares a site with the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and is made up of three interlocking volumes that connect to the outdoors via a sunken rooftop garden designed by landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA. An arched portal connects to a shared breezeway between the pavilion and the temple, which is framed by the leaning pavilion. The latter was designed with a pronounced slant both out of deference to historical structure and to illuminate the courtyard.

Referencing unbuilt proposals for Universal City and the L.A. County Museum of Art, Rem Koolhaas, OMA cofounder, said, “[The Pavilion] is part of a very consistent effort to do things here. It’s exciting if one thing happens to succeed, because architecture is a very complex profession where maybe a quarter of all attempts get anywhere.”

The Plaza at Santa Monica

Shigematsu explains that one concern driving the firm’s California projects involves delving into the region’s rich history of indoor-outdoor living. The approach is fully on display in The Plaza at Santa Monica, a 500,000-square-foot staggered mass of interlocking buildings intended to create a new mix of public outdoor spaces.

With a cultural venue embedded in the heart of the complex and ancillary indoor and outdoor public spaces laid out across building terraces, the complex aims for a unique take on the regional indoor-outdoor typology. The building is set to contain offices, a 225-suite hotel, as well as a market hall and public ice-skating rink.

Placeholder Alt Text

All Work, All Play

Gehry to design new office headquarters for Warner Bros. in Los Angeles
Gehry Partners, Worthe Real Estate Group, and Stockbridge Real Estate Fund have unveiled renderings for a new 800,000-square-foot office complex slated for the Warner Bros. studio campus in Burbank, California. Urbanize.LA reported that the developers behind the so-called "Second Century Project” aim to break ground later this year and that the project will be completed in time for Warner Bros.’ centennial celebrations in 2023. Plans for the complex call for a pair of cool, iceberg-like mid-rise office towers articulated in Frank Gehry’s signature fluted and twisted forms. One tower will rise seven stories and is set to contain 355,000 square feet of offices while the second tower will rise nine stories high and offer 450,000 square feet of office space. In a press release announcing the project, Gehry said, “Once upon a time, Hollywood Studios had an important architectural presence in the city—they were like monuments to the movie-making process. With this project, I was trying to recapture that feeling of old Hollywood splendor.” To achieve his goal, Gehry Partners has created a two-faced complex. For the more public exposure that faces an adjacent freeway, the architects have designed icy glass facades that will catch the sunlight. Renderings for the project show the towers ablaze in Southern California’s red-orange-pink golden hour light, for example. The office’s second main exposure, which the architects have wrapped in perforated metal panels, will face existing warehouse-like studio spaces. Gehry added, “We created large open floorplates with the single goal of creating the highest quality office space. From the freeway, the buildings are composed as one long sculptural glass facade that creates a single identity like icebergs floating along the freeway. On the studio side, the metal punched facade is terraced to relate to the scale and character of the existing studio buildings.” The project is the latest local proposal from the ever-busy Gehry Partners. Other projects on deck include the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles project in South Los Angeles, a planned hotel and mixed-income housing complex in Santa Monica, the controversial 8150 Sunset mixed-use complex, and The Grand, a pair of mixed-use residential towers slated for a site directly across the street from Gehry Partners’ Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles, among others.
Placeholder Alt Text

Time for a Haircut

Proposed Los Angeles tower loses supertall status
A proposed Handel Architects–designed supertall tower complex headed to the coveted Angels Landing site in Downtown Los Angeles has received a significant haircut. As a result of the revisions, the project will lose its supertall status (taller than 300 meters or 984 feet), but will still rise to be one of the five tallest buildings in the city. The proposed changes come as the project moves through the environmental review process and were first reported by Urbanize.LA. The project is being pursued by a consortium of developers called Angels Landing Partners, a group that includes MacFarlane Partners, the Peebles Corporation, and Claridge Properties. The team, which includes landscape architects Olin, was selected in 2018 from among four competing bids as part of a public competition. Originally proposed with a pair of mismatched towers rising 25 and 88 stories, respectively, the latest version of the project calls for a more balanced approach: Two interconnected towers rising 48 and 64 stories, respectively. Included in the project are 180 condominiums, 261 market-rate and affordable apartments, 509 hotel rooms, and approximately 75,000 square feet of commercial and flex spaces. The project is expected to include an elementary school as well as nearly 57,000 square feet of public open spaces. Despite being located above a subway stop, the project is slated to bring 750 parking spaces to the site. A new diagram for the project included in a draft environmental report shows that each tower will contain commercial and public spaces along the lowermost levels, with hotel levels rising above. The hotel programs will be capped by amenity floors with condominiums or apartments located on the uppermost levels of each tower. The proposal is among several tower schemes announced over the last two years that seek to reshape the Los Angeles skyline. Some of the planned projects include a 52-story stacked block tower by Gensler, a potential 1,100-foot-tall tower by Dimarzio | Kato Architecture, and a 70-story Redwood-inspired tower by Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects. The draft report states that the Angels Landing project is slated to finish construction by 2028.
Placeholder Alt Text

I See You, UIC

Finalists revealed for new arts center at University of Illinois at Chicago
Early this year, the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) announced a three-firm shortlist to design a new “Center for the Arts” for the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts (CADA). Chosen from an international pool of 36 teams that responded to a request for qualifications, the shortlist includes OMA (New York) with KOO Architects (Chicago), Johnston Marklee (Los Angeles) with UrbanWorks Architects (Chicago), and Morphosis Architects (Culver City) with STL Architects (Chicago). UIC is both the largest university and the only public research university in the Chicago area with a student body among the five most diverse in the country, 40 percent of whom are first-generation college students. Initiated in 2017, the new Center for the Arts is part of UIC’s 10-year master plan, which calls for major physical development of the campus. The Center for the Arts will be the new public face of UIC’s East Campus. The project aims to provide “radically accessible spaces for all users.” At approximately 88,000 square feet it will be the new home of the School of Theatre and Music (STM) with two primary performance spaces, including a vineyard style concert hall for 500 people and a flexible main stage theater for 270 people. Additional program includes a large lobby, box office, donor lounge, shop, and café. Morphosis and STL Architects have proposed a project shaped by site conditions. Cues from the site inform the form of the building’s facets made of terra-cotta, concrete, and glass, a signal to the existing materiality of UIC’s campus. The building has a clear front and back as service entries sit tightly along the highway at the north edge of the site, leaving the south and corner edges to reveal the belly of the building and main points of public entry. A generous drop-off zone leads into the interior lobby featuring Netsch-like cascading stairs with views toward the nearby West Loop neighborhood and downtown. In the theater, a continuous surface ramp runs the perimeter of the room to provide radical accessibility to students learning stage technology. OMA and KOO Architects have proposed a stackable program with a central concert hall flanked by two towers (one for students, one for the public) with neighboring performance spaces. The towers imitate the many Chicago bridges that link the city while the performance spaces act like bookends to anchor the project. A second-floor plinth accommodates dual entries, each with a continuous surface monumental ramp considered “radically accessible” with physical openness and flexibility. The theater has a rooftop terrace and a large mechanical facade that opens onto the existing Harrison Field, bringing performances outside with the city as a backdrop. The entire design is blanketed by a doubly-curved, semi-translucent roof that resembles the swinging of a conductor’s baton. Johnston Marklee and UrbanWorks have proposed two ziggurat-shaped buildings, which Mark Lee of Johnston Marklee described as both archaic and modern. Framed by a greenbelt that reflects attention back towards the campus, two brightly-colored volumes are housed within a glass and perforated metal veil. The formal strategy is a nod to Chicago architect Walter Netsch’s ideas of “stacking” while the material aims to visually open the campus, ostensibly creating a new approach to density. Connecting the two large volumes is a central core featuring an airy winter garden that expands programmatic possibilities for adjacent rehearsal rooms, café, store, and gallery. The University and CADA officials are currently in the process of securing the expected $94.5 million construction budget through private and public funds. It is unknown when the winner will be announced. The public may view and provide feedback on the proposals.
Placeholder Alt Text

Don’t Park Here

San Diego eliminates parking requirements for transit-adjacent projects
In California, when it rains, it pours. At least, that seems to be the case when it comes to the flood of parking reforms taking place across the state. The most recent example comes from San Diego, where this week, the city council passed a new parking reform package that eliminated parking requirements for sites located within 1/2-mile of a transit stop. The effort also sets new parking maximum—instead of minimum—requirements in certain areas, including in the city’s downtown. There, a maximum of one parking stall will be allowed per residential unit, with the added restriction that parking must be built below ground if it is built at all. The city will now also require multi-family housing developers to provide so-called “transportation amenities” for their residents, including free transit passes, bicycle storage facilities, and on-site daycare facilities to help reduce automobile trips. In new developments that require at least one stall, the new rules will require one Americans with Disabilities Act–compliant parking stall. For buildings with no parking, no ADA-compliant stalls will be required. San Diego’s embrace of parking reform comes as Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer takes up the mantle of the insurgent “Yes In My Back Yard” (YIMBY) movement in a push to spur housing construction while meeting local climate goals. The reforms enacted in San Diego, for example, mirror some of the policies proposed in Senate Bill 827, a statewide pro-density, YIMBY-backed bill that drew controversy across the state. The efforts also mirror reforms taking place at the state level that have picked up steam under California’s new governor Gavin Newsom. San Diego, like many California cities, is mired with high housing costs and surging levels of homelessness. Though politically noxious until very recently, doing away with parking near transit has come to be seen as an entry-level reform for spurring housing construction because aside from fueling automobile-dependant lifestyles, parking is, simply put, expensive to build. A city report estimates that each parking stall adds between $40,000 and $90,000 to the cost of each residential unit. Those front-end costs translate to higher monthly costs for renters and buyers, costly increases for a state where many residents spend the majority of their incomes on housing and transportation. Further, from a design perspective, required parking imposes many limitations. Before the new ordinance, for example, parking requirements were tied to the number of bedrooms in each unit, meaning that larger residential units, the two- and three-bedroom configurations that are best suited for families, could require up to three or four parking stalls per residence. The requirements are particularly onerous for small- and medium-scale developments on tight urban lots, where required driveways, exacting stall dimensions, and other car-related required elements fundamentally shape not just building design but often, the number of housing units that can be built overall. Cities across the state are becoming wise to the high cost of free parking, however. San Francisco and Sacramento are pursuing their own city-led efforts to curtail parking requirements while Los Angeles’s Transit-Oriented Communities program has successfully sought to induce developers to build affordable housing in lieu of car stalls.
Placeholder Alt Text

Ground Has Finally Broken

Gehry celebrates ground breaking for The Grand in L.A. with new renderings
After over a decade in development, Gehry Partners’ twin-towered The Grand development in Downtown Los Angeles has finally broken ground. The sizable mixed-use complex is to be located directly across the street from Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Broad contemporary art museum complex. The project is widely seen as the capstone for the Grand Avenue Redevelopment initiative that has sought to revitalize and complete the city’s main downtown cultural corridor. The project, the result of a public-private partnership created by the Los Angeles Grand Avenue Authority and a joint powers authority made up of the County of Los Angeles, the City of Los Angeles, and the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, is being developed by Related Companies and CORE USA; AECOM is acting as the architect of record for the project. The signature development is made up of two staggered buildings linked by a central courtyard filled with public art. Commercial areas wrap the courtyard while also connecting to the sidewalk. The complex is designed with most of the retail facing Disney Concert Hall, which Gehry hopes can continue to be used for artistic projections, as occurred in 2018 when artist Refik Anadol turned the concert hall into a canvas for digital, machine learning–derived projections. In a video unveiled as part of the groundbreaking, Gehry said, “it’s been exciting to build something so close to something I built before and to be able to have them talk to each other.” The Grand complex is designed with broken facades that change material and cant this way and that as the various building masses rise to the sky. The upper levels of the towers will contain upwards of 400 residential units, 20 percent of which are going to be set aside for low-income residents. According to the architect, the design is meant to relate to the surrounding structures while also dematerializing the buildings to blend in with the surrounding high-rises. Metallic cladding wraps certain portions of the towers in an attempt to match the concert hall’s stainless steel cladding while expanses of glass fill out other volumes. In a press release, Gehry said, “With The Grand, we’re not just building buildings, we’re building places,” adding, “We are trying to make a place for people not only to live, but also to gather after concerts or performances, and my hope is that it will spawn other growth in the neighborhood.”