For four decades the Triforium, a six-story, 60-ton public artwork by Joseph Young, has stood in Fletcher-Bowron Square in the shadow of Los Angeles City Hall. The piece is a hallmark of technology, a “polyphonoptic” kinetic sculpture that when designed included 1,494 multicolored Murano glass cubes that were intended to glow in synchrony to music from a 79-note glass bell carillon. https://youtu.be/Itnre5GshZc But like so many future-minded ambitions, the realization fell short of the dream: the computer installed in 1975 to control the bells and lighting effects was glitchy from the start, the bulbs are now burnt out, and the whole structure is in disrepair. The artwork, which cost close to $1,000,000 at the time, was supposed to draw visitors to the Stanton & Stockwell–designed Los Angeles Mall. It was the city’s attempt to compete with private developers and also make the civic center appealing after hours. They hoped an interactive artwork that played both classical and rock music while lights flashed would be a beacon to bring people Downtown Los Angeles. It didn’t work. Critics were colorful in their barbs launched at chromatic design, calling it “Trifoolery” and “the Psychedelic Nickelodeon,” according to Young’s 2007 obituary in the Los Angeles Times. That remembrance included a quote from 1996 interview with the artist. “I get very upset when I see it,” he told the paper. “It's like a baby who was never born.” Enter the Triforium Project, an eight-person group ready to bring the public artwork back to its original glory. Founded by Tom Carroll of “Tom Explores Los Angeles,” and Claire Evans and Jona Bechtolt, members of the band YACHT, the group hopes to raise the fund to restore the artwork and upgrade the technology. They are starting with a 40th birthday party for the Triforium on Friday, December 11 from 4:00–8:00p.m. at the Los Angeles Mall. Historian Daniel Paul will be on hand at the party to speak about the sculpture’s importance and legacy. Young’s sculpture was meant to be democratic and convey the three branches of government. “He was interested in chromatism, where people would hear music and see color—he wanted to convey the language of music through visual means,” noted Paul. “People from city hall could look out from the buildings and see what song is playing.” Unfortunately, in the day it was difficult to see the lights and judges started to complain about the music. “It was sculpture that was ridiculously ahead of its time, and its time seems to be now,” said Paul.
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The veil functions both as the primary facade and the daylighting system, providing a sense of connection between the gallery spaces and the city.The Broad Museum will open its doors to the public on Sunday, 5 years after after Diller Scofidio + Renfro won a small invite-only design competition to design a space for Eli Broad’s immense contemporary art collection. All of the public spaces in the museum are created between the building's two enclosure systems, coined the “vault and veil” by DS+R. The veil, a daylight-absorbing concrete exoskeleton balances performance with fashion, while an interior vault protects a nearly 2,000 piece art collection. Visitors move over, under and through the vault, which consumes almost half of the 120,000 sq. ft., 3-story building. The exterior facade assembly consists of a steel frame clad with 2,500 glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels which were precast on custom CNC formed molds. Evidence of the GFRC's digital fabrication process can be prominently seen on the main elevation where a large dimple provides a smooth undulation in the facade. Kevin Rice, Project Director for DS+R, explains this formal move was a deliberate reaction against the repetitiveness of the elevation: “We were studying the capabilities of digital fabrication and wanted to move the design of concrete facades beyond the brutalist facades of the 60s and 70s.” To construct the interior portion of the facade panels, seen below, the project team worked with Kreysler & Associates to develop a lightweight alternative to the exterior cladding. Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) panels were fabricated with a finish to match the adjacent GFRC panels. Galleries on the third floor sit under 328 skylights supported from a 200’ long span structure composed of 6’ deep plate girders. The skylight monitors are designed to encapsulate the structure of the roof, the lighting system (a combination of daylight and LED), the waterproofing and drainage system, and the fire & life safety systems. All of these functions have been coordinated by DS+R to fit seamlessly within the language of the vault. Rice speaks of the benefits to this rigorously designed roof system: “The skylights are designed to maximize the reflected light from the north sky while eliminating all direct sunlight from entering the space. This allows for the tight conservation controls for the art while eliminating the need for electric light for much of the day.” The building’s siting across the street from Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall notably had an influence on the aesthetics of the facade. Elizabeth Diller said she wanted the building to be strikingly different from Gehry's building: "We realized it was just useless to try to compete – there is no comparison to that building," Diller said. "We just had to do something that is mindful and that knows where it is […] Compared to Disney Hall's smooth and shiny exterior, which reflects light, The Broad is porous and absorptive, channeling light into the public spaces and galleries." What results is a wall system which functions both as the primary facade and the daylighting system, providing a sense of connection between the gallery spaces and the city.
Iwan Baan / Courtesy the Broad
It's a good time to be a Chinese developer in Downtown Los Angeles. Beijing-based Oceanwide and Shanghai-based Greenland are already building two of the largest projects in the city: Fig Central and Metropolis. Now according to LA Downtown News, Shenzhen-based Shenzhen-Hazens has announced plans to build a $700 million, Gensler-designed project on Figueroa street across from LA Live. The scheme includes a 30-story hotel and 30- and 42-story condo towers. There would be 650 condos altogether as well as 80,000 square feet of retail, most of it along Figueroa, heating up the already super hot South Park. Apparently the company's connection to the area is based on basketball in addition to business. “Our chairman is a big fan of the NBA—the Lakers, the Clippers," Shenzhen-Hazens General Manager Greg Sun told the Downtown News. "So he comes to Staples [Center] often when he is in town, and he sees big crowds here. When we did our research, we saw an opportunity to do something big in a gateway city.”
Last month LA Mayor Eric Garcetti attended a screening of his favorite movie, Airplane!, at the historic Million Dollar Theater in downtown Los Angeles. The event included a Q&A with Garcetti and the film’s directors, Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker. https://youtu.be/07pPmCfKi3U Garcetti, always a student of urban design, talked about how different the city is becoming from the 1980 film rendition in terms of density, transit, diversity, prestige, and overall “urban-ness.” He also couldn’t stop bashing the film’s home base, LAX, promising that it would finally be renovated beyond its 1980s appearance, and that a train would finally get there by the end of the decade. Of course, nobody could figure out which zone was for loading and unloading.
It seems like just yesterday that Los Angeles opened its first downtown Parklet, a sparkling new design on Spring Street by architects utopiad.org, designers Berry and Linné, and builders Hensel Phelps. But a few weeks ago that design (already getting a little shabby from weather and use) was rammed and badly compromised by an errant motorist, leaving it closed, and leaving downtown without a parklet to speak of more than two years after the city’s parklet program began. According to CBE Los Angeles, the driver had moments, earlier been, kicked out of a club nearby and commandeered a friend's car using its keyless ignition. The suspected drunk driver side-swiped several parked cars before hitting the parklet. Three people sustained injuries from flying debris during the incident and were hospitalized. LA Department of Transportation (LADOT) spokesperson Lisa Martellaro-Palmer told AN that the city is in the process of rebuilding the parklet, and that the fix will happen “in the near future,” although the timeline has not been determined. Its sister parklet, about a block north, remains intact. So far, there are seven more parklets and plazas moving ahead in the city as part of the LADOT's People Street Program. One of them is downtown, on Hope Street.
Some people say Los Angeles is run by the entertainment business, but starting this Thursday the city will belong to artists and architects. Well downtown will at least. As part of the first-ever Skyline Festival (February 13-22), local designers will be mounting ten installations within a 10-block radius in the city center. The event is sponsored by LA-based LERATA, which stands for Laboratory for Experimentation and Research in Art, Technology, and Architecture. As you wander around, you'll be able to see architect Filipa Valente's Liminoid Garden, a "bouquet" of mechanisms equipped with electronic controllers that receive readings of light, temperature and pollution and reinterpret them into movements and light changes located in the penthouse of the Cooper Design building. Another stop, inside the Palace Theater on Broadway, will be Guvenc Ozel's Cerebral Hut, a wood frame truncated icosahedron covered in stretchy fabric and moving subtly with the help of plastic pistons. Inside 724 South Spring Street (AN's new home), Behnaz Farahi will present Living Wall, a 3-D, interactive wall that can change shape in response to visitors. And inside the Alexandria Apartments on Spring Street you can visit Juan Azulay and Benjamin Rice's The Passenger, described by the artists as a "celestially enabled interactive micro-planet that engages passing-by inhabitants through releasing its own moody mediated weather system for an experience of immersion and communication with a new planetary logic." We never said the pieces wouldn't be weird, did we?
Speaking of zombies, two of Downtown LA’s most long-stalled projects appear to be rising from the dead. The mixed-use project revolving around Julia Morgan’s beautiful Herald Examiner Building on Broadway is apparently finally getting underway, now developed by Forest City, and no longer designed by Morphosis. The designer has yet to be revealed. Also Metropolis, a multi-building megaproject designed at one point by Michael Graves back in the 1990s, is apparently being brought back by Gensler. Of course downtown giveth and downtown taketh away. We hear that Johnson Fain, who were previously designing the Bloc development, a makeover of the former Macy’s Plaza, is no longer on the project. Studio One Eleven are now, according to a project spokesperson, “moving forward with implementation.” Johnson Fain had been “engaged to assist with the development of the concept and to oversee the schematic design phase of the Bloc.” Too bad they couldn’t finish the job.
While it's been well-documented that China has been "borrowing from" U.S. designs for some time, it appears that relationship is starting to go both ways. Downtown Los Angeles is ready to get a new residential project that bears a striking resemblance to Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid apartment complex in Beijing. Note the porous, gridded facade and the glassy skybridges, to name just a couple of similarities. The mixed-use Medallion 2.0, designed by Kevin Tsai Architecture, would be located off the corner of Third and Main Streets, reported downtown blogger Brigham Yen. It's scheduled to break ground in 2015 and include 400 rental units, a theater, retail, and over half an acre of green space. We'll keep you posted on more Asian imports as they no doubt continue to arrive.
Next Tuesday, January 8, The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles (not that Broad Museum), Eli Broad's new contemporary art museum with an arresting net-like "veil" facade by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, will top out at the corner of Grand Avenue and Second Street. The project is set to open next year and will contain 120,000-square-feet over three-levels, including 50,000 square feet of gallery space on two floors, a lecture hall for up to 200 people, a public lobby with display space and a museum shop. As usual, the topping-out ceremony will include a theatrical event: in this case, the "flying of the beam," in which a 294-foot crane lifts the final steel beam to the top of the structure. (In the meantime, take a fly-through of the new building in this video rendering.) In addition to Broad and DS+R, others on hand will be LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as well as 100 construction workers for the project. You can watch a live construction cam of the project here. AN also learned that Related California will break ground on its new Arquitectonica-designed apartment tower on January 10, just two days after the Broad event. The 19-story building is the first major piece of the long-delayed Grand Avenue project. No more details on the event, but there are sure to be some fancy shovels and some bigwigs on hand. That's some heavy symbolism for the transformation of downtown's long-troubled Grand Avenue. Yes, it's really happening.
This week, Los Angeles voters approved a local tax on downtown landowners to help pay for a downtown streetcar, which could begin running as early as 2016. The $125 million project would—yes—run on tracks, just like the streetcars that used to dominate the city. Cars haven't been chosen yet, but their primary route would go south on Broadway from 1st Street to 11th Street, west to Figueroa Street, north to 7th Street, east to Hill Street, and north, terminating at 1st Street. LA's transportation agency, Metro, began work on the project in 2011 with the city's former Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA), with the city itself, and with Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc. After the votes were counted, 73 percent of downtown voters approved the measure. Now the project needs to get federal approval before officially moving ahead. See more images of the historic Pacific Electric streetcars, which once dominated the city, below.
Writer Anne Taylor Fleming recently interviewed Frank Gehry for Los Angeles Magazine, getting a glimpse into what the architect thinks about Los Angeles and the meaning of his work there. Gehry tells Fleming about some of the missed planning and architectural opportunities that continue to challenge the city, including the push to make a bona fide downtown, which he believes stems from clinging to old ideas about what a city should be. For Gehry, a Los Angeles version of a “center” is something like Wilshire Boulevard. “I have always thought that L.A. is a motor city that developed linear downtowns,” he noted. It’s for this reason he feels Disney Hall would have been better positioned in Westwood and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels near MacArthur Park. He’s a believer of putting the architecture where the people are. Gehry would have also put MOCA across the street from LACMA. “Los Angeles doesn’t take architecture seriously,” he told the magazine, “though I guess you could say that about most cities.” Despite this, he is positive about his role as an architect and the impact he has had here. “I’m happy. I mean, Disney Hall is once in a lifetime. Are you kidding? I could go to the moon and forget it all.”