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Frank's Tots

Frank Gehry donates $1 million to Los Angeles River schools for arts education
Turnaround Arts: California recently announced a $1 million donation from architect Frank Gehry. A leading figure behind the proposed redesign of the Los Angeles River into a mixed-use district with substantial parkland, Gehry will direct his donation towards underserved communities abutting the river just south of Los Angeles. As he said in a statement, "I have been working on the Los Angeles River, and through this work, I have discovered the great need for this program in the districts closest to the river, especially south of the city of Los Angeles." Founded in 2014 by Malissa Shriver and Frank Gehry, Turnaround Arts: California is the state chapter of a larger initiative championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Coordinated by The Kennedy Center, Turnaround Arts strives to improve academic performance and improve schools through the arts by providing arts education to nearly one hundred underperforming schools in seventeen states and Washington D.C. With Gehry's donation being matched by an anonymous donor, Turnaround Arts: California’s program will be extended to ten more schools in the next five years, with the first of these three participating as of April 16. In total, 17,000 K-8 students in California will now be served by educational programs led by Turnaround Arts. In a statement, Gehry added, "Over the last forty years, I’ve spent time with kids in the classroom using architecture and art to get them engaged, focus their attention, and even introduce mathematics, civics, and other subjects that they might not have otherwise been receptive to."
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Catch A Flick

The Architecture and Design Film Festival returns to Los Angeles this weekend
The Architecture and Design Film Festival (ADFF) has returned to Los Angeles over this last week and will continue into the weekend. In total, the film showcase will present over 30 architecture-related short-length and feature films that cover topics as diverse as the career of Frank Gehry, the works of Czech glassmakers LASVIT, and speculative student work from Liam Young and the Southern California Institute of Architecture’s M.A. in Fiction and Entertainment program. The traveling film festival will also showcase films on Bjarke Ingles, founder of BIG, and the life and career of Swiss architect Albert Frey. Saturday will see the presentation of the film The Experimental City, a film covering the storied history of the Minnesota Experimental City, a domed futuristic settlement for 250,000 people created to prevent sprawl. A screening of the film will be followed by a panel discussion. Sunday’s offerings meanwhile, will include a double-feature that includes films on Greg Murcutt and Jean Nouvel. Other presented films over the course of the festival include a feature-length movie on the life of Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, a documentary and panel discussion on Britain’s Maggie’s Homes program, and a documentary on the work of pioneering Mexican-American architectural photographer Pedro E. Guerrero. See the ADFF website for more information.
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Gehry Cluster

With new concert hall, Gehry’s Downtown Los Angeles cultural district takes shape
Frank Gehry has been selected to design a new expansion to the Colburn School performing arts center in Downtown Los Angeles, marking the architect’s third high-profile project in the area following the Disney Concert Hall and the long-forthcoming Grand Avenue mixed-use project. For this latest project, Gehry Partners will add a 200,000-square-foot structure containing three new performance venues, including an 1,100-seat, full-scale, orchestra-caliber concert hall, a 700-seat flexible studio theater for dance and vocal performances, and a 100-seat “cabaret-style” space, according to a press release. Gehry will be joined on the project by Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics—the same acoustician who worked on the Disney Concert Hall—and Michael Ferguson, principal of TheatreDNA, whose former office—Theater Projects—consulted on Gehry’s New World Center in Miami, Florida. The project comes as the second expansion to the Colburn School, following the addition of a 326,000-square-foot facility designed by Pfeiffer Partners Architects in 2007. The school’s original 102,000-square-foot home was designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in 1998. The Colburn expansion will further boost Grand Avenue’s status as a premiere cultural district in the city, with the project joining the Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Broad among other cultural venues and institutions In the area. Now that the project team has been announced, the designers will move into the conceptual design phase of the project. A detailed timeline or estimated completion date for the project has not been unveiled.
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Window Room

Vitrocsa debuts a sleek and motorized showroom in Los Angeles
Slim profile window and door manufacturer Vitrocsa recently opened the doors to a new showroom and gallery space located within its Los Angeles–area factory and headquarters in Culver City, California. The new showroom features sliding doors, retractable windows, and pivot apertures that utilize the company’s Invisible Wall technology, deploying the Vitrocsa MODULAR and MODULAR+ model window and door system profiles for architects to view and test out in person. The product lines are built from aluminum alloy components in the factory located behind the showroom and offer a higher degree of energy efficiency than previous versions. The system’s horizontally-sliding components come with a 1 ¼-inch or1 ¾-inch thick insulated glass panel design, depending on size and required wind load. The showroom deploys several window options throughout, including a 12-foot-tall flush-mounted, floor-to-ceiling sliding door system with an "invisible sill" that conceals the door's track below the floor. The showroom also contains a mechanically-controlled vertical pocket sliding system, a new model that can be sized up to 200-square-foot panels. The profile systems are the latest available for the 25-year-old company, which was founded in Switzerland in 1992 and has pioneered thin-profile glass assemblies by merging “precision Swiss watch technology” with structural glazing. Vitrocsa windows are used by architects Tadao Ando, Sir Norman Foster, Richard Meier, Herzog & de Meuron, Thom Mayne, and Eduardo Souto de Moura, according to a press release. Vitrocsa custom builds each door and window it sells, so the showroom serves to not only display its latest wares, but also to highlight the firm’s precision-driven manufacturing process. James Tschortner, CEO of Vitrocsa USA, said via press release, “All moving components of this luxury product are manufactured by a Swiss watch component manufacturer with the precision of 1/100 of a millimeter.”  The showroom is open to architects and potential clients by appointment. Visit the Vitrocsa website or contact Vitrocsa's Technical Sales Team for more information.
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Empire of Art

LACMA is considering two new outposts in South Los Angeles
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is moving to expand the number of facilities it operates with not one, but two new potential sites in South Los Angeles. The New York Times reports, that the institution is looking to potentially expand to a 80,000-square-foot industrial building in South Los Angeles Wetlands Park and to a vacant site located in the 104-acre Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park in an effort to boost community outreach and make better use of resources as the organization plans a controversial $600 million expansion of its main campus. LACMA is currently working to acquire rights to use both sites, with the Wetlands Park location being further along in the approval process. Plans for that site will come up for consideration later this week by the Los Angeles City Council, which expected to approve a 35-year lease on the site so that LACMA can initiate its adaptive reuse project. The industrial structure LACMA intends to occupy dates to 1911 and was formerly used to store trains and buses that served the local transportation system. The single-story beaux-arts structure has sat empty for decades, however, even as the former rail yards surrounding it were converted into wetlands by planning and design firm Psomas. Plans released during the initial completion of the park’s water retention and landscaped areas in 2014 called for repurposing the structure into a rail museum, a plan that has since given way to LACMA’s potential reuse. The renovations are expected to cost between $25 million and $30 million, Govan told The New York Times. Referencing the museum’s plans for replacing its existing facilities in Mid-Wilshire, LACMA director Michael Govan told The New York Times, “You start thinking, where can the value of your collection and program be the greatest, when you’re behind a big fancy fence on Wilshire Boulevard or out in the community?” The museum—which receives roughly 25 percent of its funding from Los Angeles County—is also looking at a site six miles to the south of the park for a potential third location. Those facilities would occupy the site of the former Ujima Village housing project, which was demolished in 2009 due to contamination issues at the site. The park sits near the Blue Line light rail line and within walking distance of the Watts Towers arts complex. The potential ground-up development would present an opportunity for the museum to build a new structure in the park that could potentially accommodate LACMA’s off-site art storage facilities. The park is currently in the midst of a $50-million, decade-long renovation and remediation effort and local officials are reportedly receptive to LACMA’s plans. Regarding the two-site plan, Govan told The New York Times, “I can tell you now, it’s not an either-or. If we get both spaces, I think that it will be even easier to make each work. Each property offers very different advantages in completely different neighborhoods.” A timeline for the second site has not been announced. The location expansions would add another layer to the changing dynamic in the South Los Angeles region, which has slowly begun to gentrify in anticipation of the new Crenshaw Line light rail route and as high housing costs elsewhere push formerly-reluctant homebuyers into the area. As far as institutional players go, LACMA will be joined in the area by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which is in the process of creating a satellite facility in nearby Inglewood designed by Frank Gehry. Gehry’s plans for the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) will repurpose an existing 17,000-square-foot facility into a new community center that will provide performance and rehearsal spaces for up to 500 young musicians. Designs for the complex have not been unveiled, but the new YOLA facilities are expected to open in 2022.
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Optimist Prime

Los Angeles hillside home orients itself towards the outdoors
Hollywood legend has it that Charlie Chaplin perfected his characteristic splayed-foot waddle by pacing up and down Los Angeles’s hilly Baxter Street. The hill rises at a harsh 32 percent grade on both sides of its slopes, making it one of the steepest urban inclines in the nation. Perched partway up is a stark rhomboid-shaped white and gray home with a particular gait of its own. The 2,400-square-foot residence was recently completed by Optimist Design, a studio run by German-born production designer Tino Schaedler. The home—conceived by Schaedler and artist Pia Habekost for their growing family—came into being after the couple had spent years living in a landlocked loft in L.A’s Arts District; their only outdoor access was a shared rooftop. “We wanted to live in a different way,” Schaedler said. “I wanted to create an area where I could lie down and read with a view to outside.” In some ways, the big-windowed abode is a prototypical Los Angeles hillside home. Its stick-frame construction and three-level organization stand out as hallmarks of the vernacular style; a two-car garage and a spare room that Habekost utilizes as a studio occupy the first floor. The building’s main floor above, however, contains more remarkable spaces, including the home’s indoor-outdoor terrace and living room. “The view is really beautiful—it was clear to me that I wanted to orient everything toward that beautiful sunset,” Schaedler explained as he described the terrace, which occupies approximately half of the second level’s floor plate. The 16-by-51-foot band is capped on one end by a wading pool and palm tree–studded courtyard. Roughly two-thirds of the way down the terrace, a section of the roof wraps over it, creating an outdoor extension of the home’s interior living room, which connects to the patio via a monolithic glass pocket door. Anchored by a built-in pizza oven, the patio is also populated by built-in benches, potted plants, and bent-metal-tube furniture. The indoor-outdoor space is clad along its eastern exposure by perforated metal panels designed to provide privacy while still allowing the residents to see out over the hillside. An overhead threshold protrudes from the main building to meet the perforated metal wall, creating a view frame. Back inside the house, the dramatic living room—also oriented outward over the hill—is sandwiched between the terrace and a minimalist kitchen that features graphite-stained paneling that can slide closed, stowing away kitchen clutter. A stainless-steel bar counter separates the cooking area from the living room, where a pair of cats take up residence on a rumpled leather sofa. The home’s floors are made up of custom tongue-and-groove flooring, crafted by a local mill, while one of the living room walls is stacked entirely with books, its weighty shelves lined with integrated LED lights that, at night, “adjust to whatever vibe we want to set,” as Schaedler tells it.
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Big Town

City Market of Los Angeles project approved by L.A. Planning Department
A plan crafted by developers City Market of Los Angeles and architects Hanson LA to drastically reshape a large section of the Los Angeles Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles was unanimously approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (LACPC) yesterday afternoon. In all, the roughly ten-acre development includes 16 development sites that will ultimately render up to 945 residential units, a 201-key hotel, 312,000 square feet of educational and creative offices, 225,000 square feet of retail spaces, and 272,000 square feet commercial office areas if built according to current plans. Hanson LA is serving as the master plan architect for the project, and the firm has developed the site plan for the project as well as written design guidelines for the development that will guide “what we do for the next 100 years” on the site, Doug Hanson told The Architect's Newspaper (AN). Hanson, a principal at Hanson LA, said the plan includes establishing a site-spanning amenity level roughly 20 feet off the street that will connect various blocks by spanning over the sidewalk. The elevated park is set at the height of neighboring industrial structures in order to maintain a contextual relationship with the neighborhood. The terrace, according to Hanson, will “speak to the history of the site” as an industrial district populated by warehouse structures. The designers hope that the elevated park spaces can provide much-needed public seating and gathering spaces for the neighborhood. The two-block-wide development will be bisected along the ground floor by a series of retail-lined pedestrian streets, with the terrace level above spanning between new structures to create an outdoor mezzanine promenade. The designers released a set of new and updated renderings for the project in anticipation of the LACPC meeting that highlight the multifaceted urban dynamic the firm has sought to articulate across the site. Site design for the project has been guided by a desire to have “quality architecture” populate public and semi-public open spaces while maintaining view corridors toward iconic downtown vistas. “These aren’t massive, big buildings,” Hanson explained as he described the articulated and setback low- and high-rise placeholder forms that show up in the renderings. Structures will ultimately be designed by a variety of architectural teams according to Hanson’s guidelines and will rise from a single story up to 454 feet in height. The plans envision a sizable portion of the site dedicated to housing a satellite campus for a local university as well as a 744-seat multiplex theater, Urbanize.la reported. The developers are also seeking to transform the complex into a so-called “sign district,” a local designation that allows for the installation of large-scale, electrified advertisement and mural billboards like those coming to nearby areas. The Skid Row–adjacent development does not feature an affordable housing component but will pay over $11 million toward a funded dedicated to preserving and creating new affordable housing in the neighborhood. The project will next be reviewed by the Los Angeles City Council for final approval. A timeline for the project’s implementation has not been released, but the developers envision a roughly 20-year construction timeline for the development, depending on market conditions.
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Elevate

Uber and NASA to bring flying taxis to Los Angeles
Ready to zoom into the future? Uber is partnering with NASA to bring an air taxi service to Los Angeles as soon as 2020. The battery-powered, four-person electric helicopter would sail above L.A.'s clogged, serpentine road network, logging 60 miles with just one four-minute charge. The project, dubbed Elevate, relies on UTM, NASA's emerging air traffic control technology. UTM stands for unmanned traffic management, a way to control low-altitude flights, without orange flag–waving workers. While this idea may seem far-fetched to outsiders, the project partners are optimistic that the flying cars could be a viable transit option by 2028, just in time for the L.A.'s Olympics hosting duties. Previously, the company announced it will bring its flying car service to Dallas and Dubai. According to Forbes, Embraer, Bell Helicopter, and Aurora, a Boeing-owned company, have already signed onto Elevate. Here's a video from Uber that explains the project, the research behind it, and next steps:
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Modernism Remix

SOM and James Corner to rework Pereira’s Metropolitan Water District in Los Angeles
In a surprise move, SOM and James Corner Field Operations (JCFO) are coming together to transform the long-dormant William Pereira–designed Metropolitan Water District headquarters in Los Angeles’s Chinatown neighborhood. Los Angeles–based developer Palisades announced the design team on Tuesday via press release, explaining that the firms would work together to convert the historic late modernist structure into a “a mixed-use project focused on innovative design, open space and community.” The release explained that SOM design directors Paul Danna and José Luis Palacios would spearhead designs for the adaptive reuse portion of the project. JCFO will be responsible for the landscape design, including the site’s public open spaces. In the press release, Palacios said, “At the heart of this project is a desire to reflect the spirit and the history of this property through a modern, forward-thinking lens that embraces the Downtown site’s adjacency to Chinatown, Bunker Hill, Echo Park, and the Civic Center.” Palacios added, “It’s a challenge we are confident and energized to embrace.” The firm has its work cut out with the tower-and-matt project, as the expressive cast concrete structure—originally built between 1961 and 1973—has sat vacant for years. A tower portion of the sprawling complex was redeveloped starting in 2014 as a mixed-use development called The Elysian by Linear City Development and David Lawrence Gray Architects. The development includes 120,000 square feet of retail and 96 live/work units. The matt remaining portions of the complex have languished in tandem and were almost demolished entirely last year under previous development efforts. A brief but unsuccessful effort was made to landmark the structure, but the building’s nomination was left unapproved by city agencies. Potential reuse of the structure, however, represents a bright spot in Pereira’s fading legacy, as many of the notable architect’s other works have—or soon will—fall to the wrecking ball. Historian and Pereira scholar Alan Hess told The Architect's Newspaper, "MWD was a key turning point in Pereira’s long and influential career as he sought to maintain the vitality of Modern architecture while adapting to the realities of the 1960s. No place was better suited to understand these realities than Los Angeles. As one of the city’s innovative architects, Pereira designed the striking MWD to be true to Modernism's principles while creating a livelier, more human environment." Hess added, "Nothing would be more appropriate than for Palisades [than] to continue Pereira's spirit of innovation by showing how adaptive reuse addresses the prime need of our times: sustainability." Kim Cooper, preservation advocate with Esotouric told AN, "We're encouraged to see such a good team assigned to this important structure, and that the site's long and influential past is on their mind. Preservation and restoration of the Pereira structure's great bones can definitely be a part of any redevelopment project, and we look forward to being part of that conversation." Designs for the project are currently under development and a timeline for project completion has not been released. See the project website for more information. SOM’s Danna and Palacios will both be presenting at the upcoming Facades+ conference in Los Angeles taking place October 19th and 20th. See the Facades+ website for more information.
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Towering Performance

Los Angeles approves first high-rise development in Westlake neighborhood
The Los Angeles City Planning Commission has approved the Lake on Wilshire project, a 41-story mixed-use housing tower complex proposed by Archeon Group and developer Walter Jayasinghe for L.A.’s Westlake neighborhood. The proposal currently plans to bring 478 market-rate apartments—including 39 affordable units—to the area. The project site at 1930 Wilshire is currently occupied by a surface parking lot and is being developed to include an 850-seat performing arts center dedicated to Sri Lankan culture. The 70,000-square-foot performing arts center will sit at the corner of the site and is depicted in renderings for the project as a five-story structure wrapped in angular, multi-colored mosaic panels. The cultural center is planned to include ground floor public open spaces and feature a large statue located at the corner as well. An existing and historic medical office building located next door to the proposed tower and cultural center will be converted into a 220-key hotel room as part of the project. The project is located around the corner from the Westlake/MacArthur Park Purple Line Station and represents one of the first major market-rate developments for the predominantly working class and immigrant neighborhood. Westlake is sandwiched between Koreatown—which has seen many proposals for new, dense housing towers in recent years—and Downtown Los Angeles, another growing area. There are many concerns about the project, especially with regard to its less-than-stellar community benefits package and the high potential for neighborhood displacement the project could bring. Plans to provide $20,000 for the installation of Los Angeles Police Department surveillance cameras within a two-block radius of the project have also raised concerns in the neighborhood. Recent development in the area includes a 52-unit supportive housing complex for formerly-homeless veterans by L.A.-based Brooks + Scarpa and the Skid Row Housing Trust as well as a proposal by KTGY Architecture + Planning for an 85-unit transitional housing project built using repurposed shipping containers. A timeline for the Lake on Wilshire project has not been released. The project next heads to the Los Angeles City Council for final approval. For more information, see the Lake on Wilshire project website.
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Fast-Track

Los Angeles seeks public-private partnerships to build mass transit faster
Officials with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) have begun to explore the potential opportunities public-private partnerships (P3) might afford the entity as it seeks to fast-track the construction of several key transit expansions across the Los Angeles region. Specifically, The Source reported that Metro is currently working to develop a timeframe for expediting the delivery of three projects: The construction of a new north-south transit tunnel running through the Santa Monica Mountains underneath the Sepulveda Pass; the addition of the new southeasterly West Santa Ana transit line to the city of Artesia; and the county-wide expansion of the existing Express Lanes toll lane system. The projects represent lynchpin expansions for the 26-year-old transit system that will result from the passage of 2016’s Measure M, a regional half-cent tax increase that is expected to raise $860 million in new transit-oriented revenue each year in perpetuity. Measure M is expected to rework the region’s approach to mobility by expanding Metro’s rail network by more than a factor of two, while also funding street, bicycle, and highway improvements, as well. Metro received several unsolicited proposals for the projects in question earlier this year. The proposals, aimed at improving delivery times and reducing construction costs for the projects, are the result a new effort on the part of the transit agency to draw industry knowledge and experience to its project planning operations under the tenure of Chief Innovation Officer Joshua Schank. In a statement, Schank said, “We are seeing innovation at its best and we look forward to delivering projects and programs—supported by P3s—to improve the quality of life in our region sooner rather than later.” Metro has utilized the unsolicited proposals to begin crafting RFPs for each of the projects. The logic behind the move is that P3s can speed construction and improve coordination between the agency, designers, and contractors, allowing for faster delivery of the projects in question and also—due to cost savings—potentially lead to expedited delivery for other projects, as well. Parsons Transportation Group and Cintra US Services submitted unsolicited bids for the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project, the transit portion of which will now be developed via the RFP process as a P3 project. Once completed, the 20-mile-long, $9.4 billion corridor is expected to serve over 100,000 daily transit riders. Parsons completed work on the final leg of Metro's Expo Line extension late last year. Metro received two proposals for the West Santa Ana Branch Transit Corridor from Skanska and Kiewit, which will also result in an RFP for a P3 project that will utilize elements from each firm’s unsolicited bid. The 20-mile long route would be built in two phases for between $3 billion and $4.5 billion and carry 75,000 riders daily. Lastly, Goldman Sachs submitted a proposal for the regional expansion Metro’s ExpressLanes network. Metro will pursue a procurement bond in order to underwrite the implementation of the new regional toll road network. Details, as well a timeline for the RFP process, are set to be released in the coming months.
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Room with a view

Los Angeles approves massive two-tower City Center development
Steinberg Architects, Gensler, and developer Shenzhen Hazens Real Estate Group have released a new batch of renderings depicting a slew of design changes for their $700 million L.A. City Center project, a two-tower luxury development planned for Downtown Los Angeles that was recently approved by L.A.’s City Planning Commission. The new renderings depict the latest iteration of a continually-changing project that has morphed from a three-tower complex into one containing only two spires. Previous schemes showed a collection of 32-, 34-, and 38-story towers clustered over an eight-story parking podium. The new images depict a pair of towers, one 29 stories tall, the other rising 49 floors. The 29-story tower, which sits on the southern corner of the site, will contain a 300-key hotel operated by W Hotels and will be designed by Gensler. The 49-story edifice, designed by Steinberg, will contain 435 condominium units. The scheme has also jettisoned the parking podium connecting the towers. Parking will now be located underground and a shorter podium structure filled with hotel public amenities, commercial spaces, and a hotel spa will ground the towers instead. Like several other developments in the quickly-changing area, the L.A. City Center’s base will be wrapped with massive LED displays. Both towers have grown significantly more conservative in their massing and articulation throughout the design review process. Gone are the towers’ soaring pitched roofs, angled articulated massing, and vertically-oriented patterning. Instead, the towers now feature minimally-broken curtain wall facades, vertically-oriented setbacks, and expressed floorplates. AHBE Landscape Architects is designing the project’s open spaces along the parking podium and at street level, as well as each of the tower’s rooftop amenity deck areas. The complex will contain 5,000 square feet of retail functions along the ground level organized along a public shopping plaza fronting Figueroa Street. When compared with previous iterations of the project, the plaza space appears to have been enlarged and deepened, with less LED screen coverage than previously designed. The plaza’s central area will be dotted with trees that extend along the sidewalk in paired sets. According to Urbanize.LA, the first phase of the multi-phase project will construct the hotel tower, with the residential component following after an existing hotel structure on the site is cleared. The complex will add to the ever-growing set of construction cranes in the area. Construction crews are currently wrapping up work on the Harley Ellis Devereaux-designed Circa Towers located nearby and partway through construction on the Oceanwide Center complex by Gensler. A final timeline for the L.A. City Center project has not been announced.