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Michael Maltzan has won the commission to design a new residential annex for the U.S. embassy in Paris. His firm Michael Maltzan Architecture beat out Allied Works and Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, who were also shortlisted for the job.
Courtesy Family of Ambassador Charlie Rivkin
Located on the posh Avenue Gabriel, near the intersection of the Champs-Elysées and the Place de la Concorde, the project will serve primarily as a home for embassy staff, containing ten to twelve residential units. It will also contain a mixed-use component.
The building will be located next to the U.S. Embassy and near the U.S. Ambassador’s residence, a Renaissance-style building whose lush gardens are a legendary spot for diplomatic functions. In a nod to that history Maltzan said his building—whose design is not yet underway—will merge in some way with its landscape, which will be designed by famed French landscape architect Michel Desvigne, who has designed grounds for, among other projects, Jean Nouvel’s Walker Art Center expansion in Minneapolis and OMA and Norman Foster’s Dallas Center For The Performing Arts. The building, of course, will be contemporary, not classical, Maltzan added.
Maltzan was selected via the Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings’ (BOB) Design Excellence program, modeled on the General Service Administration’s Design Excellence program. In recent years the BOB has commissioned the U.S. Embassy in Beijing by SOM and the U.S. Embassy in London by Kieran Timberlake.
Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design acquired the iconic Jacobs Engineering Building, located at the end of the 110 Freeway, through the largest gift in the college’s 85-year history. Now, when you stop at the light at Arroyo Seco one of the first things you see is Art Center’s unmistakable orange dot logo. This is just one of the recent moves on the property acquisitions chessboard that has laid the groundwork for the college’s ambitious ten-year master plan designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture.
With the slogan “one college, one community,” the plan seeks to better connect the college’s Hillside and South campuses and proposes a mix of new facilities for the latter to be phased in over the next decade.
On the third floor of the former Jacobs building—still undergoing renovations—resides a sprawling 6- by 20-foot foam core model of the envisioned South Campus at 3/32 scale.
The model shows buildings in Maltzan’s signature white palette—just conceptual placeholders, he explained. Moreover, this isn’t just about buildings. “When buildings drive the mission it can be disastrous,” said Art Center president Dr. Lorne M. Buchman, who spearheaded the initiative. He described a tendency for institutions to be seduced by great buildings that ultimately drive up costs and don’t necessarily fit into the bigger picture of an academic mission.
For Art Center, part of their mission is to model the values they try to impart in students. For this reason, the plan embodies multiple levels of consideration: not just about living and learning, but also about mobility and connectivity—transportation is one of the school’s core programs.
With input from staff, students, and teachers, as well as the local community, Maltzan and his team have put together what he called “a supple armature that can evolve.” The foundational elements of the plan include housing for 1,000 students (50 percent of the student body), studio spaces and workshops with courtyards, recreational facilities, a cafeteria, and community accessible retail, gallery, and event spaces. At the center is a dramatically elevated campus quad that bridges over the Metro Gold Line, sloping and terracing up three stories to foster connections between different buildings and programs. “This is all about making a more complete life for students,” said Lorne.
The “cycleway” for bicycles and carts (similar to golf carts) is planned to run through campus. This, says Maltzan, was inspired by the historic 19th-century elevated cycleway that once connected Pasadena to downtown. Maltzan’s version, envisioned as the central spine of the campus, would also connect to future bike paths in the city. This is part of a comprehensive transportation strategy that includes shuttles to the Hillside Campus and a fleet of ZipCars so students residing on campus are less dependent on their own cars.
Working with Arup, Sherwood Design Engineers, and Tina Chee Landscape Studio as part of a larger environmental agenda, Maltzan’s team proposed to transform Raymond Avenue, which defines the western edge of the South Campus, into a more pedestrian and bike-scaled street, complete with bioswales to form a green linkage Pasadena’s Central Park several blocks north. Other measures include facade improvements and system upgrades to existing buildings, including Craig Ellwood’s bridge building at Hillside, passive cooling for housing, a high performance central plant, and roof-mounted photovoltaics.
“I don’t know of too many schools taking on the goal of not just moving the campus forward but also being a real progressive agent for positive change on a broader level,” said Maltzan. As both urban design and campus design, the masterplan supports the college’s higher ambitions to connect to the city and the region.
The Star Apartments are Michael Maltzan Architecture’s third project for the Skid Row Housing Trust in downtown Los Angeles. In contrast to the firm’s 2009 New Carver Apartments—a sleek white cylinder with sharply faceted bays—Star is a rough-edged, asymmetrical stack of prefabricated units rising from an existing single-story podium of retail spaces. It’s a brilliant model for future development, but it illustrates the challenge of experimenting in L.A.—a city where bureaucrats are wedded to the status quo.
“From the start this was to be a prefab building because the Trust wanted to do a mixed-use project on Skid Row,” Maltzan explained. “Though they had enjoyed greater success than other nonprofits, their SROs had been criticized for failing to participate in the life of the city. A retail facility gave them a presence on the street, but that left us with a very confined site and we needed to build quickly and less invasively.” However, as he quickly discovered, the last use of prefabrication for multi-unit housing—a Dworsky Associates project on Bunker Hill—was completed 50 years ago.
L.A.’s building department considers a prefabricated unit to be a product, just like a light fixture or a doorknob, and thus requires stringent testing and a research report when prefabricated units are employed for anything larger than a single-family house. The architects had to work closely with city authorities to develop this as a pilot project in order to secure a building permit and certificate of occupancy.
Maltzan’s office designed the units, which are a uniform size and were mocked up and fabricated by Guerdon Enterprises in Idaho. The units are self-supporting and shipped as pairs, with a connector that was sawn through to separate them before they were craned into place and bolted together. A concrete deck and columns below support their weight. The wood boxes are fully equipped, and the logical course would have been to express the individual units to create a boldly articulated complex, as Moshe Safdie did with Habitat 67 in Montreal. Maltzan decided to give each unit a unifying stucco finish to disguise their factory-made character. “I was afraid it would appear as though we were warehousing the homeless in containers,” he said. “What would be architecturally juicy for market rate housing would have tricky connotations for an SRO.” From a bird’s eye perspective Star does read as an erector set; close-up it’s more subdued.
The Trust intended to keep the existing retail to generate revenue, but the L.A. County Health Department wanted to locate their first storefront healthcare facility on-site in an effort to get involved with people on the street and address problems before they became acute. The facility occupies half the ground floor with parking to the rear, and it offers physical and psychological healthcare for this and neighboring Trust properties.
Star Apartments is also an experiment in densification, and there, too, it points the way forward. Community areas are located on the second floor, with tightly clustered living units accessed from narrow walkways above. That allowed the architects to provide an expansive deck with gardens, a kitchen, a basketball court, and a jogging track around the perimeter, in close contact with the street. The contrast of spaciousness and compression accentuates the virtues of both. One could imagine a new layer of the city, one or more stories up from the ground. For the homeless, it’s literally a step up from the street. Some have been out there so long that they can no longer navigate the social network. “Shifts of scale are the hallmark of a city,” observed Maltzan. “In New York you might go from a small apartment to Central Park. I wanted to get away from the monotony and privatization of space you find in the suburbs, which have no density.”
Sadly, this ambitious project is undercut by poor detailing—from badly formed joints to uneven finishes and unintentionally exposed services. The budget was cut during the recession, construction was delayed, and the contractor was out of his depth. On the plus side, Maltzan overcame many obstacles, the building is fully leased, and the tenants are happy. The Trust has won praise and developers have been touring the project in search of fresh ideas. It may prove the seed of a new multi-level downtown, adopting prefabrication on a large scale to save time and money, and taking advantage of the many single-story buildings that flank the historic core.
The Segerstrom Center for the Arts announced three new initiatives poised to transform cultural life in Orange County: two programs—the Center for a Dance and Innovation and the Center Without Boundaries—and a new plaza designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture (MMA).
While the two centers plan to focus on creativity through movement and civic engagement, MMA’s design for the Julianne and George Argyros Plaza sets the stage for these activities by reinventing the existing Arts Plaza as a public gathering place with a public stage ready to host free events for up to 2,000 people.
More ambitious than a simple plaza, as the initiative’s title may suggest, MMA’s scheme is a comprehensive reworking of the outdoor spaces around Segerstrom Hall. The campus was originally master planned by Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, who also designed the adjacent Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, with landscape by Peter Walker’s PWP Landscape Architecture. A street once passed through the campus, and while it has long been closed, it left behind a public space out of scale with the surrounding buildings.
“The street made the plaza difficult to occupy in a full range of different programmatic possibilities,” said Michael Maltzan. “Our work was to imagine and expand the range of activities to take place there, which included large public performances such as a 1,000 person movie night, but also still be comfortable for couples, families, and individuals.”
According to Maltzan, the design responds to the need for outdoor areas at a number of scales and includes intimate seating, as well as a large public space and multi-purpose community stage. Renderings of three shaded green spaces—the Plaza Entry Grove, the Amphitheater Grove, the Community Picnic Grove—show casual public seating areas and pedestrian paths tucked under the tree canopy.
The main architectural component of the scheme is a circulation sequence that connects the main parking lot (via a sweeping ramp) to a walkway that passes through Segerstrom Hall and connects patrons via a grand staircase to the plaza.
“It’s a gateway and entry into the plaza,” said Maltzan. “The walkway cuts through the whole facade and creates a loose threshold. Choreography is an important thing in my work. Here, because there are many ways you can enter and leave the hall, we tried not so much to create a geometrically formal plaza but to think about how different itineraries and movements could be choreographed.”
These circular set pieces are signature Maltzan—a combination of gestural form and circulation seen in microprojects like the John V. Tunney Bridge at the Hammer Museum or at the infrastructural scale, like the Sixth Street Bridge. Programs such as an outdoor cafe and an observation deck are also integrated into the stair form to compliment the strong geometries of the existing building.
This is not the first time a top firm has been asked to enhance the arts campus. It’s a tough suburban setting to perk up: the site is indecorously located across the street from South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. In 2008, Morphosis was selected to design the new Orange County Museum of Art to be located on a parcel across from the concert hall. That plan for a 72,000-square-foot building stalled out due to the economic downturn, but there are still hopes it will move forward.
Support for plaza project and programming comes from The Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ $68 million Next Act Campaign. This fundraising includes a $13.5 million gift from Julianne and George Argyros. Construction starts on the plaza early 2016, with completion slated for fall 2016.
Still basking in the glow of its recent St. Petersburg Pier competition win, Michael Maltzan Architecture yesterday won yet another commission: to expand and renovate Art Center College of Design’s hillside campus in Pasadena, to refurbish a former post office building on the school’s south campus, and to oversee a master plan for the entire institution.
Other firms on the shortlist were Behnisch Architekten, Barton Myers Associates, and Krueck + Sexton.
“I won’t be bored,” said Maltzan, referring to a wealth of new projects coming to his Los Angeles office, including the ambitious $50 million renovation of St. Petersburg’s Pier called “The Lens,” and the new Mashouf Performing Arts Center at San Francisco State University. “We feel very lucky. Now everything just needs to get moving,” he added.
The renovation of Craig Ellwood’s iconic 1976 glass and steel building in the hills above Pasadena will include reshaping and expanding the academic building, updating it seismically, installing new sustainable energy systems, and improving its roofing and glazing systems.
But before that work is even mapped out Maltzan will develop an “Academic Master Plan” for the campus, re-thinking how the college uses its facilities to adapt to new technologies and to inter-disciplinary education models. Maltzan will also oversee the organization of buildings and public spaces on the hillside and the rapidly-expanding south campus in downtown Pasadena. The first step in that plan, said Maltzan, is to “spend a lot of time with the art center community: students, faculty, administration and alumni. The information we get from that will be a big part of how we move forward,” he said.
Leading off the south campus expansion Maltzan will design the reuse of an existing post office mail distribution center at 870 S. Raymond Ave, adjacent to Daly Genik’s reuse of an existing wind tunnel facility, which was completed for the school in 2004. The program for the poured concrete postal building has not been finalized, but it’s likely that the 35,000 square foot space, which sits on a 2.5-acre lot, will be a center for fabrication and prototyping.
The post office property is expected to be ready for classes by Fall 2013, but a final budget and timeline for all the projects has not yet been finalized, said school president Lorne Buchman. Art Center will pay for much of the work with proceeds from a recent bond issue, and will be launching a major capital campaign to pay off that debt. Nearly five million of the seven million dollar cost to purchase the post office building came from alumni donations, added Buchman.
Buckman was sure to add that, “whatever we do building-wise is serving the school’s educational mission.” Buchman’s predecessor Richard Koshalek was reportedly pushed out after factions within the school felt he was focusing more on architecture than on education. Frank Gehry had been working to design a $45 million design research complex on the hillside campus until that plan was scratched in 2009. That plan had originally called for a number of new buildings by Gehry and Alvaro Siza, but was scaled down.
As The Architect’s Newspaper first reported last week, Michael Maltzan Architecture has won an international competition to redesign St. Petersburg, Florida’s iconic pier. The firm beat out other finalists West 8 and BIG with “The Lens,” a project composed of a group of interconnected bridges and pathways arranged along a figure eight plan.
The project will frame the city through its sweeping, looped structure, forge a connection between downtown St. Petersburg and its waterfront, and create several new recreational opportunities, including the chance for visitors to get much closer to the water than they had in the past.
In 2010 the city voted to demolish its current pier, a 1970’s inverted pyramid structure containing a “festival market” that St. Petersburg’s web site refers to as “the most visible landmark in the history of the city.” But the market had fallen on hard financial times and the structure itself—battered by the elements over decades—was in dire straits, with repairs deemed by engineers to be virtually impossible. The city was ready to redefine both the pier itself and the city at large.
“We saw this as an unusual, once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing,” said Raul Quintana, city architect for the City of St. Petersburg. “It’s something that cities the size of St. Petersburg don’t normally do. It’s very risky and forward thinking.”
A jury of three design experts (including San Francisco architect Stanley Saitowitz) and two local officials selected Maltzan’s concept after studying the entries for more than a month. The competition began in June with 30 registered teams and was narrowed down to three at the end of last year.
“Michael Maltzan just nailed it,” said Quintana. “His take really redefined what a pier is in the 21st Century.” Indeed The Lens’ shape and siting help rethink a typology that has long become outdated.
With the old pier, said Maltzan, “you walk out in a straight line, you get to the end of the pier, and you turn around to come back. You’re just retracing your steps.” The figure eight plan creates a “more complex and complete experience,” a circuit that introduces visitors to new elements throughout. The project’s shape will also allow for water-based activities in the interior of the loop, like kayaking and boating; a new element in an area where waters are generally very rough.
The project will also include a new tidal reef, a civic green, raised walking paths, an amphitheater, a water park and other leisure activities.
“It’s not a traditional architecture project. It’s not a tradition landscape project. It’s really a hybrid,” said Maltzan, echoing what has been said about others in a new generation of urban-scaled projects, like New York’s High Line.
West 8′s proposed plan, called “The People’s Pier,” would have been highlighted by a large circular pavilion called “The Eye,” sitting on a new shoal in the bay. It would also have included new preserved habitats, a public marina, and a new plan for ecological waterfront development. BIG’s scheme would have been made up of three parts: a park, a walkway, and “the wave,” a large spiral-shaped structure containing several programs. According to BIG, the structure would have been created by the pier folding in on itself. Closer to shore the plan would have contained a large swimming beach and a small forest.
Both of the other finalists, said Quintana, would have been inspiring, but with their singular iconic moves they were “more about the destination.” Maltzan’s scheme, by contrast, “is more about the journey.”
The first phase of the project is budgeted at about $50 million. St. Petersburg City Council is expected to vote on the project at its February 2 meeting (no means a done deal in this conservative city, said Quintana). If approved, the project will be supported with funds raised from a county-approved tax increment financing plan. The first phase could be completed within three years.
The project is among several new works helping revamp the city. Others include a new Salvador Dali Museum, a Dale Chihuly Museum, an expansion of the fine arts museum, a vital public art program, and the development of a new arts district.
“It really fits what St. Petersburg is becoming. Not what St. Petersburg used to be,” said Quintana.