Posts tagged with "William Pereira":

Landmarking efforts take a step forward for Los Angeles Times complex

Efforts to landmark the historic Los Angeles Times headquarters in Downtown Los Angeles took a step forward last week when the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) agreed to take up a Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) nomination for the complex put forth by a group of Los Angeles preservationists. The agreement moves the historic nomination process forward for the five-building complex just as the Los Angeles Times staff vacates the property amid a move to El Segundo, California.  Concurrently, a fight over several of the buildings’ historic lobby artifacts has entered a new stage as the new LA Times owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, has moved to illicitly remove a collection of historic elements from the complex in a bid to create an LA Times-focused museum at the paper’s new headquarters.  Just days before the CHC hearing took place work crews removed several historic busts from the so-called Globe Lobby, a grand, marble-wrapped entry space punctuated by a 66-inch wide aluminum globe sculpture. The orb, created by Gutzon Borglum in 1891, survived a 1910 bombing of the newspaper’s offices and is joined in the lobby by a series of 10-foot-tall murals painted by Hugo Ballin in 1934 that depict the origins and major industries of Los Angeles. In a blog post describing the removal, Kim Cooper of historic tour group Esotouric described the emptied lobby as “a defaced space that looks like a plucked chicken.” The nomination for the complex was compiled by preservationist Richard Shave, also of Esotouric, with the help of other experts, including Cooper and the historian Alan Hess. The nomination considers the entire complex for designation, including a pair of late modern-era buildings designed by William Pereira. The buildings included in the nomination follow:
  • The eight-story Los Angeles Times Building designed in the Art Deco/Moderne style by Los Angeles architect Gordon B. Kaufmann in 1935.
  • The four-story Plant Building completed in 1935 that includes an original two-story Art Deco/Moderne-style building by Kaufmann and two one-story additions designed by Los Angeles architect Rowland H. Crawford in 1946 and 1955.
  • The 12-story Mirror Building designed in the Late Moderne architectural style by Crawford in 1948
  • The six-story Times-Mirror Headquarters Building and an attendant six-story parking structure designed by Pereira in the Corporate International architectural style in 1973. 
The nearly 400-page historic nomination can be found here.  The effort to landmark the complex—years in the making—is somewhat coincidental in terms of its timing with the newspaper vacating its historic offices and comes after a particularly turbulent half-decade at the Times. Soon-Shiong announced his purchase of the newspaper in February of this year and unveiled plans to move the LA Times offices in April. Canadian developer Onni purchased the Times complex in 2016 from the previous Times owner, Tronc, and had proposed raising the rent for the facilities to over $1 million per month, prompting the relocation. The Times’s lease ran out June 30, 2018.  Onni is currently pursuing a pair of redevelopment proposals that aim to demolish the Pereria-designed sections of the complex. The developer plans to replace those buildings with two mixed-use condominium towers designed by AC Martin. The towers, rising 37- and 53-stories, would bring 1,127 residential units and 34,572 square feet of commercial areas to the site. Gensler is also working on a blocky 32-story tower containing 107 condominium units, 534,000 square feet of commercial space, and 7,200 square feet of ground-floor commercial area that is slated to rise in what is now a parking lot across from the Times complex. The CHC will next conduct an on-site inspection of the LA Times complex in order to consider whether to advance the application for historic cultural status any further. The designation could impact the developer’s plans for the AC Martin-designed towers, but as the recent case with Gehry Partners’s designs for 8150 Sunset complex shows, landmarking a historic structure does not prevent its demolition. If the HCM nomination is successful, however, the developer’s plans could actually be bolstered by the availability of historic tax credits for renovating the complex if that is done in line with historic standards. A key question for the CHC committee will be how to qualify the historic nature of the Pereira-designed additions to the complex. The historic nomination explains that the Pereira additions are key to the significance of the entire complex and represent the apex of the newspaper’s development and relevance following L.A.’s post-World War II expansion. Pereira’s additions were designed to intentionally fade into the background so as to not detract from the iconic Kaufman-designed portions of the building, according to William L. Pereira, a monograph of the architect’s work compiled by James Steele. The resulting black granite panel-clad complex remains almost entirely intact and represents a key moment not only in Pereira’s career but in the development of L.A.’s architectural history, according to the report. The report says, “The building demonstrates not only Pereira’s role as a master architect who helped to shape the city we know today, but a building which is symbolically, urbanistically, and creatively part of the life of the city.” The entire complex is eligible for National Register of Historic Places and the California State Historic Monument list, though it is unlisted in both. The complex was included in the SurveyLA Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey and is listed in California Register of Historical Resources. The CHC will meet to tour the building at a yet-to-be-announced date and time. Until then, check out the nifty, illustrated explainer created by the Times that highlights the historic complex’s history and internal organization. 

LACMA is planning to launch up to five satellite campuses throughout L.A. County

During a recent breakfast with members of the local AIA|LA chapter at Gensler’s Los Angeles offices, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan announced a potential plan to add up to five satellite campuses to LACMA’s current sites. While the plan is largely still in the works, Govan explained that as the institution seeks to demolish and replace its existing William Pereira and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer-designed complex, LACMA was “hitting the limit for space on Wilshire Boulevard” and would need to start looking at other sites for potential future expansions.  Explaining that he had explicitly instructed Peter Zumthor—the architect behind the controversial $600 million revamp—to design a singular structure that would be difficult to expand, Govan said, “There’s never been a building that’s been added onto that has been made better [because of that addition].” Govan explained that it would be better if LACMA’s future expansions happened “elsewhere in Los Angeles” so that the new facilities might become a resource for the broader population of Los Angeles County. Govan then detailed a conceptual plan for the future of a “de-centralized” LACMA that could bring a jolt of arts and educational programming to arts-starved communities throughout the city, starting with South Los Angeles, where the organization recently announced what could turn out to be its first regional outpost.  Earlier this year, LACMA announced plans to 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 its resources while the expansion at the Wilshire campus is under construction.  LACMA is also currently operating a small gallery at Charles White Elementary School in L.A.’s MacArthur Park neighborhood, where it is working to have an updated security and ticketing system installed that would allow the space to be open to the public on weekends, Govan explained. LACMA plans to exhibit objects from its collections there and to work with local artists and students at the school to create programming for the site, as well.  Aiming for a “decentered museum for a decentered metropolis,” Govan also explained that LACMA is currently partnered with the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College for an exhibition on ancient Egyptian artifacts in LACMA’s collection. Govan hinted that sites in the San Fernando Valley were also potentially under consideration and that ultimately, he would like to see five 50,000-square-foot satellites in operation over the next decade or so. 

Pereira’s historic CBS Television City achieves landmark status amid redevelopment rumors

The Los Angeles City Council has voted to designate the William Pereira-designed CBS Television City complex in Los Angeles as an official city historic-cultural monument, paving the way for the complex to be preserved or adaptively reused as redevelopment talks for the 25-acre site heat up. The International Style complex was built in 1952 and features gridded expanses of clear glass set along planar geometries. Designed by the firm Pereira and Luckman, the complex is among several of the office's many threatened works, including their LACMA building, among many, many others, and one of the few to glide toward landmark status in recent years, a surprise given the red-hot development climate in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Conservancy nominated the complex for landmarking earlier this year as rumors began to swirl that CBS was interested in redeveloping the complex. Alan Hess, an architectural historian who wrote the building's historic nomination on behalf of the Conservancy, told The Architect's Newspaper that "CBS Television City is a true landmark of the electronic age, and a real testament to the design and planning vision of William Pereira and Charles Luckman," adding, "They built it at the dawn of television, yet it is still in use today for its original purpose. That’s good design. It stands alongside [Richard] Neutra’s Lovell House and Skidmore Owings and Merrill’s Crown Zellerbach tower in San Francisco as one of California’s three greatest examples of International Style architecture." Hess added that the importance of the structure and its International Style design surpass its use as a television facility, as well, saying, "The International Style was inspired by the straightforward functionalism of factories, and CBS Television City is, in fact, a factory building, not a house or office building. CBS can be congratulated for being a good corporate citizen and supporting this designation." The complex came into being as a replacement facility for the Columbia Square broadcasting facilities located just a few miles away in Hollywood, CBS's original home designed by William Lescaze in 1938. Columbia Square was restored, reused, and expanded by Rios Clementi Hale Studios in 2017 as part of a larger project that added a high-rise tower and new office spaces to the site. The award-winning project has been heralded as a marquee approach for preservation-focused adaptive reuse. A potential project for the Television City site has not been announced.

L.A. Conservancy fights to landmark CBS’s Television City

While William Pereira’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) may soon face the wrecking ball in favor of Peter Zumthor’s tar-inspired blob, the Los Angeles Conservancy is trying to ensure that another iconic Pereira building remains. On Monday, the Conservancy filed an application to landmark Pereira and Luckman’s Television City, an International Style icon at the corner of Beverly and Fairfax. CBS is reportedly considering a sale of the site, which brokers have valued at anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion. Built in 1952, Television City was one of the first complexes constructed specifically for television production and broadcasting. Containing sound stages, studios, editing rooms, offices, and rehearsal halls, its rectangular volumes are clad in black and white walls of glass and stucco, with red accents. The complex has hosted The Carol Burnett Show, All in the Family, and The Ed Sullivan Show, and is currently home to The Price Is Right and The Late Late Show with James Corden. Landmark designation would require preservation design review and approval through the city’s Office of Historic Resources to guide any redevelopment and adaptive reuse of the campus, including new infill construction.

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.

New renderings for AC Martin’s skyline-altering LA Times Mirror Square complex

Architects AC Martin and developer Onni Group have released new renderings depicting the teams’ redevelopment plans for the Times Mirror Square complex in Downtown Los Angeles. The project calls for demolishing the historic William Pereira–designed LA Times addition from 1971 and replacing the black metal panel-clad late modernist office block with a pair of podium-style housing towers. The two towers—one 37 stories tall, the other with 53 floors—would hug the sidewalk along Hill Street in order to create a pedestrian paseo through the site separating the existing LA Times and Mirror buildings from the new towers. The existing buildings, originally designed by Gordon Kaufmann and Rowland Crawford, respectively, would be preserved and renovated to house creative offices. No word on where the LA Times offices will be relocated to or if the publication will continue to operate out of the renovated offices. Overall, the project will contain 1,127 residential units and 34,572 square feet of commercial areas. The two flat-topped towers are depicted in the new renderings rather generically, with alternating stacks of projecting balconies and curtain wall expanses populating each tower’s facades. The dual monoliths sit atop a single podium populated by low-rise apartments and rooftop amenity spaces. The building’s ground level retail spaces wrap around the base and into the paseo area, which is shaded from above by an operable glass ceiling. The paseo itself will contain multi-level terraces spaces as well as the aforementioned storefronts. The LA Times building is depicted along Broadway as having a public marketplace along its ground floor. The towers will be joined in the vicinity by a blocky 30 story mixed-use tower designed by Gensler to be located on the block behind the LA Times complex. The projects will also feed into a growing push to convert the surrounding the Civic Center area into a new mixed-use residential enclave. The Times Mirror Square project is anticipated to begin construction in 2019 and open for occupancy in 2023.

AC Martin and Onni group to demolish William Pereira-designed L.A. Times building in Los Angeles

Los Angeles-based architects AC Martin and Canadian developer Onni Group have released preliminary renderings for the long-rumored, 1,126-unit Times Mirror Square development that aims to replace the 1970s-era William Pereira addition to the Los Angeles Times building in Downtown Los Angeles. The project, part of a larger, overall redevelopment of the L.A. Times headquarters complex that also includes a new, 30-story tall tower by Gensler, would connect to the existing L.A. Times building via ground floor retail spaces and an outdoor, retail-lined paseo. The original 1940s-era, art deco style L.A. Times headquarters is expected to receive modest restorations via the project while the iconic, late modern era Pereira-designed structure will be completely demolished to make way for the development. The Pereira structure is just four years shy of being eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is not listed as a local Historic-Cultural Monument. Urbanize LA reports that AC Martin would bring a pair of high-rise residential towers to a neighborhood soon-to-be-brimming with open space amenities like the forthcoming revamp to Pershing Square park by Agence Ter, First and Broadway (FaB) park by Mia Lehrer and Associates and OMA, and the five year old Grand Park by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. A 37-story tower would be located directly across the street from Lehrer's FaB Park, with a taller, 53-story monolith located directly behind. Both towers are capped by pointy, crenelated caps and will reportedly rise 465- and 655-feet in height, respectively. The towers will contain parking stalls for 1,000 vehicles despite being located almost directly atop a forthcoming transit stop on the city's Regional Connector line. This article appears on HoverPin, a new app that lets you build personalized maps of geo-related online content based on your interests: architecture, food, culture, fitness, and more. Never miss The Architect’s Newspaper’s coverage of your city and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.

Pereira addition of Los Angeles Times complex to be demolished in redevelopment

Vancouver, Canada—based developer Onni Group has officially filed documentation with the City of Los Angeles to redevelop the historic Los Angeles Times property in Downtown Los Angeles. Urbanize.LA reports that the developer plans to rehabilitate the most historic components of the site, including the original, Gordon B. Kaufman—designed structure from 1935 and a 1948 addition designed by Rowland Henry Crawford. Onni’s plans, however, also call for the demolition of the William Pereira—designed addition made to the complex in the 1970s. Through visually and formally striking and demonstrative of larger architectural trends from each respective era, none of the site's components, including the original Los Angeles Times building, the 1948 addition, or the High-Modernist Pereira addition, are currently protected by historic preservation ordinances at either the local or national level. The developer paid $120 million for the entire Times Mirror Square complex earlier this year and has been quick to announce the growing list of redevelopment plans associated with the purchase in the months since. Tribune Media Company, owner of the L.A. Times, announced an unrelated development a few weeks ago for a site currently being as a parking lot for the complex. That project consists of a 30-story tall, boxy tower designed by Gensler. The design of that tower features offset and cantilevered masses and would contain 107 condominium units, 534,000 square feet of commercial space, and 7,200 square feet of ground-floor retail area, all located above a new subway station being developed as part of the Downtown L.A. Regional Connector project. Onni Group's filing indicates plans to build a pair of new high-rise towers in place of the Pereira-designed structure. These towers would contain a combined 1,127 residential units and over 34,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, Urbanize reports. The developers would also rehabilitate the remaining L.A. Times buildings as office space. The proposed development would require a series of discretionary approvals by the City, but since the L.A. Times complex is not currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places or locally as a Historic-Cultural Monument, the Pereira-designed portions, in particular, are open to demolition. The filing comes as the development and preservation communities in Los Angeles spar with one another over which aspects of the city’s architectural history are worth preserving. A Gehry Partners—designed complex at 8150 Sunset that aims to demolish the Kurt Meyer—designed modernist bank has been at the center of this debate, as have proposals to demolish several other William Pereira—designed structures, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art complex (to be replaced by a new $600-million museum by Peter Zumthor), and portions of the Metropolitan Water District.

Time is running out for William Pereira’s modernist legacy

Los Angeles architect William Pereira is most famous for his iconic 1972 Transamerica Building, an 853-foot tall square-based pyramid tower in downtown San Francisco, and for the Googie-styled Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport, a flying saucer-shaped observation floor supported by a four-footed, sinuous frame. These projects are among the architect’s more than 400 diverse commissions, a list that also includes the masterplans for the Orange County suburb of Irvine and the University of California at Irvine (UCI) campus. The city of Irvine’s urban plan landed the architect on the cover of Time magazine; there he's depicted in front of the suburb's plan. Those aspects of his legacy are more or less doing fine—there are serious and ongoing questions about incongruous changes being made to both the Irvine master plan and to the UCI campus —but several of Pereira’s other works are currently more deeply imperiled. One, Pereira’s Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1965) was heavily altered in 1986 by the Robert O. Anderson Building for 20th-century art, a $35.3-million, 115,000-square-foot addition designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. That structure—plus architect Bruce Goff’s Pavilion for Japanese Art, designed two years later—drastically changed Pereira’s original plan, which was initially conceived of as an austere art-acropolis surrounded by fountains. The plan featured three large, Cipollino marble-clad structures built around a central courtyard and water feature that connected to Wilshire Boulevard by a pedestrian bridge. The entire complex was lifted above the marshy and tar-laden grounds of the museum’s Park La Brea site. To much ballyhoo and controversy, plans were released last year for a Peter Zumthor-designed, $600 million replacement building that would demolish the Pereira and Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates buildings altogether, wiping the slate clean. Those relics would be replaced with an oil leak-inspired scheme by Zumthor consisting of a continuous gallery raised on eight piers. A portion of the new LACMA would span over Wilshire Boulevard to the south. The outcry over the project has revolved mostly around the confusingly under-cooked Zumthor plan and its amateurish renderings, rather than the demolition of the existing structures, but a few Pereira enthusiasts have increasingly spoken out over the last few months as the LACMA plans gain steam and more Pereira structures come under the gun. Alan Hess, architect and scholar on 20th-century architecture, described the imperiled Pereira legacy over the phone to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), saying, “We are in danger of losing the buildings that defined his contributions and continue to shape Southern California at this moment.” Hess went on to describe Pereira as an architect who was never really loved by the public at large, saying Pereira was often thought of as “Hollywood’s idea of an architect,” a fact that has not been lost on a regional populace raised to sanctify the single family home at the expense of all other types of architecture and planning. As a result, commercial and civic buildings, often relics of periods of economic expansion and growth, are treated as relatively disposable, their cultural utility viewed more through an economic lens than an architectural or civic one. It so happens that many of Pereira’s works are these types of buildings—grand statements of their time, first and foremost, and icons of capitalism, commerce, and development, as well. As such, they are apt to be replaced after their fancy wears off and the age starts to show, which in Los Angeles, is a time span lasting roughly 30 to 50 years. The LACMA complex turned 50 years old in 2015 and no mention or effort has been undertaken to list the complex on the National Register of Historic Places, for example. Hess continued, “It is necessary to look much more broadly at the contributions of Modern Architecture in Southern California through the 20th century and realize that large scale commercial projects are not only very well designed and innovative, from the standpoint of what they are, but are also extremely influential. They set the patterns for the workplaces, homes, planning ideas, that affected hundreds of thousands of Californians.” But Pereira has yet to have his moment in the Southern California sun. The first and only retrospective of the architect's work didn’t happen until 2013 and at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, no less. There are also few major monographs of Pereira’s work. Adrian Scott-Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, told AN over the telephone, “William Pereira-designed buildings and commissions seem to be increasingly at risk and we are at a time where [consideration of Pereira’s work] is past due in terms of its contribution to architecture and Los Angeles. It needs to be understood and put into a context and we are losing time.” But the civic and cultural institutions responsible for maintaining Los Angeles’s architectural patrimony have been relatively silent on saving Pereira’s work across multiple fronts. The Conservancy has yet to take an official position on the LACMA project, with Scott-Fine telling AN, “[The L.A. Conservancy] hasn’t come out with a position on the LACMA project. The current proposed project calls for a wing of the new LACMA to go over the Wilshire Miracle Mile. We want to know more about how that would impact the character of Miracle Mile. We’re still assessing.” Similarly, many other major museums or organizations in the region have not come out with statements of support for preservation efforts and time is quickly running out. Two of Pereira’s other projects, the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) headquarters and a 1971 addition to the Los Angeles Times building, are also facing very real existential threats. The Los Angeles Times building was purchased last year by Canadian developer Onni Group and the company has plans to raze the Pereira section to make way for a housing development. It’s safe to say the building, too young to be listed on the National Register and articulated in a vaguely Brutalist style, is not long for this world. Pereira’s MWD headquarters is more a mixed story. Developers Linear City purchased a portion of the 1973 complex, redeveloping and restoring it. Their project, The Elysian, consists of 120,000 square feet of commercial space and 96 live-work units. The site also contains, however, two other structures from the same time period. Those properties were purchased by developer Palisades Capital Partners and now face demolition. A meeting of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commissioners last week rejected the building’s cultural landmark application in a 2-2 vote. The five-member panel currently has a vacant seat and decisions that end in a tie result in a take-no-action outcome. So, the building’s landmark designation was effectively denied. The site of this portion of the complex is zoned for up to 547 apartment units and the developer has expressed the intention of demolishing the structure outright in the name of new construction. Local Pereira activists and tour guides Kim Cooper and Richard Schave of Esotouric organized a cohort of 100 or so supporters to attend the meeting and protest the decision, but their efforts were met with ambivalence. The group, who has been running tours of Pereira buildings over the last few months to raise awareness and has a planned meet up in October to tour the existing LACMA complex, has until October 5th to convince the Cultural Heritage Commission to reconvene and reconsider the nomination. The well-attended meeting drew support from Pereira’s own daughter, Monica Pereira, who spoke to AN in the days afterward, saying, “People have to realize that pictures alone don’t do [Pereira’s buildings] justice and that once a building is gone, it’s gone. These buildings have stood the test of time and it would be a black mark on the city to let them get demolished.” At the moment, what is missing is city-wide leadership on the civic appreciation of Pereira’s work from elected and appointed officials. Linear City’s work proves it is possible to radically repurpose midcentury structures and to do so in a way that benefits the future of the city while keeping an eye toward preservation. But Pereira’s works live with the uncomfortable luck of being both relics of their own respective times and potentially, a casualty of our own, only to be replaced by the future relics of this era. The question for Los Angeles right now is: Are its buildings simply economic commodities or are they expressions of history and culture open to reuse and reinterpretation?  Either way, there is hope for Pereira buildings in other locations. The Braniff Building, a complex of Pereira structures featuring butterfly roofs and large expanses of glass and aluminum in Love Field in Dallas, Texas was recently converted into a mixed-use complex. Also, a bank building by Pereira in Phoenix, Arizona was recently restored by architecture firm Cuningham Group as an office for the company. In a press release announcing the project, Cuningham Group Principal Nabil Abou-Haidar stated, “For a firm such as ours that deeply respects good design, it is an honor to make this landmark our home. There is a clean-lined simplicity to the building that remains attractive to this day. It is certainly an approach we bring forward in contemporary architecture for our clients, and in our other offices around the world.”

New renderings revealed for Peter Zumthor’s sinuous LACMA redesign

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Atelier Peter Zumthor launched a website yesterday, BuildingLACMA.org, that touts newly revealed renderings for a $600 million project aimed at demolishing LACMA’s existing galleries in exchange for a wholly new museum by the famed Swiss architect. The website launch comes as the first step toward the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required for the project to move into the construction phase. Thursday’s announcement also set out a date for the first “scoping meeting” for the current phase of the project, to be held on August 24, to hear public comment regarding the extent and scope of the EIR study. Zumthor’s updated renderings speak to the overriding parti of the project, an expansive, sinuous, continuous gallery spanning across Wilshire Boulevard, elevated on eight “pavilions.” A quote featured on the website states the following premise for the design: “With a horizontal layout and no back or front, every culture is given equal focus.” LACMA’s preference for the continuous, single-story gallery is seen as an equalizing and modernizing force for the encyclopedic art institution founded in 1910, during an era where European art was often displayed prominently while the works of other cultures were relegated to basements or accessory structures. LACMA’s impetus for the demolition of  L.A. architect William Pereira’s 1965 structure is also touted as a pragmatic choice to replace “inefficient, deteriorating buildings with new, environmentally sustainable structures, embracing state-of-the-art resource management and technology.” In the current era of supersized museum expansions and relocations, however, it is perplexing that Zumthor’s designs for the new museum will actually create smaller overall building for the new LACMA. The new plans call for an approximately 368,000 square foot structure, while the current arrangement beats that projection by nearly 25,000 square feet. There is a plus side, however: The reorientation of the museum, use of “pavilions” as footholds, and overall decrease in gallery space will have the effect of producing 2.5 acres of additional public outdoor open space. The project aims for a 2023 completion date, due to coincide with the opening of an extension to the city’s Purple Line subway route, which will have a stop adjacent to the museum complex.

A modern classic transformed for 21st century Los Angeles

Originally designed by William Pereira in 1961, the 8-story, 120,000 sq. ft. building sat vacant for nearly 20 years prior to renovations.

After sitting vacant for nearly 20 years, the eight-story Metropolitan Water District office tower in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood has been converted by David Lawrence Gray Architects from an office building to a luxury residential tower. The original building was designed in two phases by famed modernist William Pereira – a low-rise podium, and high-rise tower – through a process that spanned 12 years, from 1961-1973. Pereira’s design was structurally expressive concrete frame building, with cantilevered exposed concrete slabs establishing a wrap around balcony on each level. The primary bays of the building along the longitudinal axis are expressed at the ends with infrastructurally-scaled white concrete columns, while perforated concrete panels formed an iconic modernist brise soleil along the podium. Named after an ancient Greek conception of heaven, The Elysian blends architectural modernism with contemporary luxury living to produce 120,000 sq. ft. building with 96 Live/Work Units. Pereira’s original building was, at times, carefully and respectfully restored by the project team. This is evident in the clean-up of Pereira’s concrete columns, which contained – under decades-worth of grime – a high quality quartz aggregate cast (much to the surprise of the team). Another preservation marvel is the restoration of the existing mullions on the building. Metal panels from the lower third of the opening were removed along with original glass panes. The steel mullions were grinded down and repainted. The openings were replaced with new double-paned coated glass and micro shades to produce a new building envelope. The architects worked with CRL-U.S. Aluminum to integrate an operable window unit and patio doors within Pereira’s mullion layout. Also notable is the detailing of the new steel railing which translates an original post spacing cast into the slab with a new horizontal assembly providing technical precision of steel without visually overpowering the building envelope.
  • Facade Manufacturer CRL-U.S. Aluminum
  • Architects David Lawrence Gray Architects ( Principal: David Lawrence Gray, FAIA )
  • Facade Installer Linear City Development (CM)
  • Facade Consultants KMN Structural Engineers, Davidovitch & Associates (MEP), Ilan Dei Studio (Patio Design)
  • Location Los Angeles, CA
  • Date of Completion 2015
  • System Concrete frame with curtainwall glazing
  • Products Series 3250 Curtain Wall, Series 550 Wide Stile Doors, AWS Aluminum Windscreen System (all from CRL-U.S. Aluminum)
While this renovation project makes historical acknowledgements to Pereira’s modernism, the new work to the building tends to give way to necessary market demands of luxury residential living: amenities like floor-to-ceiling windows and a two-story penthouse addition subtly transform the modernist building into something more “transitional.” The penthouse addition is carefully designed, but produces the most deleterious effect on Pereira’s proportioning system. His primary columns, once soaring optimistically beyond the body of the building towards the heavens have now been capped by a stealthy new addition which the project team has skillfully blended into the aesthetics of the original structure. Here, the curtainwall system, thermally improved by a continuous thermal spacer that is interlocked within pressure plates, is a sophisticated update to Pereira’s steel mullions. The system picks up where Pereira’s mullions left off, set in alignment with the mullion spacing throughout the building, and color matched with the rest of the building envelope. However, the 20-foot penthouse heights require an unfortunate and unavoidable heavier thickness. There is something interesting about juxtaposing a thermally sophisticated modern curtainwall system against steel profiles of the 1970’s. The two-story penthouse addition works to creatively conceal a rooftop mechanical space housing condenser units and a photovoltaic array for solar hot water heating. Also, the existing building was design with a generous floor-to-floor dimension of approximately 13 feet, allowing for an adaptive reuse of the building with minor modifications to the slabs required. New residential units were efficiently stacked by the project team, allowing for an economy in utility distribution, and limiting slab penetrations between floors to simply a new shaft and stairwell. Historians might argue for removal of the penthouse entirely, while environmentalists might argue for a full replacement of the original mullion system. Regardless, occupants of the building – especially those in the upper floors – will surely take delight in the 360 degree views of Los Angeles’ distant hills and sprawling low-rise cityscape that Pereira, and now David Lawrence Gray Architects, have provided.

Photographer Wayne Thom captured Late Modernism like no one else, and now his archive is looking for a home

As 1970s and 1980s architecture returns to vogue, a new recognition of those associated with its making and documentation also arises. So it is with Wayne Thom, long the preeminent architectural photographer of the large, Late Modern building by the large firm. Thom began photographing in the late 1960s and his work in Los Angeles, the Western U.S. and beyond to the Pacific Rim documented changing tastes and approaches toward the architectural subject. Hundreds of images are on view on his website. It’s a distinctive and significant body of work, but one without a home. Presently Thom is looking for an organization or institution to take on his sizeable and meticulously organized archive. As time goes on, Thom’s remarkable work seems increasingly ill-suited for sequestration within any one house, including his own. Born in Shanghai in 1933, Thom was raised in Hong Kong, and emigrated to Vancouver in 1949 with his family that includes brother Bing Thom who went on to become a highly noted Canadian architect. Arriving in the States in 1964, Wayne graduated from Brooks Institute of Photography in 1968. By the following year he was working with A. Quincy Jones (“A.Q.”) who gave him his big Los Angeles break. Jones, and others whom Jones later introduced on Thom’s behalf, were impressed with approaches that would over time become Wayne Thom hallmarks. These include the use of natural light only, no props whatsoever, and big buildings—particularly the high rise, as his subject. A breakthrough assignment, Wayne’s prominence further rose with his image of the 1971 CNA Park Place Tower in the Westlake section of Los Angeles. Completed by Langdon & Wilson, CNA Park Place was the first all-over smooth-grid mirror glass skin building—a soon to be corporate vernacular—completed in the Western United States, and likely the Country. Thom’s image of the building overlooking Lafayette Park and the people within it won the First Award of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) Architectural Photographers Invitational in 1973. Among his clients through the 1970s, Thom frequently worked with the A.C. Martin office where he photographed a variety of projects including their various Downtown LA projects, the underrated (and unfortunately renovated) Sears West Coast headquarters, and even an A.C. Martin–designed jet interior. In that decade he also began steady, multi-year work as the primary photographer for William Pereira (“Bill”); San Francisco’s Transamerica Building was among his many Pereira assignments. Among other publications, Thom’s images were featured in Progressive Architecture, Architectural Record, Architectural Forum, and Domus—where he photographed for Gio Ponti, the magazine’s founder. His award-winning Bonaventure Hotel image is the February 1978 Progressive Architecture cover. Architect Arthur Erickson, whom Thom knew since his much earlier Vancouver years, tapped him to assist in assembling the team of associate architects, landscape architects and designers that ultimately won the 1980 competition to redevelop Bunker Hill sponsored by the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. In a highly publicized coup, they battled against the “All Stars” team, which included Barton Myers, Frank Gehry, Ricardo Legorreta, Charles Moore, Cesar Pelli and others under Maguire Partners Development. Yet says Thom, “We won the battle but lost the war;” aside from a single Erickson building and the hardscape (Two California Plaza was completed by A.C. Martin) the rest of Erickson’s winning scheme was never realized. Thom continued in full-time practice until 2013, when he curtailed his workload. Living in Rowland Heights, he maintains meticulous records for his thousands of negatives and slides plus hundreds and hundreds of proof books and presentation prints. Now, he’s interested in releasing all of it. In addition to his artifacts, the photographer’s memory is institutional and he seems to have known every single Los Angeles Late Modernist, with insightful if not funny tidbits on most of them. If it all possible, his basic hopes are that archive stay intact and be made available to the public.