Hell Yeah! We hear from a little birdie that our friend Tom Wiscombe (pictured) may be designing a new museum in downtown Los Angeles dedicated to Los Angeles art. The details are still left to resolve, but we’ve been told he likens the place to a “zombie hive.” You had us at zombie, Tom. (Photo: Courtesy Tom Wiscombe Design)
Posts tagged with "California":
In November, the Los Angeles City Council named Armet & Davis' Johnie’s Coffee Shop, the restaurant at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, a historic cultural landmark. That’s a win for preservationists concerned with the legacy of the Googie style, the auto-oriented, steel-and-neon aesthetic that spawned diners and coffee shops across Southern California from the 1940s through the 1960s. It might also give a leg up to locals interested in seeing Johnie’s returned to its original use. Because Johnie’s Coffee Shop isn’t a coffee shop, and hasn’t been for over a decade. Since 2000, it’s been closed to the public and used exclusively for filming. The restaurant’s film credits, both before and after its conversion to a 24/7 theatrical set, include The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs. But while the best use for a building like Johnie's might have a stronger community orientation, in the meantime its co-optation by the film industry isn't all bad. When it takes over a building, the film industry buys time for preservationists and others hoping to breathe new life into an under-used landmark, Adrian Scott Fine, Director of Advocacy at the Los Angeles Conservancy explained. "It's kind of an advantage that Los Angeles has over other cities," he said. In addition, "People discover buildings through film," Scott said. "Johnie's, some of the films it's been in, it's clearly the star of the film." Approximately two years ago, the Los Angeles Conservancy honored Mad Men and its creator, Matthew Weiner, for the way in which it showcases midcentury modern architecture. Weiner has been active in efforts to preserve Los Angeles landmarks, Fine said, and the show has featured preservation-themed plot lines, including the demolition of New York's Penn Station. This all got us thinking: what other LA architectural landmarks are now used primarily as stage sets? The answer, it turns out, is quite a few. From one of Julia Morgan’s earliest Hearst commissions to a 1958 Pereira & Luckman high-rise, here’s our list of Los Angeles masterworks currently in the hands of the film industry. Herald Examiner Building (Downtown, Broadway and 11th Street) Media magnate William Randolph Hearst commissioned 2014 AIA Gold Medal recipient Julia Morgan to design a new headquarters building for the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper in 1913, ten years after the paper’s founding. When the Herald Examiner, the Los Angeles Examiner’s successor, went under in 1989, the Hearst Corporation held on to the structure. In 2008, Brenda Levin (who cites Julia Morgan as her role model) was set to renovate the building—but then the economy tanked. Plans to rehabilitate the building, and build two Morphosis-designed residential towers adjacent to it, were put on indefinite hold. Today, the Herald Examiner building is used exclusively for filming. Scenes in The Usual Suspects, Dreamgirls, Spider-Man 3, Zoolander, Castle, Bones, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, plus music videos by Eminem, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera were shot there. Interior location sets include an apartment, bar, jail, and police station. Park Plaza Hotel (Westlake, 607 South Park View Street) Art Deco and Corporate Moderne architect Claud Beelman designed the Park Plaza Hotel as Elks Lodge No. 99 in 1925. During the 1932 Olympics, the building hosted several indoor swimming events. The Park Plaza, which is listed as a Los Angeles historic-cultural landmark, features four ballrooms: the Grand Ballroom, whose decorated ceiling beams were modeled after a palace in Florence; the Art Deco Terrace Room, formerly the Elks Lodge meeting room; the Bronze Ballroom, distinguished by its copper-gilded columns; and the smaller Gold Room, named for the gold-leaf detail on its Corinthian columns. Both indoor and outdoor spaces, including the Tuscan Patio, can be rented for filming, weddings, and other events. Greystone Mansion (Beverly Hills, 501 Doheny Road) The lavish Beverly Hills estate known as Greystone Mansion was designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann beginning in 1925 for Edward Laurence Doheny, Jr., son of Los Angeles’s original oil magnate. Kaufmann, who would go on to design both the Hoover Dam and the Los Angeles Times building, designed the fifty-five room mansion in the Tudor style. The estate gained notoriety soon after construction finished, when Doheny, Jr. was found dead of an apparent murder-suicide. The City of Beverly Hills purchased the property in 1955, and built a reservoir on the site. The grounds of the mansion are open to the public, while the interior is available for filming and events. Greystone Mansion is featured in movies including The Muppets, The Social Network, What Women Want, Air Force One, and Ghostbusters. Los Angeles Theatre (Downtown, Broadway and 6th Street) In the ultimate Hollywood irony, the Los Angeles Theatre now just plays one on TV. The film palace was designed in 1931 by S. Charles Lee, after the Fox Theatre in San Francisco. A popular theater designer, Lee’s other Los Angeles buildings include the Alex Theatre, the Saban Theatre (formerly the Fox Wilshire), the Star Theatre, and the Tower Theatre. The Los Angeles Theatre, which the Los Angeles Conservancy calls “[t]he most lavish . . . of Broadway’s great movie palaces,” features a six-story lobby with a Louis XIV-inspired sunburst motif, plus a glass-ceiling ballroom and a nursery decorated with a circus theme. The building is available for rent as a film location, and for special events, live stage performances, and film screenings. "[The film industry] has certainly been instrumental in keeping the theaters going, where historic theaters are certainly one of the most difficult [building types] to adapt," Fine said. "I'm not sure, if you look at other cities with historic theaters, if we hadn't had the filming industry doing things, we probably would have lost them." Los Angeles Center Studios (City West, 1501 W. Fifth Street) When the Los Angeles Center Studios’ original tower, designed by Pereira & Luckman, was completed in 1958, it was the tallest structure in downtown LA. Hexagonal in shape, the International Style building is entirely unornamented, except for the aluminum sunshades at the base of each window. By 1998 the building, which was originally designed as part of Union Oil’s headquarters, was threatened with demolition. A group of developers bought the complex and converted it into a full-service TV, film, and commercial production studio. The Pereira & Luckman tower is now dedicated to entertainment and creative office space.
Architect Elena Manferdini Completes the Colorful, Laser-Cut “Nembi” Installation in South Los Angeles
Until recently, talented Los Angeles–based architect Elena Manferdini had practiced all over the world, but barely in her own city. That has definitely changed. Earlier this year she worked on two shops in Venice, and her latest project is an art installation at the entry way of the Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center in South Los Angeles. The colorful project is part of the LA County Art Commission's Civic Art project, a one percent program for county facilities. Italian for “clouds,” Nembi wraps the entry's concrete wall, folds back onto the ceiling, and then folds onto the front facade. Made up of laser-cut, powder-coated aluminum panels over an aluminum frame, its colorful bands riff on the green strip on the building's facade; and its cloud-like shapes were inspired by the county's desire to lift peoples' spirits in a place that can often be depressing. The forms themselves emerged from a series of drawings produced by a script tracing and linking variable radii. Areas of the artwork were perforated to filter the light coming from the existing light fixtures. Manferdini is continuing with her LA momentum. She's now working on Inverted Landscapes, a set of two larger installations for the San Fernando Valley Family Center. "I’m quite happy about working in LA," she said. "All of my projects were so far away; I never got the chance to nurture them."
San Diego’s New Central Library, which opened earlier this fall, was a long time coming. The project has been in the works since at least 1971, when the first of 46 studies on the subject of a new library building was published. Rob Wellington Quigley, FAIA, who designed the $184.9 million structure with Tucker Sadler & Associates, came on board in 1995. Why did he stick with it so long, through budget problems and four site changes? “It’s in my backyard,” Quigley said. “It was just too important a project, culturally, to the city, and to all of us...though it was very difficult, economically, to withstand all the stops and starts.” The centerpiece of the New Central Library is its steel-mesh dome, which, Quigley explained, is actually a composite of eight three-point arches. “It’s all about buoyancy,” Quigley said. “It feels like it’s lifting off the building, as opposed to a traditional dome, which is weighing the building down. It’s sort of the anti-dome, really.” The dome’s steel-mesh sails serve both practical and symbolic ends. On a pragmatic level, the latticework protects the library’s collections from sun damage while allowing some natural light to filter through, mimicking the experience of reading under a shade tree. At the same time, the dome is a metaphor for self-improvement. “Visually the dome is not complete. It’s clearly in the act of becoming a dome, becoming something,” Quigley said. Quigley’s vision for the library remained remarkably consistent throughout its long gestation. The architect credits the residents of San Diego, who articulated their priorities in a series of public workshops. At the top of the list was their desire for an iconic building—hence the dome. The workshop attendees also asked for a formal reading room, in addition to the series of intimate work spaces favored by contemporary library programmers. “What the community understood is that reading rooms aren’t just about library science, they’re about community,” Quigley said. “The library is kind of the last bastion of equality: everyone’s equal, everyone can come, no ticket required.” The reading room and the library’s other public spaces—including a topiary sculpture court, auditorium, meeting room, and art gallery—are clustered at the top of the building. Typically, Quigley said, public areas are relegated to a library’s lowest floors, to facilitate access. But at the design workshops the architect organized, residents pointed out that rooftop views are usually restricted to those who can afford a penthouse apartment. “If an architect had suggested it, they probably would have revoked our license,” Quigley quipped. But the New Central Library wasn’t just the work of an architect. It was a product of decades of public debate and reflection, according to Quigley. “In my mind a building that does not function emotionally is not utilitarian. This is what we needed, permission from the grassroots,” he said.
We hope you’ve stretched your hamstrings—there have been a lot of developments in U.S. bike sharing programs lately, and we’re taking another whirl through them now. Although not without hang-ups, New York’s Citi Bike has at least not killed anyone yet. People love to joke about clueless tourists riding on the sidewalk, or on heavy-traffic avenues, or “salmoning” the wrong way down one-way streets — that’s true in Chicago as well as New York — but the fact that no bikeshare has so far produced little to no traffic carnage should come as no surprise, writes Charles Komanoff for Streetsblog. Crunching the numbers, Komanoff points out “for each day in 2012, all NYC cyclists racked up 16 times as many miles as have Citi Bikers on each day to date.” So while Citi Bike ridership has exceeded expectations, it’s still only a small bump in the city’s total bike ridership. The bikes themselves could be a contributing factor, too — they aren’t racing bikes, and crowds of bikers further leaden their slow pace. The naturally lower car speeds in popular Citi Bike areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn may also play a role. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a proposed bikeshare system was stymied by existing restrictions on street furniture advertising. Smaller systems may move forward in some of L.A.’s municipal fiefdoms — Long Beach and Fullerton are apparently moving ahead, while West Hollywood and Santa Monica are conducting reviews. For now, though, what was once proposed as the nation's second biggest bike sharing program seems to have hit the brakes. Instead Chicago’s Divvy bike share is poised to become the largest such program in North America after announcing the addition of another 75 stations. Divvy already has 300 stations, with plans to add 100 more in 2014 (the additional 75 brings it to a total of 475). Federal funding enabled the $3 million expansion. CDOT also announced that it has applied for $3 million in state money to fund another 75 stations, which would bring the grand total to 550 stations. “As Divvy expands into more neighborhoods, and we build a 650-mile bikeway network throughout our communities, Chicago is quickly becoming the best biking city in North America,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein in a press release. It will be one of Klein’s last as Chicago’s transportation commissioner — he announced his resignation effective at the end of the month. Klein oversaw Divvy’s development and implementation, and was known for riding his bike to work. Sustainable transportation advocates told Streetsblog Klein’s successor will have big shoes to fill.
Just west of Los Angeles, a relaxed beach town on the California coast has recently received some major architecture news headlines. In 2013, some of the biggest firms in the country, from OMA to Gehry Partners, have set their sights on development projects in Santa Monica, planning to raise the skyline and increase the architectural density of the city. Not everyone is happy about this attention, though. This week, Curbed LA reports that the Wilmont Neighborhood Coalition, a group of Santa Monica residents from the high profile neighborhood from Wilshire Boulevard to Montana Avenue, have called for a moratorium on all development plans in the city. With a unanimous vote at their annual meeting, the group pleaded with the City Council to stop architectural projects in Santa Monica until the solidification of a zoning ordinance next year. According to a survey funded by the Huntley Hotel in downtown Santa Monica (whose owner is also a coalition board member), the group’s main complaint is the increase in traffic and the decrease in parking space that would be caused by city developments. The City Council’s Planning Committee will see a Zoning Ordinance Update on their agenda in a few weeks, but a decision on new building regulation in the city would not be reached until possibly late 2014. These Wilmont neighbors do not think that is soon enough to prevent the vehicular overcrowding they fear. Sending a symbolic vote of no confidence to City Hall, the Neighborhood Coalition has proposed a resolution that not only pauses all Santa Monica development agreements until the zoning decision but also introduces the adoption of a Downtown Specific Plan that would set a maximum height on projects in the downtown area. So far, the coalition’s objection has not had an impact on any current projects.
The architecture business seems to be—slowly—rounding back into form in Southern California. One indicator? A bunch of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) for major public projects. One of the most significant is the $70 million renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, whose management was taken over by the University of Southern California (USC) this summer. The iconic Parkinson & Parkinson–designed building will undergo long-delayed updates throughout, including improved sight lines, seating, concessions, audio/visual, lighting, restrooms, and much more. The stadium's last major upgrade came in 1993. The shortlist for the project for now includes Populous, NBBJ, DLR, HNTB, Gensler, and 360 Architecture. The West Hollywood Park Master Plan, to devise a new 70,000 square foot recreation center adjacent to Johnson Favaro's new West Hollywood Library, has a shortlist that includes recent AIA/LA Gold Medal winner Frederick Fisher and Partners with CMG and Buro Happold, Langdon Wilson, and a mystery team that we're still trying to ascertain. For the Long Beach Civic Center, which includes a commission for a new city hall, main library, and the revitalization of Lincoln Park, the shortlist includes architecture teams led by Fentress, SOM, and Pei Cobb Freed. Stay tuned as we learn the fates of all of these projects.
Los Angeles–based artist Cliff Garten has just completed his latest commission: Ribbons, a series of landscapes and sculptures in the courtyard of the Beaux-Arts 50 United Nations Plaza in San Francisco. The symmetrical design riffs on the existing structure's classical uniformity by inserting a sculptural collage of paving, seating, fountains, and plantings into the building's 20,000 square foot courtyard. Curving concrete pavers are set into a larger surface of decomposed granite, while cast concrete benches twist as if made of rubber, appearing to lift out of the ground pattern. "Concrete is great. I think I have finally found my medium for infrastructure," said Garten, who noted that he's hoping to develop a line of street furniture with the manufacturer Quick Crete. The project was commissioned by the General Services Administration's Art in Architecture Program, which sets aside a half percent of construction funds for federal projects for art. See more pictures below.
California Republicans (yes, there are a few, we think), your leader has arrived. After a multiyear battle, Mitt Romney has finally gotten permission to tear down their existing beachfront house and build an 11,000-square-foot mansion in La Jolla. Although it was approved in 2008 by the California Coastal Commission, neighbors were able to stymie the project—questioning whether it exceeded square footage allowances—until commissioners upheld their approval. According to the Los Angeles Times, the home is more than four times larger than the median house in the area. (As is this house by Zaha Hadid also planned for La Jolla.) It’s proof that Mitt truly loves the earth. And exploiting resources on top of it.
Beyond the Assignment: Defining Photos of Architecture and Design Julius Shulman Institute 7500 Glenoaks Boulevard, Burbank, CA Through November 1 Beyond the Assignment celebrates the work of ten of today’s leading architectural photographers in the United States who draw inspiration from their image-making predecessors, such as Julius Shulman and Ezra Stoller. The exhibition, curated by Bilyana Dimitrova, is being showcased at the Woodbury University Hollywood Gallery, and will be running from October 5 to November 1. Our experience of architecture is so often shaped by the photographers who document it. These photographers move “beyond the assignment,” helping to immortalize and define architecture and the built environment. Beyond the Assignment pays homage to this fact, casting a spotlight on an art form of great power that is too often overlooked. Featured photographers include Peter Aaron, Bilyana Dimitrova, Joe Fletcher, Timothy Hursley, Alan Karchmer, Jon Miller/Hedrich Blessing, Tim Street-Porter, Undine Prohl, Paul Warchol, and Lara Swimmer.
Last Thursday in his keynote address to the Transit Oriented Los Angeles conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of the "Great Streets Initiative." In an executive directive—his first since taking office on June 30—Garcetti outlined a program that "will focus on developing streets that activate the public realm, provide economic revitalization, and support great neighborhoods." Garcetti defined "great streets" as accessible and walkable, with landscaping, shade, larger sidewalks, improved storm water drainage and green features. Turning to aesthetics, Garcetti said simply: "design matters." Los Angeles' streets should make room for sculptures and murals, and not just functional components, he argued. The "Great Streets Working Group" will direct the initiative. Led by Garcetti's Deputy Mayor of City Services, the gathering will include representatives of Departments of Planning, Cultural Affairs, Transportation, and Economic & Workforce Development, plus the Department of Public Works's Bureaus of Engineering, Street Services, Street Lighting, and Sanitation. Their first task will be to develop a plan in which 40 streets are identified for upgrades.
In Palo Alto, California, the city council recently approved a proposal (9-0) to alter the city's building code, requiring new homes to install wiring for electric car charging stations. Pre-wiring for the 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations costs about $200, while many homes in the city sell for over $1 million. The proposal would also make it easier for homeowners to get permits to retrofit their homes for the charging stations. (Photo: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr)While some fear the city is overstepping its boundaries, and that electric cars may not be the way of the future, supporters see this as a viable step closer toward more sustainable neighborhoods and cities by lowering greenhouse gases, in targeting the infrastructure of where we live first. Last year, Vancouver passed a similar ordinance requiring electric car charging stations in several types of residences. Here's a detailed checklist from the City of Palo Alto with the requirements for installing a home car charging station. And here's a roundup of which cities around the world have the most electric cars.