The Boring Company has released yet another underground transit proposal for Los Angeles. Wednesday night, embattled Boring Company CEO Elon Musk announced the so-called Dugout Loop, a proposed “zero-emissions, high-speed, underground public transportation system” that could potentially ferry passengers between the Red Line subway and Dodgers Stadium. The company released a series of possible proposals, with variations on route length and station origination point. The ultimate aim of the proposal is to improve travel times between the East Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Rampart Village neighborhoods and the stadium, which is roughly 3.6-miles away. Boring Company estimates that the proposed loop would be able to complete a one-way trip in roughly four minutes and carry between 1,400 and 2,800 passengers per day, roughly the same number as are currently transported by the express Metro buses that currently operate between the stadium and Union Station using dedicated bus lanes. Here’s the hitch: Unlike conventional transportation systems that convey passengers in both directions simultaneously, Musk’s link would only be able to operate in one direction at a time. The limiting arrangement is a result of the small diameter tunnel that is being proposed for the route, similar to that of other Boring Company tunnels proposed for western Los Angeles and Chicago. The proposal comes after a week of questionable business decisions and erratic tweetstorms from Musk, and as L.A.’s Metro makes plans to embrace a proposed $125 million gondola system connecting the Union Station in Downtown L.A. with the stadium. Backers for the gondola plan include former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt; Estimates for the transit link indicate the gondolas could ferry as many as 5,000 passengers per hour, with traffic moving in both directions simultaneously. Musk recently drew criticism and accusations of project “segmenting” for bypassing environmental review as the Boring Company attempts to move forward with a portion of a proposed Hyperloop route through L.A.’s Westside neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups outraged by the effort successfully sued to block the project. The proposal also comes as the Boring Company faces legal challenges for a similarly-vague proposal issued for Chicago that would link the city with O’Hare Airport.
Posts tagged with "City of Los Angeles":
Activists in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit in a last-ditch effort to halt the pending demolition of the city’s defunct former police headquarters, Parker Center. Representatives of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Healthy Housing Foundation, and the Coalition to Preserve LA held a press conference Wednesday morning announcing the new suit, the latest effort in a long-running battle to save the vacant, 300,000-square-foot, International Style complex. The organizations have filed a suit to stop the building’s demolition and to compel the City of Los Angeles to instead convert the structure into a 700-bed temporary housing shelter. The debate began last year as efforts to landmark the structure took off against a backdrop of fierce community opposition to saving the tower. The complex was considered for Historic-Cultural Landmark status but the Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of razing the structure instead, choosing to make space for a new office tower being planned in conjunction with a new masterplan for the surrounding Civic Center area. The Parker Center complex was designed by architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates in 1955 as a state-of-the-art headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department and was used as a backdrop in the television series Dragnet, a police procedural drama from the 1950s focused on the intricacies of police detective work. The organizations filing suit allege that the City has misrepresented the costs associated with converting the building into a shelter relative to its demolition costs. Further, the group accuses the City of using gassed up figures in its feasibility determination. The City of L.A.’s estimates put the shelter conversion at over $295 million, while an estimate commissioned by AHF indicates that a conversion would cost roughly $102 million. In a statement announcing the lawsuit, Michael Weinstein, President of AHF sad, “City officials are padding their estimate to rehab and repurpose Parker Center as housing because they are bound and determined to tear it down.” Weinstein added, “It is a horrible waste of public funds and shows a lack of interest in the cost-effective use of existing resources at a time when the crisis of homelessness in Los Angeles rages on largely unabated.” The replacement 27-story “luxury office tower” being proposed would cost at least $900 million to build, making it the most expensive municipal office building in the country if constructed. The question of whether to save Parker Center has exposed old, unhealed wounds among several local constituencies, especially for the residents of the surrounding Little Tokyo neighborhood, some of whom saw their properties and businesses taken by force when officials were originally planning and consolidating the Civic Center district in the 1950s. Members of L.A.’s African American and Latino communities detest the building, as well, and see its existence as an extension of the city’s traumatic legacy of racist policing tactics. A judge has yet to hear the case, but current plans called for demolition on the tower to begin as early as August 20. It is unclear if that timeline is still on track.
United Talent Agency (UTA) will be moving their Los Angeles art space from Boyle Heights to a former warehouse in Beverly Hills this summer with an architectural overhaul designed by their own client, renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.UTA opened their first art space in 2016 after founding a fine arts division to represent high-profile artists in 2015. While getting some positive press from art world critics, the space, along with a number of other L.A. galleries, received flack and community pushback for contributing to gentrification in the Eastside. Perhaps it is then fitting that UTA Artist Space will be relocating to Beverly Hills, taking over a 4,000-square-foot former diamond-tooling facility. Ai’s yet-to-be-released design is inspired in part by the architectural similarities of the concrete Los Angeles warehouse to his own Beijing studio. This is hardly Ai’s first foray into architecture. The artist has collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron on more than one occasion, including on major commissions like the Beijing National Stadium (commonly referred to as the “bird’s nest”) and the firm’s 2012 Serpentine pavilion. Ai has also collaborated with other firms on architectural projects and, since 2003, has run his own architecture firm FAKE Design. While Ai himself will exhibit a series of new marble works at the new UTA Artist Space this October, the gallery will open in July with a color field-focused show entitled One Shot featuring the work of Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, Kenneth Noland, Sam Gilliam, and Jules Olitski, among others.
Does it make a sense to put an architecture critic in charge of urban design? The question came to mind this March when the Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne announced he was leaving his post to become the new chief design officer for the City of Los Angeles. The position, Hawthorne explained, would be geared toward elevating “the quality of public architecture and urban design across the city—and the level of civic conversation about those subjects” overall. Currently, the city has billions of dollars allocated for a wide range of transformative civic projects, including new and improved parks ($130 million), transit expansion ($120 billion), Vision Zero reforms ($90 million), and new supportive housing ($1.2 billion). This windfall comes as the restoration of the L.A. River takes shape, the city densifies, and officials update the city plan for the first time in decades in the face of raging housing affordability and homelessness crises. Hawthorne’s new role in the coming drama centers squarely on the question of what function design should play in these transformations and how a critic can contribute constructively toward making positive changes for the average resident. Will the design he oversees look past mere aesthetics and delve into the structural issues of synergistic function, equity, and longevity? Or will Hawthorne’s tenure serve to further institutionalize the exclusionary tastes of the city’s homeowners? At a time when Los Angeles is undergoing such massive change, there is no question whether elevating the public’s engagement with civic architecture is a worthwhile pursuit. And though it is not without precedent to elevate a critic to city hall, it does stand to question, however, why Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, having a world-class roster of designers to choose from in his own backyard, did not select an architect for the role. Would a designer be better equipped for the job? I think so. For one, though critics can distill insightful, opinionated commentary from today’s cultural moments, their skillset diverges—and actually falls short—of the specific, forward-thinking ethos that is necessary to envision successful public space at the scale of a city. A designer’s work, on the other hand, combines interdisciplinary education, rigorous professional experience, and a knowledge of process and necessary prerequisites like zoning and fire code to envision open-ended plans for inhabitation and use. That is, designers use their skills and understanding as tools to look toward a future that is possible but has not yet come to pass. The process can be scaled and when done adeptly, beauty is a natural byproduct of these efforts. Secondly, L.A. is living through a time that demands leaders who have a long-range and open-ended vision for the city. But there is reason to worry, because contemporary Los Angeles—and broader America, for that matter—is driven by cultural regression. Backward-facing NIMBYism, a refusal to value vulnerable lives, and an understandable reluctance on the part of marginalized communities to accept new investments for fear of displacement reign supreme. Reflecting this regression, a dangerous “both sides”-ism has been adopted by incumbents, as evidenced by Garcetti’s unwillingness to push for multifamily housing in single-family zones and by the nearly $8 billion in transit funding going toward highway-widening across the region. A designer would be well-equipped to deliver progress in the face of ignorant nostalgia. I would hope Hawthorne understands that designs suited for the retrograde tastes of today are incompatible with future L.A. needs. It stands to question whether Hawthorne’s boss—a second-term mayor with his eye on the presidency—is prepared to make the politically courageous and culturally iconoclastic reforms necessary to not only get the job done, but to get the job done well. Distressingly, in his final column and in interviews since, Hawthorne has already adopted some of the mayor’s conciliatory language toward these groups by cautioning against “banal and oversize new apartment blocks,” and proposing to fight for an “economy” first and foremost. Instead of coming out swinging, it appears the former critic has already acquiesced to the exclusionary mediocrity that already defines so much of the city’s built fabric. Does Hawthorne have what it takes to stand up to his politically timid boss?
Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne has been named chief officer of design for the City of Los Angeles. Hawthorne‘s appointment comes at the end of a 14-year tenure with the LA Times that has been marked by a pointed and persistent emphasis on the changing nature of Los Angeles urbanism. In a post announcing his new job with the city, Hawthorne said, “what links quintessential Los Angeles design is a marriage of optimism to pragmatism, of experimentation to economy.” News of Hawthorne’s change in job title comes as the region and the city grapple with an ever-increasing housing affordability crisis, a worsening homelessness epidemic, and as the city repairs to host the 2028 Olympic games. Hawthorne will have his work cut out for him, as there is no shortage of major infrastructural projects—or public funding—that could be made better from being inspected by someone with a discerning eye for design. Among other projects, the city is continuing to build out its nascent mass transit system, planning for high-speed rail, working on new zoning guidelines, and is aiming to fulfill its so far unreachable goal of eliminating pedestrian traffic deaths via its Vision Zero plan. In his new role, Hawthorne will focus on assisting other City of Los Angeles officials like Deborah Weintraub at the Bureau of Engineering and Seleta Reynolds at the Department of Transportation in their efforts to imbue progressive design qualities in the new civic and infrastructural works being built across the city. The role comes as a natural progression for Hawthorne, who has spent years working on understanding and communicating the changes Los Angeles is undergoing as it matures into the 21st century. Though it might seem strange to have a journalist and critic ascend to City Hall from the newsroom, Hawthorne would not be the first to make such a move. In the early 2000s, Chicago Sun-Times design critic Lee Bey made a similar move, jumping ship from the newspaper to become deputy chief of staff for urban design under Chicago mayor William M. Daley. Hawthorne, a Berkeley, California native, earned a bachelor’s degree from Yale. Prior to his work with the Los Angeles times Hawthorne was architecture critic for Slate. Hawthorne is expected to join the Garcetti administration next month.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Atelier Zumthor have unveiled new renderings for the institution’s planned $600 million expansion. According to a Draft Environmental Impact Report produced by the design and development team, the forthcoming 390,000-square-foot expansion aims to demolish the entirety of the existing William Pereira–designed campus, including a 1986 addition by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer done in the postmodern style. The proposed changes would leave in place the 2008 Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum addition as well as the Japanese Pavilion by Bruce Goff from 1988. Despite its hefty price tag and the sacrifice of several key works of late modern and postmodern architecture, Zumthor’s proposal will generate a net loss in gallery space for the institution. According to the impact report, the new museum will contain 390,000 square feet of space, roughly 5,000 square feet fewer than the current configuration. Instead, the new museum will be designed as a singular mega-gallery carved up into differently-sized rooms. The configuration will sit roughly 20 feet above street level and is currently designed to span across Wilshire Boulevard. The elevated galleries—treated in Zumthor’s well-worn, board-formed concrete aesthetic—will be accessible via seven circulation piers and a pair of monumental staircases that connect the galleries to the ground. The mega-gallery will be wrapped in perimeter circulation and expanses of clear glass. Renderings for the complex depict the south- and west-facing blob to achieve solar shading via low-cost means: southern sun will be shaded by a deep roof overhang while interior curtains will do their best to block out western glare. The museum will touch down across the street where the circulation pod will house an amphitheater. There are several questions surrounding the project, especially with regard to how the structure will span over Wilshire Boulevard. Renderings depict a highway overpass-reminiscent quality to the spaces below the over-Wilshire span, with open glass areas along the amphitheater side. The draft report indicates that the designers are pursuing an option that would contain the development entirely on the northern side of Wilshire Boulevard, however. Either way, with a subway line currently going in underneath the street, and the unstable, tar- and fossil-heavy soils occupying the current museum site, the project will surely be a boon to the project’s engineers. Plans call for the proposal to undergo further review over the next several months. Construction is expected to begin sometime in late 2018, with the final museum completed in 2023.
Frederick Fischer & Partners (FFP) and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum (NHM) have unveiled initial conceptual designs for an ambitious 485,000-square-foot expansion and modernization plan for the museum that aims to reorient the complex amid increased development in Exposition Park. The 104-year-old institution wrapped up a previous modernization plan in 2013 that produced a new wing designed by CO Architects as well as 3.5 acres of updated performative landscape designs by Mia Lehrer + Associates. The FFP-designed addition will boost the museum’s overall square footage by an additional 60,000 square feet over current designs. Initial renderings for the FFP expansion depict a three-story, glass-clad structure rising along the western edge of the historic NHM building. The new addition will be designed with the intent of creating visual porosity between the institution and the surrounding park lands, an increasingly-important aim as the museum and the new expansion will soon be flanked by the forthcoming MAD Architects–designed Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. To better connect with Lucas Museum visitors, FFP’s addition will feature a ground floor atrium wrapped in double-height, operable walls that can open and close with the institution’s needs. The building’s uppermost level is depicted in early renderings with a rooftop terrace containing a restaurant that is open on two sides while other areas appear more generic in nature. The addition is wrapped in a grid of square-framed curtain wall sections that give way to the double-height entry lobby along the southern facade. A key component of the expansion includes the addition of new theater facilities to “serve as a meeting space for dialogue about critical issues affecting our natural and cultural worlds, and as a vital gathering place for the community and neighborhoods around Exposition Park,” a press release announcing the expansion states. In the statement, Frederick Fisher, design principal and founder of FFP said, “What I find thrilling about the [NHM], in addition to its amazing collections and wonderful presentations, is the way it serves as a point of focus for the diverse communities that gather there, and as an intersection between these communities and the museum’s activities.” The NHM addition comes amid sweeping change for one of L.A.’s marquee urban parks. Aside from the addition of the Lucas Museum, the park will soon host the new Banc of California soccer stadium designed by Gensler for the Los Angeles Football Club. Development is booming in surrounding areas as well, fueling community displacement amid a regional housing and transportation crisis. Exposition Park is currently in the process soliciting proposals for a new master plan for the park as the Office of Exposition Park Management seeks to prepare the park for the addition of new facilities as well as for the central role it will play in the 2028 Olympic Games. FFP is also currently developing a long-term facilities plan for the museum that will guide further design efforts for the expansion.
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.
Los Angeles voters resoundingly defeated a proposed initiative that would have strictly limited new construction in the city yesterday, dealing a death-blow to the region’s nascent Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) movement. The measure, known popularly as the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, but represented on the ballot as Measure S, went down in defeat after garnering only 31.2% of votes cast. The initiative, which proposed freezing development in the city for two years on projects that require discretionary approval by city agencies, was widely denounced across the city’s pro-development and pro-housing communities as a project-killer that would have not only halted the continued development of market-rate projects across the city but would have also ground to a halt much of the development associated with affordable, supportive, and transitional housing projects, as well. The initiative was strongly opposed by city leadership, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. The pro-Measure S campaign courted controversy in recent weeks as it sent out misleading campaign materials to city residents implying that the mayor was actually in support of the initiative. Campaign organizers—the initiative was almost entirely funded by the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation—also sent out English language mailers styled after eviction notices that caused caused confusion and panic among the city’s non-English-speaking communities. Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and anti-Measure S advocate, told The Los Angeles Times, “Defeating Measure S has spared our city from a future that would've meant fewer jobs, fewer funds for critical public services, fewer new homes for those who desperately need them, and even less affordable rents.” Measure S stoked much anxiety among the development community and forced developers of several projects to rush ahead with formal filings with the city to prevent being precluded from moving forward should the initiative have passed. Now that Measure S has been soundly defeated, however, developers can likely take a breath. Voters also approved Measure H, a ballot initiative aimed at raising Los Angeles County’s sales tax by half of a percent in order to fund the development of new units of transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals. Plans for the measure have yet to be worked out, but advertising for the initiative indicated that the increased funding would help transition 45,000 families into stable housing and prevent an estimated 30,000 more families from losing their dwellings through new housing assistance. The passage of Measure H—passed with 67% of voters supporting the measure—follows the success of the City of Los Angeles’s Measure HHH during November’s election. That measure called for the city to raise $1.2 billion in bonds to build 10,000 units of new supportive and transitional affordable housing across the city. As the favorable news for Measure H came across the wires last night, Phil Ansell, head of L.A. County’s Homeless Initiative told the Los Angeles Times, “Measure H revenue will enable the most comprehensive plan to combat homelessness in the history of Los Angeles County.” Last night’s results, coupled with the passage of Measure HHH and Measure M, a county-wide transportation initiative aimed at vastly expanding the region’s public transit system, indicate that Los Angeles is embracing urbanism and densification with a renewed vigor. The success of these measures—and the dismal failure of Measure S—indicates to city leaders what many have known for long, that Los Angeles is vastly under-developed and is in serious need of increased transit-oriented development, especially affordable housing. Signs point to L.A.’s mayor supporting the popular calls for urban investment. Following Garcetti’s re-election win last night, the mayor told local affiliate NBC4, "We always have to ask: What voices aren't we hearing? Who don't we see? Who feels defensive right now? And stop thinking about the most powerful man in the country and start thinking about the most vulnerable people in our city."
Los Angeles County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is planning to debut the first pilot phase of a new bike share system for the region in Downtown Los Angeles on July 7th. The initial roll out will feature 1,000 BCycle 2.0 bicycles accessible from 65 stations distributed across the downtown area. Metro plans to expand the fledgling system in the coming years, with up to an additional 7,000 bicycles planned for the entire system. Under this plan, Pasadena to the northeast will get Metro's bike sharing system next year, followed by Koreatown and University Park to the west by 2018, Hollywood to northwest by 2019, and other areas including North Hollywood, East Los Angeles, and Venice by 2020. Metro granted an $11-million contract to a partnership between bike share system provider Bicycle Transit Systems and BCycle, itself partnership between Trek Bicycle Corporation, health insurance provider Humana, and advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The system utilizes BCycle’s 2.0 model, an update of the model originally utilized in recently-developed bike share systems in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Fargo, North Dakota, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Denver, Colorado. The 2.0 model features a lightweight aluminum frame and includes a front basket as well as a protected chain and rust-proof components. The bicycle is designed to be heavily used in public settings and permanently live outdoors. The 1.0 model was made of steel and clocked in at 55 pounds; the 2.0’s aluminum frame is ten pounds lighter by comparison, lowering the cruiser’s weight to a still-hefty 45 pounds. Ryan Callahan, BCycle’s Senior Industrial Designer responsible for the design of the bikes and stations, told AN over telephone, “We referenced traditional street furniture by making (the bike stations) large and tall and incorporating solar energy masts, as well as wayfinding graphics and a map and ad panel. We wanted it to look natural, like it belongs on the street.” With its bike share system, Metro aims to make two-wheeled transportation a more viable option for closing the gap between the “first and last mile” between Metro commuters’ destinations. In a press release from Metro, Mark Ridley-Thomas, L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board Chair said, “Marrying bicycle and transit trips will go a long way in supporting healthy lifestyles, easing traffic on downtown streets and, perhaps most importantly, getting Angelenos where they need to go in an efficient and affordable manner.” In a heavily automobile-dependent region, there were 88 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in 2013, so safety will be essential if the system is to be successful as a viable means of transportation for city residents. This effort comes on the heels of a steady expansion of the city’s bicycle infrastructure, including Downtown L.A. councilperson Jose Huizar’s DTLA Forward initiative, which plans to add curbside bicycle lanes to several major downtown thoroughfares, the Vision Downtown pedestrianization plan, and the completion of many neighborhood-specific Civic LAvia open streets festivals.
The Lawrence Residence, a historically significant Late Modern/Deconstructivist four-story home in Los Angeles designed by Pritzker Prize winner L.A.-based Thom Mayne of Morphosis and Michael Rotondi is now on the market for $5 million. The slender house is close to ten feet over the current height limit, which makes it the tallest home in Hermosa Beach. It contains lots of signature Morphosis materials, like stainless steel and concrete, with a focus on geometric forms, clean lines, and natural lighting. The 4,000-square-foot house features expansive windows with water views towards Malibu. There are three bedrooms and three bathrooms, but perhaps the most striking feature is the three-story atrium with brick glass. To maximize views, the Morphosis designers placed the dining and living spaces on the top floor. There is also an elevator and two fireplaces. (Though we must ask, does it really get that cold in L.A.?) “[The Lawrence Residence] features simple, pure lines that emphasize its verticality and upended-rectangle shape, and is clad in zinc-coated stainless steel for an efficient, industrial look. The simple front facade conceals the gabled roof of a volume that looks like a single-family house partially encased within the Deconstructivist design,” writes the Los Angeles Conservancy. The house, designed in 1984, emphasized the verticality of apartment living into a single family home, echoing the scale of the surrounding mixed-use waterfront neighborhood. Daly Genik Architects renovated some parts of the interior in 2002.
AC Martin is one step closer to completing L.A.’s newest and tallest tower. As workers and business executives in hardhats scribbled optimistic phrases like “we did it!” and “one year left to go” onto a massive wide flange beam, Wilshire Grand Tower, LA's soon-to-be tallest spire, topped out Tuesday afternoon at a gregarious ceremony hosted by Turner Construction and AC Martin, the tower’s chief contractor and architect, respectively, and Korean Air, developer of the project. Crew members cheered as cranes lifted the final beam into place, 892 feet up, completing the structure’s core and leaving only the tower’s top floors and spire to be constructed. The ceremony, attended by many of the 800 workers rapidly assembling the west coast’s newest homage to high strength concrete and glass, included a barbecue lunch prepared on site that filled the surrounding business district with the wafting scent of mesquite. The event was celebratory in nature, with team members, executives, and elected officials posing for photos as journalists surveyed the cavernous rib cage of the building’s future shopping plaza along Figueroa Street. According to Turner Construction’s website, when completed, Wilshire Grand will host 20 floors of Class A office (400,000 square feet) and a 42 story hotel consisting of 900 suites. The aforementioned 400,000 square feet of podium along Figueroa is set to include ballrooms, meeting halls, pedestrian-oriented retail, and a 1,250-spot parking garage. The structure is the first building to rise since L.A.’s City Council overturned a 40 year fire safety rule mandating flat-topped skyscrapers in the city. Wilshire Grand Tower, rising to 1,099 feet in height, will also the first to employ a concrete core instead of a prototypical steel frame. This novel (for Los Angeles) roof shape will contain a sky lobby, observatory, sky pool deck, and restaurants. The building, set to rank as the second tallest building west of the Mississippi River upon completion (taller than San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower, but shorter than Seattle’s 4/C Tower), is due to finish construction in early 2017.