Beverly Hills gained a vacant lot this week as crews demolished the former Robinsons-May department store at 9900 Wilshire Boulevard. The four-story, marble-clad building, designed by Charles O. Matcham, Charles Luckman, and William Pereira in 1952 with interiors by Raymond Loewy and Associates, was retailer J.W. Robinson’s first store in suburban Los Angeles. The fate of the site, which is for sale for the fourth time since Robinsons-May closed in 2006, remains uncertain. The first developers to take control of the property, New Pacific Realty, commissioned Richard Meier to design two 14- to 16-story condominium towers to replace the mid-century modern store. Subsequent owners Christian and Nicholas Candy promised to fulfill some version of Meier’s plan, but they defaulted on the project in 2008. Hong Kong firm Joint Treasure International purchased the site and the Meier design in 2010, but nothing happened until this month, when they decided to go ahead with demolition despite having listed the property for sale. Preservationists are mourning the demise of yet another Beverly Hills landmark. “The razing of the Robinsons-May building is a tragic loss for Beverly Hills,” said Beverly Hills Heritage’s Robert Switzer. “Not only was it a superb example of mid-century architecture, it stood as an elegant gateway structure at the west boundary of the city, beautiful in its own right without distracting from the view of another important building of the same period immediately adjacent to it, the Beverly Hilton hotel.” Beverly Hills, previously without preservation laws of any kind, adopted an historic preservation ordinance in 2012, too late to save Robinsons-May. “Had Beverly Hills enacted its preservation ordinance before a demolition permit for Robinsons-May was filed, I suspect that the City would have made every effort to save the building,” said Switzer. “Sadly, permits issued before the ordinance’s enactment could not be revoked. Moreover, the approval of the permit and redevelopment plans were transferable to the new owner, who chose to act on it.” Switzer worries that a contemporary high-rise development would disrupt the community’s urban fabric. “While it remains unclear whether the Richard Meier design will be constructed, any tall buildings on this site will be a jarring break in the smooth height transition that existed from the golf course on the west, past Robinsons-May to the Beverly Hilton,” he said. “It will be a less welcoming entrance into Beverly Hills.”
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An update to our story from yesterday: Northwestern University released many more images from the three candidates vying to build a successor to the site previously occupied by Bertrand Goldberg’s old Prentice Women’s Hospital. The new images include floor plans, interior renderings, and additional elevations of the three buildings. The three finalists whose designs now go to the Northwestern board of trustees for a decision are: Goettsch Partners and Ballinger; Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture and Payette; and Perkins+Will. Construction is expected to start in 2015, with the approximately 1.2 million square feet phased in over time. Prentice Women's Hospital, the building previously occupying 333 E. Superior St., was the subject of a heated and ultimately doomed preservation effort. Demolition on the distinctive cloverleaf structure began in October. Peruse the full galleries here: Goettsch/Ballinger; AS+GG/Payette; Perkins+Will.
For 1475 years, the colossal dome and four minarets of the Hagia Sofia have remained the focus of Istanbul’s historic silhouette. That is, until three hulking towers known as the OnaltiDokuz Residences interrupted the scene last summer, sparking another battle over development in the Turkish capital. In late May, the Hurriyet Daily News reported that the city’s 4th Administrative Court ordered the demolition of the skyscrapers, claiming that their construction was illegal because it "negatively affected the world heritage site that the Turkish government was obliged to protect." To guard against future infractions, this Wednesday the Turkish Parliament passed legislation calling for additional safeguards nationwide to protect historic areas from rapid urbanization. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed his distaste for high-rise development within the city in the past, and urged the towers’ owner, Mesut Toprak, to shorten his skyscrapers. The three towers, coming in at 37, 32, and 27 stories, are located in the Zeytinburnu district on the European side of Istanbul, and represent a recent surge in unplanned building and urbanization that is going on throughout the historic city. While the city’s economic upswing is welcomed, the non-contextual form it has taken is not. The public has reacted positively to the demolition ruling, but many worry that there is little hope in curbing the buildup at this point. “I side with a form of architecture that accords with our culture,” said Erdogan in an address to local lawmakers last month. “In Istanbul and Ankara, there are structures that have gone against the characters of both cities. I don’t approve of vertical structures; rather I favor horizontal ones. Four stories should be above the ground, while the other four should be built underground.” This comes in stark contrast to other cities like London and Washington, D.C. that are grappling with potentially raising height limits to allow for greater density and new development. Meanwhile, the towers’ owners plan to seek an appeal, claiming that they complied with zoning regulations and that their project is in no way illegal.
The top brass in the field of design have long supported preserving Chicago’s Old Prentice Women's Hospital. Now proposals to save the embattled Bertrand Goldberg building may have economics on their side, too, according to a new report commissioned by advocates who hope to convince owner Northwestern University not to demolish the four-pronged curvilinear tower. Jim Peters, former Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, led the Save Prentice coalition Thursday. Placing the building in the context of architectural landmarks as catalysts for economic development, the group revealed several “counter-proposals” for reuse and an economic impact study that found reusing Prentice and building elsewhere onsite or nearby would generate "significant upfront and ongoing economic benefits." They accepted the University’s economic stipulations as a baseline; Northwestern has stated its proposal to demolish Old Prentice Women’s Hospital and rebuild onsite would create 2,500 temporary construction jobs, 2,000 permanent jobs, and $390 million annually in net economic impact for the city. Those benchmarks were cited by the landmarks commission and community groups urging demolition. The proposals presented Thursday by Save Prentice promised to deliver those same economic benefits from new buildings constructed onsite and across the street on another vacant property owned by Northwestern. They also claimed rehabilitation of the Goldberg structure would generate an additional $103 million in one-time expenditures, $155 million annually in operating costs, $1.1 million in yearly tax revenue, and create 980 new jobs. “Prentice is an additive element,” said Christina Morris of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “You only get more by including it.” The four proposals include a master-planning approach for Prentice and the surrounding area, a 36-story tower cantilevered partway over Superior Street to the North (which would require air rights from the city), and a curved tower that frames Prentice from the northwest corner of the site. Kujawa Architecture’s proposal provides “a distinct visual marker of the biomedical research corridor,” according to principal Casimir Kujawa. After a procedurally questionable snub from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in November, preservationists sued to obtain temporary landmark status for Prentice. Their victory surprised some observers, many of whom had written off preservationists’ chances when Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he supported Northwestern’s demolition plans. On the heels of the court’s decision, which called for more time for public consideration of preservation and reuse options, the Chicago Architectural Club, CAF, and AIA Chicago unveiled the winners of their competition imagining alternate uses for the mostly vacant building. The winning entry by Cyril Marsollier and Wallo Villacorta was included in the counter-proposals released Thursday. “It’s not too late,” Peters said. “The building still exists.”