Posts tagged with "Downtown LA":

Placeholder Alt Text

SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day

The new Los Angeles U.S. District Courthouse is located downtown midway between City Hall and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and it’s a worthy companion to those exemplary civic landmarks. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) won the competition four years ago with a simple yet powerful design: A cube of folded glass that seems to float above a recessed base. The nine upper floors are suspended from a multi-dimensional roof truss system supported on four structural cores—a strategy that halves the amount of steel a conventional building requires and makes it more resistant to a blast than one supported on columns. Architects and the Clark Construction Group collaborated on a design-build program that brought the building to completion in 40 months, and it expects to secure LEED Platinum rating.

Few buildings achieve so much, so quickly, and SOM has made a significant contribution to the renaissance of Downtown L.A., which is still a work in progress. A park designed by OMA and Mia Lehrer + Associates will occupy the long-vacant block fronting City Hall, and a Frank Gehry–designed mixed-use complex, repeatedly delayed, may soon begin construction to the west across from Disney Concert Hall.

As SOM design partner Craig Hartman explained, “We began with the concept of a courthouse that had the appropriate scale and massing and strengthened the civic axis of First Street. The facades had to achieve transparency and clarity of expression, qualities that express what Americans hope to get from the justice system.”

To exploit the drop of 25 feet from Hill Street to Broadway, the building was raised so that—as Hartman noted—the topography flows under it and it stands apart, accessed by steps on three sides and by ramps that slice up through gardens to either side of the entry. Steel bollards provide an unobtrusive security perimeter. The downtown grid is 38 degrees off from a true north-south orientation, which complicated the architects’ task of protecting the facades from solar gain. Rather than rotate the building, they folded the glass. About 1,600 chevron-shaped units of high-performance, blast-resistant glass were craned into place, and nearly all of them have an inner baffle on the side that receives direct sunlight. That cuts solar gain by half, and a rooftop array of photovoltaic panels further reduces energy consumption. The elegance of the detailing at the corners and along the upper and lower edges is the product of intensive research by SOM, which constructed full-scale mock-ups and worked closely with curtain wall manufacturer Benson Industries.

The upper stories are cantilevered 28 feet over an entry plaza, shading people who are waiting to pass through the security barrier inside the glass doors. From there, they emerge into a soaring atrium with south-facing baffles that channel light down to all 10 levels, including the 24 courtrooms on floors five through ten. “The whole building is about light,” said José Luis Palacios, design director at SOM with Paul Danna. The courtrooms are lit from clerestories facing in and out to achieve a harmonious balance. United States Marshals deputies share the third floor with the holding area for the accused. The 32 judicial chambers occupy the periphery with sweeping views of the city. Artworks, including a multi-level work by Catherine Opie, enhance the minimalist interior.

The public has free access to the upper floors and to a tree-shaded patio in back, which is flanked by low, meticulously detailed glass wings. Jurors gather in one and a cafe occupies the other. Many cases are settled by mediation, even on the day scheduled for a trial, and there are breakout areas with comfortable seating on three upper levels to accommodate these encounters. Only a small amount of artificial light is required and this is provided by energy-efficient LEDs.

The architects’ main client was the General Services Administration, whose Design Excellence Program has done much to enhance the quality of federal architecture country-wide. But SOM also worked with a committee of judges, headed by Justice Margaret M. Morrow, who enunciated 10 guiding principles for the design of the courtrooms. “Decorum, fairness and equality are the essentials and those haven’t changed very much over the years,” explained Hartman. “But judges have different opinions on how to express those qualities and it’s surprising how much latitude there is in the layout. Judge and jury need to see the face of a witness, but where are they all to sit?”

To refine its design and win approval from the judges, SOM did a full-scale mock-up of their courtroom, which groups all the parties closely together. Sidewalls clad in ribbed gypsum reinforced plaster assure good acoustics, for audibility is the highest priority of all. A tilted ceiling diffuses the natural light, and every position—including the raised dais of the judge—is wheelchair accessible.

“America’s civic buildings offer a permanent record of our democracy’s values, challenges, and aspirations,” declared Hartman at the opening. Though the SOM courthouse is a demonstration of these ideals, the reality is that ever fewer Americans can afford a day in court, given the dizzying rise of legal costs. That’s the next big case for judges and legal associations to ponder.

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 area and discover new, exciting projects wherever you go! See our HoverPin layer here and download the app from the Apple Store.

Placeholder Alt Text

From fortress to town square: Los Angeles launches a competition to remake Pershing Square

Ricardo Legorreta’s much maligned design for Pershing Square is getting a makeover. The day after the Los Angeles City Council voted to support a public-private partnership to overhaul the five-acre urban park, councilmember José Huizar and Pershing Square Renew announced an international design competition geared to rethink the open space that now sits ingloriously on top of an underground parking garage. The design competition grew out of a task force established by Huizar, which members of the design, development, and policy communities, including Macarlane Partners, Gensler, NBBJ, JFM Development, LA Recreation & Parks, and the Urban Land Institute. MacFarlane Partners, which is developing 99,000 square-foot site overlooking the square, pledged $1 million pledge to seed Pershing Square Renew. The Department of Recreation and Parks earmarked $1 million for “immediate future for infrastructure improvements and amenities.” In 2013, AN published a series of renderings by Gensler of a reimagined Pershing Square. Rather than being an early entry into the contest, that design was a catalyst for recognizing the space’s potential. The firm is now the Urban Design Advisor to Pershing Square Renew and cannot participate in the competition. Remarks by Huizar at a city hall press conference emphasized the need for community input at every stage of the design process. The stakeholders in Downtown Los Angeles in 2015 are vastly different from 1992 when Legoretta’s project opened. The goal is to make the square more welcoming and accessible to all users. Because there are more residents and businesses downtown, the competition brief stresses that the park needs to accommodate a number of uses at any time of day or night. In early 2015, Project for Public Spaces hosted a series of outreach events and workshops, and a report of activities and programmatic vision is included as part of the competition brief materials. “The architecture doesn’t support use now,” said Huizar of Legorreta’s belltower and brightly colored walls. Frustrated at how “fortress-like” the existing park seems, he hopes instead for a town square. “Use informs design, not design informs use,” he noted. The brief and accompanying report suggests that proposed designs could incorporate surrounding roadways and sidewalks, with occasional street closures for events. One challenge for all design proposals is how to tackle the ramps leading into the parking structure; a hurdle that Gensler’s Brian Glodney described as “Like a moat.” The competition also raises some tough questions about the role of architecture in relationship to placemaking and community engagement. “Our intention is not to create a masterpiece, but to create a canvas that invites the community to create their own masterpieces in how they use the space,” said Eduardo Santana, executive director of Pershing Square Renew. The competition asks for letters of interest to be submitted this month, followed by a request for qualifications in October. A shortlist of firms will be asked to submit proposals to a jury. Finalists will present to the jury in February with a winner announced later that month. The renewed Pershing Square is planned to open in 2020.
Placeholder Alt Text

Scaffolding comes down at Los Angeles’ Broad Museum, but the first impressions are mixed

Rarely has the removal of a building's scaffolding caused as much hubbub as when Diller Scofidio + Renfro's The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles removed its temporary covering on December 31, revealing its "Veil," composed of 2,500 fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels. Those panels, you may remember, are the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against fabricator Seele. Unfortunately for the museum, which will open this fall, much of the media reaction (admittedly not the best indicator of public opinion) has been lukewarm. The Los Angeles Times likened the veil to a cheese grater and called responses to it "less than ecstatic;" Curbed LA announced that the museum had revealed its "newly disappointing facade," emphasizing how much clunkier it looked than the elegant renderings; and LAist compared its indented "Oculus" to the "Eye of Sauron" from Lord of the Rings. Of course, minds could easily change once the museum is running and full of art (and people). Stay tuned. This thing has to open eventually, right? And so you get to see more than the flat, frontal view, here are some new angles, below.      
Placeholder Alt Text

St. Louis Rams owner proposes NFL stadium for Los Angeles

After years of, ahem, false starts, it's looking very possible that the NFL will be returning to Los Angeles. According to the LA Times, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, who bought 60 acres next to the Forum in Inglewood last year, has announced plans to build an HKS-designed 80,000-seat stadium and a 6,000-seat performance venue as part of the 300-acre Hollywood Park site. He's teaming up with Stockbridge Capital Group on what's being labeled the "City of Champions" Revitalization Project. Stockbridge is now building a mixed-use development there with developer Wilson Meany and designers Mia Lehrer + Associates, Hart Howerton Architects & Planners, BCV Architects, SWA, and others. The Rams left Los Angeles in 1994, while the Raiders took off for Oakland the next year, leaving the city teamless for almost two decades. Kroenke has been outspoken about his unhappiness with his club's current stadium, the Edward Jones Dome, and St. Louis is expected to give the owner a new offer by the end of this month. If that doesn't pan out, the new stadium (and the surrounding "City of Champions" Revitalization Project) could be on the Inglewood ballot later this year, and the scheme could be complete by 2018. Inglewood recently reopened the Forum, so momentum is building. Meanwhile efforts for stadiums in Downtown LA and City of Industry remain on hold until another team steps in.
Placeholder Alt Text

Sunday> Explore the transformation of Los Angeles’ Broadway with The Architect’s Newspaper

You may have noticed a few articles in our pages about the development of Los Angeles' long underexploited street, Broadway, which is experiencing a phenomenal resurgence. Now it's time to take a look at the progress made so far. This Sunday, June 29, AN is co-organizing a (second) tour of the thoroughfare with the A+D Museum, guided by AN West Coast Editor Sam Lubell and LA institution Mike the Poet. The event will stop at some of Broadway's greatest architectural treasures—including the Bradbury Building, the Los Angeles and Rialto Theaters, the Wurlitzer Building, and the Herald-Examiner— and it will look at its future, including revamped and widened sidewalks, new towers and businesses, and even a streetcar. Tickets range from $5 to $20 and are available from the A+D Museum.
Placeholder Alt Text

5-OH Rising Out of Park Fifth’s Ashes in Los Angeles

At long last, the recession-doomed site of the high-rise condo complex known as Park Fifth is seeing some action. This particular patch of ground, across the street from Pershing Square near downtown Los Angeles, has been the subject of a tug-of-war between would-be investors and market forces for at least seven years. Park Fifth, a pair of 76- and 41-story towers designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, went down with the real estate bubble in 2008. Even the current project, dubbed 5-OH, has seen a lot of uncertainty during its relatively short life. “We went through a lot of studies and a lot of different client groups,” said Harley Ellis Devereaux’s Daniel Gehman. “[There were] a lot of shifting sands.” Today things look more certain. MacFarlane Partners bought the site in October of last year, and are moving ahead with a pair of residential towers Gehman estimates will cost (very roughly) $260 million. 5-OH has already cruised through its zoning administrator hearing. If all goes well, construction crews will break ground in early 2015. Though smaller than Park Fifth would have been, 5-OH’s 615 residential units—split between a 24-story high-rise and its seven-story companion—dwarf what earlier plans envisioned. Several previous clients “tried to get it approved as a seven-story building, [but] it became evident in working with the council office that that wasn’t going to fly,” said Gehman. Harley Ellis Deveraux looked at the site and found that “there was a very evident place to put a tower.” From there, said Gehman, the high-rise practically planned itself, with the space in back reserved for the smaller building. In terms of aesthetics, the architects had two options. They could design a contemporary complex within the strict parameters of downtown design guidelines. Or they could draw on the existing historic building stock for inspiration. “We decided to be as contextual as possible,” Gehman explained. “We wanted the buildings to feel like they’re playing nice with their neighbors rather than getting into their face.” On its street sides, the mid-rise is clad in cement-fiber and metal panels. In the courtyards, the architects opted for plaster and other traditional residential materials. The courtyard balconies’ metal railings mimic the fire escapes of the older buildings nearby. The 24-story tower is much more glassy, but in a way that pays homage to its neighbors, particularly the Title Guarantee Building. “There’s a motif of trying to get the windows to look like they’re recessed in a thicker wall. It’s not a glass box, but glass strategically placed,” said Gehman. The cream-colored panelized metal skin creates “sort of abstracted traditional forms rendered in contemporary materials.” A community room and pool deck on top of the taller structure will provide views of both the historic core and the taller contemporary towers to the west. “One of the reasons I like the site so much is it’s extremely transit-rich,” said Gehman. There are bus stops at every corner, plus the Pershing Square subway stop within a stone’s throw. “It would be very, very easy to reduce auto dependency if you lived on the site,” Gehman concluded.
Placeholder Alt Text

SOM Rumored to Have Been Chosen for Los Angeles Courthouse

AN has been anxiously awaiting official news of an architect for Los Angeles' long-awaited Downtown Federal Courthouse, and we've picked up the scent of a promising rumor. Brigham Young's DTLA Rising blog has heard from a "source at a large architectural and design firm in Downtown LA" that SOM has won the commission, beating out a short list of teams including Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates, Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects, and NBBJ Architects. The new $322 million courthouse will be located on a 3.7-acre lot in Downtown LA at 107 South Broadway and will contain 600,000 square feet incuding 24 court rooms. The General Services Administration (GSA), the federal agency in charge of building the new courthouse, hopes to have the project completed by 2016. The former art-deco courthouse  at 312 North Spring Street will be sold to help pay for the new structure, drawing criticism from some politicians. The GSA is expected to make an official announcement soon, and we'll be sure to keep you updated as news comes in.
Placeholder Alt Text

Congressmen Attack New LA Courthouse Proposal

Two congressmen really seem to have it in for the planned new U.S. courthouse and federal building in downtown Los Angeles, for which several prominent LA firms have been shortlisted. According to the LA Times, California Representative Jeff Denham earlier this month called the proposal a "sham," insisting that the judiciary should be able to share courtrooms more efficiently at their current spaces (there are currently two federal courthouses downtown). "I get it, I know these judges would love to have a much bigger, palatial courtroom with lots of extra room and big conference rooms," Denham said. "The question is, can we afford it?" Denham was joined by Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, who noted: "It's outrageous that judges insist upon having their own courtrooms when they don't use them, when they spend much of the time vacant." But according to the General Services Administration (GSA) the courthouse is still moving ahead as planned, and an architect should be named this fall. An RFQ for the federal building will be released this fall as well. The GSA is looking for a private sector developer to buy the Spring Street Courthouse in order to help pay for the latter project.
Placeholder Alt Text

Mixed Use Complex Planned for Downtown LA

Downturn? What downturn? It looks like Downtown Los Angeles will get its first mixed-use development in some time when construction begins on the Eighth and Grand project on the south edge of downtown. Developer Sonny Astani recently sold the land to limited liability corporation CPIVG8, who the LA Times says will probably start work “in the next couple months.” The $300 million building is set to have 700 residential units, a rooftop pool, 36,000 square feet of retail and nearly an acre of open space (and perhaps too many parking spaces: 737). Renderings show a wavy glass, steel and concrete facade, but that design appears to still be schematic. In fact no architect has been mentioned in any story on the project and calls to the developer about an architect have not been returned. We'll keep you posted when a design and an architect are confirmed.
Placeholder Alt Text

Still Time For A Zen Experience In Downtown LA

The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s first annual spring festival, LA Bloom wrapped up on May 5, but late visitors to the Little Tokyo site in Downtown LA can still enjoy a piece of the festivities. LA Bloom’s centerpiece ecoartspace installation will remain up for a few extra weeks. Using over five million pebbles, JACCC Artistic Director Hirokazu Kosaka and landscape architect Calvin Abe of AHBE created a large zen garden that, during the festival (along with thousands of feet of colorful thread) created a serene background for Kosaka’s evocative Mare Nubium performances. “It isn’t something that can be experienced through description. It would be like explaining what it's like to be present watching the original moon landing,” said Abe, for whom the space created a “profound existential experience.” Even without performances inside, visitors to the space will find themselves in a moment of contemplation. When faced with an incongruous paring of 27 tons of swirling gravel and a rainbow of thread, one immediately goes into a wondering mood. The accompanying Japanese flower arrangements at the Irvine Japanese Garden also serve to emphasize this question bubbling up from the installation. Underlying the ecoartspace was a philosophical process that borrowed from the Cherry Blossom Festival that inspired it. “The Japanese feel a deep communion and connection to the cherry blossom during the flower viewing months. When the petals fall from the trees, the Japanese see this as the transience of most things in life,” said Kosaka. Like everything else about the festival, the ecoartspace will soon be a thing of memory, so go see it while it lasts.
Placeholder Alt Text

Downtown LA Streetcar Nears Approval

The dream of again riding a streetcar in Downtown LA is one step closer to reality. Blogdowntown reports that an environmental review is now underway for two potential routes. The two paths, each four-miles long, were selected as part of the federally-required Alternatives Analysis (AA) process and were recently sent to METRO’s Planning & Programming Committee and Construction Committee. According to a press release from LA Councilmember Jose Huizar’s office, the primary route "proceeds south on Broadway from 1st Street to 11th Street, west to Figueroa Street, north to 7th Street, east to Hill Street, and north, terminating at 1st Street. The route would also include the ability to travel up 1st Street and into Bunker Hill on Grand Avenue as funding becomes available.” The alternate route would travel east on 9th Street instead of on 7th Street. If approved the streetcars would run 18 hours a day, seven days a week, according to blogdowntown, and would service the 500,000 workers and 50,000 residents in the area. The site describes the streetcars’ expected style as sleek and modern, similar to those of Portland and Seattle. Cost estimates for the project are in the area of $110-$125 million, according to published reports. While city sources have raised $10 million so far, a tax on property owners near the route must be passed before federal grants (covering half of the cost) can be requested. Passage of the tax would require two-thirds approval from the area's roughly 7,000 voters. Los Angeles Streetcar, Inc. (LASI), which is heading up the project’s development and fundraising, is a public/private non-profit partnership composed of Downtown LA stakeholders. The formal environmental review and preliminary engineering process is estimated to take about a year, while groundbreaking is planned for 2014 and completion for 2016, according to the Huffington Post. Councilman Huizar’s press release cites an AECOM study estimating that the streetcar "would generate 9,300 new jobs, $1.1 billion in new development, $24.5 million in new annual tourism and consumer spending, and $47 million in new city revenue – all above projections for Downtown’s future without a streetcar.”
Placeholder Alt Text

Gensler First Moving Downtown Via Video

As we've noted, architecture giant Gensler is moving from Santa Monica to Downtown LA (a move that has seen its share of  controversy lately thanks to the firm's city-provided subsidy). With the help of three talented  students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo's Professional Studio program, the firm has put together a video about their new 'hood.  It documents Downtown's dramatic growth and change over the years, and offers predictions and suggestions for its future.       Downtown Los Angeles from tam thien tran on Vimeo. Their intriguing ideas include: putting parking on the periphery and closing the rest to cars; keeping production local; developing a new ground plane in the sky; and transferring cars' kinetic motion into energy. Wishful thinking, of course, but that's a good thing in a studio meant to be a "marriage between reality and mythology." The studio was led by Gensler Design Directors Shawn Gehle and Li Wen and the three students/filmmakers/visionaries were Sarah Fleming, Tam Thien Tran, and Toon Virochpoka.