Posts tagged with "Downtown Los Angeles":

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Downtown L.A.'s Barker Brothers building to be restored to former glory

You may not find much to look at if you venture to the middle of Broadway between 7th and 8th Streets in Downtown Los Angeles' Historic Core. A barricade and opaque scaffolding currently block the tired remains of the Barker Brothers building, an eight-story structure built by real estate investor Clara Burdette in 1909 and one of the oldest of its kind in the district. Though it was the largest store in the Barker Brothers furniture chain at the time of its completion, the company shut its doors in the 1940s like many nearby retailers who migrated from downtown to the burgeoning Wilshire Boulevard. Thanks to brothers Ted and Oliver Grebelius of British real estate firm Satila Studios, the Barker is returning to its former glory over 80 years later. The duo recently bought the building with a plan to retrofit it as a mixed-use development and rebrand it as the Barker once again. The roughly-46,000 square feet of space constituting the upper six floors of the structure will be designated for commercial offices, while the 11,000-square-foot ground floor will be entirely dedicated to street-facing retail. The original floor plates have determined the number and ceiling heights of the floor plates, meaning the majority of the office spaces will likely be over 12 feet tall and supported by the building's existing structural columns. A significant amount of the retrofit will include the preservation of the building's original detailing and material palette of brick, steel, and dark wood flooring. Satila Studios is particularly invested in the preservation of its iconic grand stairway, including its large-scale archways and wooden columns, located in the center of the ground floor. The Barker is just one of many early-20th-century buildings in the L.A.'s Historic Core that are undergoing renovation. The adaptive reuse of the Lane Mortgage Building, a 12-story structure designed in 1923 by local architect Lester Loy Smith, is already underway half a block from The Barker. Satila Studios expects the building will open by 2021.
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Built to Scale highlights exclusionary principles in the built environment

Though the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed 30 years ago, we can still point to countless recently-completed buildings as testaments to the gap between the architectural profession and the needs of the people for which they are designed. Built to Scale, a solo exhibition by artist Emily Barker currently on view at the Murmurs gallery in downtown Los Angeles, adds a critical and essential voice to the national debate concerning the concept of accessibility in the built environment. A set of sculptures the artist has placed throughout the exhibition space, in collaboration with designer Tomasz Jan Groza, challenge the hidden yet highly prescriptive status quo in contemporary architectural design that perpetuates societal prejudices against those considered "abnormal" or "divergent." "Those who deviate from the norms," the press release for the show states, "have little space built to include them and can’t participate in most built environments." Many of the floor pieces depict seemingly "innocent" domestic objects rendered in commonly-used materials that become insurmountable to those with limited mobility, such as sand, dirt, grass, and steel mesh. A translucent set of kitchen cabinets, Untitled (Kitchen), partially hangs overhead in a manner akin to the fabric sculptures of Do Ho Suh. Yet where Suh's are often tangible and enveloping, Barker's are disturbingly unusable and alienating. Many of these objects and materials, the exhibition suggests, have been standardized in the name of convenience for what turns out to be a minority of the American population. Yet perhaps the most telling piece in Barker's ensemble is a neatly stacked tower of medical bills, titled Death by 7865 Paper Cuts, that "demonstrate[s] the sheer volume of bureaucratic labor required to meet your basic needs after experiencing unthinkable trauma." Normalcy is rendered as the faceless opponent throughout Built to Scale. A powerfully dangerous myth with fatal consequences, the cult of the normal has pervaded because of its ability to neatly complement modern standards of efficiency, mass production, and narrow definitions of progress. Like other architects, artists, and academics discover lapses of judgment in the construction of the built environment, exhibitions like Built to Scale will continue their mission of informing the public of the myriad relationships we have with the world around us. Built to Scale will be on view at Murmurs until January 18, 2020.
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Los Angeles roads may soon be paved with recycled plastic

Technisoil, a company specializing in “Innovation for Modern Landscapes,” is currently in conversation with the City of Los Angeles about a new method of using recycled plastic to pave its roads. By the end of this year, a portion of the street near the corner of West First Street and North Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles will become the test site for what may soon become the city’s new asphalt. To make the material, known as “plastic asphalt,” Technisoil will transform shredded recycled plastic back into an oil, which will then become the binder in an otherwise traditional method of street pavement. According to the city’s Department of Street Services, the application of plastic asphalt could reduce material costs by 25 percent, and its high level of durability would significantly reduce maintenance costs over time. “This is an exciting technology and a sustainable technology,” said Keith Mozee, assistant director at the Department of Street Services. “And it’s something that we believe going forward could be game-changing if we deploy on a large scale.” The proposal to replace Los Angeles’ roads with plastic asphalt comes at a time when the city’s waste crisis has never been worse: Last March, China officially stopped accepting the city’s waste and California lawmakers rejected a bill to partially phase out single-use containers last September. With the city’s landfills full to the brim, the Department of Street Services is hoping to put much of their waste to good use. However, the exact percentage of waste diverted for street production cannot be predicted unless the test run on First and Grand is proven viable and plastic asphalt is introduced into the city’s road paving program. Los Angeles would become the first major U.S. city to use plastic asphalt, but its very first application in the country was on a small street of the University of California at San Diego campus last November.
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Arup’s new Downtown Los Angeles office is more than an expansion

For over a decade, the Los Angeles offices of multinational engineering firm Arup were housed within a standalone 38,000-square-foot space in Playa Vista, an affluent yet sleepy neighborhood in West L.A. As the years passed, several factors drew the firm closer to the East side of town. “When we moved to Playa Vista,” explained Arup principal and Los Angeles Group Leader Jim Quiter, “many of our clients were on the Westside. Over the years, many of them have moved downtown. It’s also sort of the center of our industry.” In response to the locations of their client base, as well as the growth of their own workforce and a desire to be close to the city’s public transportation system, Arup traded in its Playa Vista space this Spring for the 18th, 19th and 20th floors of the 73-story Wilshire Grand in Downtown Los Angeles. Encompassing 66,000 square feet, nearly twice the amount of its former space, Arup’s move reflected the biggest lease in Southern California of 2018. But Arup decided to make much more of the move than a simple expansion. Designed in collaboration with Bestor Architecture, SmithGroup, and Mata Construction, the new space is full of features to create the optimal working environment for its roughly 290 employees while leaving plenty of room for immersive demonstrations to educate visiting clients about their projects. With all of the working spaces situated along the perimeter of each floor in an open-plan style, every desk receives more than ample sunlight throughout the majority of the working day. The west facade receives so much sunlight that Arup developed, designed, and installed a custom 'interior light shelf'—a drywall device suspended from the ceiling designed to shield workstations from direct sunlight by diffusing it throughout the entire space from above. This and other alterations to the space make electric illumination unnecessary for at least half of the day, as well as drastically reducing the need for air-conditioning. Following a vote among Arup staff members, flexible workstations were developed with an emphasis on ergonomics and personal preference. While every employee has their own personal sit-stand desk, they also have the option of taking their work to the diner-like booths near the core, the smaller, café-like tables near the windows, or even the “living rooms” that occupy a sizable space on each floor. Gender-neutral bathrooms, a fully-equipped Nursing Mothers Room, and a wellness room also go a long way to make Arup’s employees feel taken care of. Additionally, Bestor Architecture designed three unique wallpapers to wrap each elevator core, which were abstractly inspired by the oceans, forests, and deserts of California. Perhaps the office’s most impressive feature is its SoundLab, a fully immersive audio and visual environment sealed off from the rest of the office in a structurally independent box. The walls of the room are embedded with sophisticated audio equipment which can provide accurate simulations of existing or speculative spaces to help engineers and their clients make educated design decisions. A seven-minute demonstration reveals that it can be used to design, for instance, a system for reducing noise in a NYC subway station, a sound buffering wall between a playground and a train track, and even an entire architecture pavilion with an emphasis on sound art. An open house was held on October 1 to celebrate the new space, which included even more design simulation tools, including a Motion Platform, an augmented reality station and a series of virtual reality presentations using Oculus Go headsets.
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Los Angeles's newest Soho House will soon open in a warehouse

After four years of development, Soho House, the London-based members club aimed at those in the arts and media, has finally completed Soho Warehouse in the southern portion of the Los Angeles Arts District. The private club represents the third Southern California outpost for the company, the first being Soho West Hollywood, completed in 2014, followed by Little Beach House Malibu two years later. Soho Warehouse is set within a seven-story, 110,00-square-foot building completed in 1916, which, as of four years ago, was the home of a rehearsal studio for local musicians (its tenants were reportedly “blind-sighted” by the news that they must evict to make way for the exclusive club). With the aid of Soho House & Co.’s in-house design team, the building’s former loading dock was reimagined as a private garden, its humble rooftop made way for a pool and cabanas, and its hallowed floors were retrofitted with luxury amenities including restaurants, communal areas, and 48 hotel rooms, three of which are “party-sized suites.” The design of its interior spaces was imagined as a mix between the industrial, turn-of-the-century details of the original building and the mid-century design history of Los Angeles, while an 18-foot-wide mural by local artist Paul Davies acts as a centerpiece for the dining area of the rooftop space. The completion of Soho Warehouse reflects one of many transformative developments that have taken place in the Arts District in the last few years—which was an affordable neighborhood for local artist as recently as ten years ago—as luxury developments by architects including Bjarke Ingels Group, R&A Architecture + Design, and Herzog & de Meuron are currently in the works, all within blocks of the private club. Following committee approval and a minimum annual fee of $2,160, one may gain access to Soho Warehouse, set to become officially open to its members on October 14.
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Gravity-defying 5th and Hill tower with cantilevering pools approved for construction

The Downtown Los Angeles skyline is about to receive a remarkable addition; on September 12, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved the construction of 5th and Hill, a 53-story tower with nearly two dozen cantilevering lap pools and a five-story waterfall. Designed by Miami-based firm Arquitectonica and overseen by developer Jeffrey Fish of JMF Enterprises, the tower will either incorporate 160 condos or be divided between 190 hotel rooms and 31 condos, twelve of which will have private cantilevering pools either way. Both schemes would include a restaurant, bar, and related amenities. The tower's L-shaped site faces Pershing Square Station on one side and Hill Street on the other. Above the entryway on 5th Street will be an ingenious (if not extravagant) waterfall which will obscure the 5-story parking garage directly behind it, while the 13th floor will have an access bridge to Perch, a popular bar and restaurant atop the historic Pershing Square Building. The design of the bottom half of 5th and Hill, however, is tame compared to its top half, which progressively becomes more variegated starting on the 30th floor, with pools cantilevering several feet beyond its envelope and cutting through many of its interior spaces. According to the project's website, many of the adventurous design gestures were inspired by “mid-century California design.” The tower’s design raised eyebrows when its renderings and a draft of its Environmental Impact Report were first unveiled a year ago, yet surprisingly little of its exterior design appears to have changed. This may be due to the enthusiasm the scheme inspired in the planning commission, the members of which agreed that 5th & Hill was “audacious,” “ambitious,” and had exemplary methods for concealing its parking and integrating adjacent buildings into the plan. Fifth and Hill marks the second building Arquitectonica has designed for Downtown, the first being the 19-story Emerson building on Bunker Hill, and will be the West Coast’s answer to the staggering 56 Leonard designed by Herzog and de Meuron in Manhattan (and the many similarly-styled buildings it inspired). It's still uncertain when the project will break ground, but it's estimated that construction will take 30 months.
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Morphosis, Renzo Piano, SOM among shortlisted for civic office tower in L.A.

Less than three months after the controversial demolition of the Parker Center in downtown Los Angeles, a shortlist of high-profile architects has been released to head up the design of a new, 27-story municipal office tower in its place.  The $700 million “Los Angeles Street Civic Building Project” as it’s temporarily called, is being spearheaded by L.A. Bureau of Engineering and has been in the works for quite some time. The agency, which oversees the planning, design, and construction of all public buildings, infrastructure, and public spaces, first introduced the idea to raze the Parker Center, previously home to the city’s police department for 55 years, and build atop it in 2016. At the same time, the Cultural Heritage Commission was trying to get the aging building landmarked but failed to meet the deadline. The L.A. City Council ultimately approved the overall proposal in 2017 on the belief that a new tower would be less expensive than preserving and revamping the Parker Center’s 319,000-square-foot exterior envelope.  Though design details haven’t been released yet, the upcoming 450-foot tower is slated to contain 750,000-square-feet of office space with room for a conference center, a childcare facility, retail space, and an underground garage. Initial concepts for the project lightly reference the surrounding city buildings in the Civic Center District, including Los Angeles City Hall, a structure of similar height. Plans also call for a landscape that links pedestrians to Little Tokyo nearby, according to Urbanize L.A.  After issuing a request for qualifications this spring, the Bureau of Engineering reduced the five submissions it received down to a shortlist of three. Below are those finalists: DTLA Civic Partners, LLC This local team is led by SOM and Clark Construction, funded by Meridiam and Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, and managed by ENGIE Services. LAC 3 Partners L.A.-based firm Morphosis is at the helm of LAC 3, which includes Hensel Phelps Construction, Macquarie Financial Holdings, and JLC Infrastructure, as well as Honeywell International in operations management.  Plenary Collaborative Los Angeles Smith Group and Renzo Piano Building Workshop are working together on the design for the project, while Webcor Construction, Plenary Group, and Johnson Controls will serve as the building, equity, and operations experts respectively.  Once this shortlist is approved by the L.A. Board of Public Works, an RFP will be presented to the City Council ahead of any further announcements. Construction is expected to start next year and end in 2023. 

TALK: MADWORKSHOP on Design With Purpose

The Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) supports students, makers, artists, and architects in the realization of socially valuable design projects. Our thriving fellowship and education programs nurture thinkers who will make radical, sustainable, and lasting contributions to the design discourse and society at large. Merging a contemporary aesthetic agenda, ambitious fabrication techniques, and the mentorship of MADWORKSHOP’s experienced Board of Directors, the foundation offers emerging designers the opportunity to take their ideas from concept to reality.

Sofia Borges is a practicing writer, designer, curator, and educator. Sofia has an extensive background in architecture, urbanism, and the arts. She studied photography at the California Institute of the Arts and completed her Bachelors in Urban Studies at the New School University. Informed by her diverse upbringing that extended from LA to Latin America and beyond, Sofia relocated to Berlin after completing her Master of Architecture degree at UCLA. During her time in Europe, she founded the interdisciplinary design practice Affect Studio and became the architecture editor at Gestalten. Sofia has authored and edited nearly two dozen titles on architecture and design. Her most notable books to date include The Tale of Tomorrow, Rock the Shack, Hide and Seek, The Sky’s the Limit, the LA edition of the CITIx60 travel guide series, and Give Me Shelter. Sofia returned to her home town of Los Angeles in 2014, joining the faculty at the USC School of Architecture and launching Colorblock Studio. In Fall of 2016, she joined MADWORKSHOP as their new acting director.

INSTALLATION: MADWORKSHOP x UCLA Architecture and Urban Design x Succulent Walls

Succulent Walls tackle how architecture can respond to Southern California’s precarious relationship to water and lack of disaster preparedness. The work of a Master of Architecture (M.Arch.I) Research Studio taught by Heather Roberge, this collaboration between Mary and David Martin's MADWORKSHOP and UCLA Architecture and Urban Design prototypes a series of residential water catchment systems. By integrating a system for easily installed water storage and food production into the residential vernacular, the class of eleven graduate students hopes to transform our laissez-faire attitude towards this critical and finite resource into one of proactive self-sufficiency. Five group projects were distilled into two super-group designs that will be showcased at the LA Design Festival.

Students: Christopher Doerr, Daniel Greteman, Ian Rodgers, Caroline Watts, Jenny Zhou, Nichole Tortorici, Talia Landes, Xiangkun Hu, Xihan Lyu, Xinwen Zhang, Yiran Chen

Video teaser: https://vimeo.com/342820070. ABOUT MADWORKSHOP Mary and David Martin’s MADWORKSHOP is a design education foundation. The foundation supports technological craftsmanship through university partnerships and an immersive fellowship program. With a focus on socially conscious projects, MADWORKSHOP supports radical, sustainable, and lasting contributions to design discourse and society at large. Find out more about MADWORKSHOP: http://madworkshop.org
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Cracks found on L.A. Times building ahead of controversial development

In January, several cracks appeared on the exterior of the historic Los Angeles Times building in downtown L.A. While some have suggested the fissures may be due to ongoing transit construction next door, preservationists also say they could signal a larger problem—one that could threaten a controversial, mixed-use development on the site. The Times Mirror Square project comprises the restoration of the L.A. Times’s flagship building, a 1935 structure by Gordon Kaufmann, as well as a 1948 addition by Rowland Crawford—both recently landmarked buildingsas well as the build-out of two apartments towers in place of what’s now a William L. Pereiradesigned office structure from 1973. Vancouver-based developer Onni Group bought the five-building complex in 2016 and has since been through a fraught preservation battle to move the project forward. But now, the sight of cracks have people wondering what it will mean for the mega-project’s future. “Who is responsible for this?” said preservationist Richard Schave, co-founder of historic L.A. tour company Esotouric, in reference to the cracks. “It’s the $64 million question. That number refers to the cost of phase one construction on the Regional Connector project, L.A.’s massive rail line expansion. A new station is under construction next door to Times Mirror Square and the agency building it, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro), may be responsible. Metro is already monitoring the cracks of the L.A. Times buildings using geotechnical sensors. Details on the severity haven’t been released yet, but some think Metro may be forced to provide data for the final environmental impact report (EIR) of the Time Mirror Square project, which is due out in a few months. Don Spivack, a former administrator at the L.A. Community Redevelopment Agency, said if the cracks on the structure are one to two millimeters, there’s nothing to worry about. “They may be cosmetic, not structural cracks,” he said. “But this complex has a tangled history due to its layered construction. Each building was individually engineered and connected to the others in ways that permitted passage between them. If some of those connections were not properly engineered at the time or modified later, the question stands whether or not this poses a risk to their preservation.” This isn’t the only issue. There’s a history of subsidence on buildings in the area when subways are built, and seismic activity has also likely caused them to move over the years, according to Spivak. The L.A. Times reported that, so far, cracks have been noticed in the cafeteria, newsroom, and the Pereira-designed garage of the complex. Visible cracks on the facade can be seen on the first floor of the Crawford Building (a.k.a Mirror Tower), and on its northwest facade at the corner of 2nd and Spring Streets, across from Regional Connector construction. While the idea that the building is sinking has sparked fear, Spivack and John Lorick, a former vice president at the L.A. Times, said it would be nearly impossible for that to be true. They also remarked on the overall neglect that Times Mirror Square had suffered under its last owner, Tribune Media. But, they said, any demolition and construction on or near the site could inevitably alter the historic structures—and Onni Group doesn't have a great track record with that.  “I was not completely surprised when I first read about the damage to the [Kaufmann and Crawford] buildings," said Lorick. "Although the reported damage was attributed to subway construction, I had always eventually expected to read about some accidental but irreparable damage to the Crawford and Kaufmann buildings during demolition or construction on the site because of the complex interconnection of the buildings and their foundations.” When asked for comment, the developer didn’t respond by the time of publication. The L.A. Department of Building & Safety told AN that once the project goes through the entitlement process at City Planning, inspectors will investigate any structural issues brought to light.
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ArtCenter to take over old Main Museum space in Downtown Los Angeles

ArtCenter College of Design is making a play for the old Main Museum space in Downtown Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Pasadena, California-based college has signed on to take over the 6,250-square-foot facility that had been occupied by The Main Museum until late last year when the institution abruptly and mysteriously shuttered.
ArtCenter president Lorne Buchman told The Times that the new space will give the school a foothold in L.A.’s bustling downtown, which has seen a flurry of arts-related activity over the past 20 years as major cultural venues and institutions have sprung up and expanded to the area. The move, according to Buchman, will also change ArtCenter’s reputation for being located in “the hinterlands” of Pasadena, a wealthy suburban enclave located 10 miles east of Downtown L.A.
Buchman said, “I’m excited about our students being able to be in that location and engage that community—that will make a huge difference.” The announcement came roughly six months after Main Museum director Allison Agsten penned a brief letter on the museum’s website announcing that ArtCenter and The Main Museum’s founder, real estate developer Tom Gilmore, were discussing “future plans [for] the space.” The announcement scuttled expansion designs for The Main Museum by Tom Wiscombe Architecture that would have added a new roof terrace to the Hellman Building, a historic mercantile office building opened in 1903.
Under the new agreement, ArtCenter will lease the space for $1 per year for the next 10 years and will have the option to renew the lease in the future.
The ArtCenter outpost will join the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Broad Museum and the forthcoming wHY-designed Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles as recent newcomers to the Downtown L.A. art scene. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles recently announced that it would be relocating its architecture galleries from the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood to the Frank Gehry–designed Geffen Contemporary outpost in nearby Little Tokyo, as well.
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Proposed Los Angeles tower loses supertall status

A proposed Handel Architects–designed supertall tower complex headed to the coveted Angels Landing site in Downtown Los Angeles has received a significant haircut. As a result of the revisions, the project will lose its supertall status (taller than 300 meters or 984 feet), but will still rise to be one of the five tallest buildings in the city. The proposed changes come as the project moves through the environmental review process and were first reported by Urbanize.LA. The project is being pursued by a consortium of developers called Angels Landing Partners, a group that includes MacFarlane Partners, the Peebles Corporation, and Claridge Properties. The team, which includes landscape architects Olin, was selected in 2018 from among four competing bids as part of a public competition. Originally proposed with a pair of mismatched towers rising 25 and 88 stories, respectively, the latest version of the project calls for a more balanced approach: Two interconnected towers rising 48 and 64 stories, respectively. Included in the project are 180 condominiums, 261 market-rate and affordable apartments, 509 hotel rooms, and approximately 75,000 square feet of commercial and flex spaces. The project is expected to include an elementary school as well as nearly 57,000 square feet of public open spaces. Despite being located above a subway stop, the project is slated to bring 750 parking spaces to the site. A new diagram for the project included in a draft environmental report shows that each tower will contain commercial and public spaces along the lowermost levels, with hotel levels rising above. The hotel programs will be capped by amenity floors with condominiums or apartments located on the uppermost levels of each tower. The proposal is among several tower schemes announced over the last two years that seek to reshape the Los Angeles skyline. Some of the planned projects include a 52-story stacked block tower by Gensler, a potential 1,100-foot-tall tower by Dimarzio | Kato Architecture, and a 70-story Redwood-inspired tower by Australian firm Koichi Takada Architects. The draft report states that the Angels Landing project is slated to finish construction by 2028.