Posts tagged with "Downtown Los Angeles":

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Michael Maltzan Architecture designs affordable mass timber housing tower for Skid Row

The newest supportive housing development is in the works in the Skid Row neighborhood of Downtown Los Angeles at the hand of one of the city’s most experienced designers of the typology. Local firm Michael Maltzan Architecture is currently in the design phase for The Alvidrez, a 14-story tower containing 150 studio apartments and “support spaces” on the ground floor, which will include case management, individual and group counseling, and group activities to improve the health and well-being of residents. The massing of The Alvidrez was determined in part by the construction logic of the mass timber frame system that the firm will employ to meet sustainability guidelines, while the units were designed using modular building blocks made of cross-laminated timber (CLT) column, beam, and deck members. The building’s overall appearance is described by the firm as a “collection of vertical bundles” that provide a series of rooftop terraces providing spaces for unprogrammed community spaces, though it may draw comparison to Kisho Kurokawa’s endangered Metabolist Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo. The 77,000-square-foot project will provide housing exclusively for the homeless community of Skid Row, with 30 percent of its units reserved for those with mental or physical disabilities. Each unit will come with all the features required for independent living, including a bathroom, kitchen, appliances and furnishings. “Individual apartments and on-site supportive services have proven, time and again, to be key to breaking the cycle of homelessness,” wrote the firm.  The Alvidrez was commissioned by the Skid Row Housing Trust, a local nonprofit group that has completed 26 buildings throughout Los Angeles County, to provide affordable, permanent supportive housing for nearly 2,000 people and was named in honor of the Trust’s former CEO Mike Alvidrez. Michael Maltzan Architecture has designed several other buildings for the nonprofit in the past, including Crest Apartments in Van Nuys and the Rainbow Apartments and New Carver Apartments in Downtown Los Angeles. The group has also employed other notable architecture firms, including Koning Eizenberg and Brooks + Scarpa.  Following the completion of an environmental impact report, construction is expected to begin early next year and be finished by early 2023.
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Downtown Los Angeles’s Broadway Street may soon go car-free

Los Angeles City Council Member Jose Huizar first began his Bringing Back Broadway initiative in 2008, which has gradually revitalized several of the early 20th-century movie palaces and long-underused commercial buildings along Broadway Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Now that many of those buildings are occupied with retail spaces, hotels, concert venues, and restaurants, Huizar recently introduced a motion looking into the feasibility of making the entire 1.5-mile stretch a pedestrian-only zone. “A car-free Broadway,” Huizar explained in a Twitter thread, “would bring a measurable increase in pedestrian traffic to the many new retail stores and theaters in the corridor.” By prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and bus traffic, Huizar argued in an attached statement, the economic development triggered by the original Bringing Back Broadway initiative would increase while reducing the number of car-related deaths in the area. He has also argued that the project is particularly feasible in light of the ongoing LA Streetcar project, a separate initiative that will provide an above-ground public transportation option that would intersect with preexisting transit systems, and which has already received approximately $1 billion in funding.
Huizar ended the statement with an analysis of all of the elements the redesign must consider, beginning with “accessibility options related to parking, residential and commercial loading/unloading, ADA, fire and safety, and private events.” The motion would also include the further preservation of the historic buildings along Broadway, and would continue to fill empty storefronts with public amenities. While Huizar's L.A. Streetcar project garnered the approval of over 73 percent of Downtown residents when it was first proposed, it is unclear as of yet how the motion to ban cars from Broadway will be publicly received. Car culture famously built Los Angeles, and there are virtually no other permanent examples of a similar move in any other part of the city. The closest precedent is CicLAvia, a nonprofit event that temporarily closes major thoroughfares to motor vehicles throughout the city to make them accessible to foot and bike traffic, which has received increased popularity since it was first inaugurated in 2010. The proposal follows last October’s announcement that San Francisco’s Market Street would be going car-free, and it is predicted that several other cities across the country may follow suit in their historic centers.
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Pershing Square redevelopment will begin by end of year, now that funds are secured

In its 154-year history, Downtown Los Angeles’s Pershing Square has gone through a series of transformative redesigns. The park began as a modest landscape of indigenous trees, which was later replaced by a formal Beaux-Arts layout in 1910, followed by the addition of an underground parking lot in 1951 that raised the site and, ironically, resulted in its gradual disuse, which prompted the city later to hire Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta and Philadelphia-based landscape architect Laurie Olin to give the site a dramatic facelift in 1993. Yet the austere, fortress-like design that Legorretta and Olin completed 27 years ago is no longer suitable for the bustling city that surrounds it, leaving residents and visitors alike dreaming of a fourth iteration for the 5-acre site. This week, city officials have confirmed that the winning entry of a design competition held in 2016 will finally begin construction by the end of this year. Designed by French landscape architecture firm Agence Ter, the redesign recalls the modesty of the very first iteration of Pershing Square by leveling the site (described by the firm’s website as a "radical flatness") and refocusing on indigenous landscaping to shade the grounds. Additional shading will be provided by a canopy of solar panels along Hill Street that will generate enough energy to power its own lights on a nightly basis. The firm created the following video to demonstrate how their entry was designed to reflect the proximity to the area’s transportation hubs and cultural attractions. The project will be completed in multiple phases to ensure that the underground parking garage remains open during the process. The city has secured $25 million for the completion of the first two phases by 2024, which will include the demolition of major standing elements and the partial development of Agence Ter’s design. The total budget, however, is expected to exceed $110 million, and funds are still being allocated to complete the design as it had been originally envisioned.
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LACMA receives $50 million gift towards controversial campus rebuild

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has received a major donation in its effort to build a new campus designed by Peter Zumthor. The Los Angeles Times reported that a local charitable organization, the W.M. Keck Foundation, offered a $50 million pledge to the project this week, bringing the total commitments to $640 million out of the needed $750 million.  Robert A. Day, chief executive of the Keck Foundation, is a LACMA trustee and one of two board members to pledge millions of dollars to the plan in recent years. In 2016, Elaine Wynne of Wynne Resorts also pledged $50 million. With these two donations, alongside with the $150 million offered by David Geffen in 2017 and the $125 million recently released in taxpayer funds, LACMA still needs to raise another $110 million for the construction of the new building. Greg Goldin, a Los Angeles-based critic and architectural historian, heads up the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA. In a conversation with AN, he said the group was dismayed by the Keck Foundation’s choice to donate to the LACMA building fund. Goldin thinks it’s possible that the philanthropy organization doesn't know what it’s actually paying for. “We don’t know what the board of trustees at the Keck Foundation has seen versus what the public has seen in terms of visuals or building plans,” he said. “If they haven’t seen something other than the absurd renderings released to the world, then they’ve voted on this decision in complete darkness. They’re giving $50 million to what?”  AN reported earlier this month that demolition work—specifically abatement work—had begun on the downtown Los Angeles site despite the fact that fundraising for the project is not complete. Crews were photographed working on the exterior of the William Pereira-designed Ahmanson Building and preparing for asbestos removal. Over the last several months, debates have swirled over just how much the building project will end up costing LACMA and whether the reported $750 million will actually cover the final costs. Michael Govan, director of LACMA, has repeatedly bumped up the project’s price tag while dually decreasing the footprint of the gallery space within Zumthor’s new building.  As noted previously, fundraising efforts have been notoriously slow. In November, Christopher Knight of the L.A. Times argued that no one new in L.A. would pay for Govan’s “shortsighted” vision. Even though the Keck Foundation ended up pledging $50 million, Goldin isn’t confident the dollar figure signals LACMA’s rise from the proverbial financially-fraught ashes.  “The question is how much is it actually going to cost? According to history, the higher the cost of this project, the fewer square feet you’re going to get. Govan and LACMA will not release floor plans, the architectural drawings, or the cost estimates because they know full-well it will expose the truth that this project has gotten out of hand.” Govan told the L.A. Times that the institution will turn to the public to raise the rest of the money needed.  AN has reached out to the Keck Foundation for comment.
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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.