Word has it that Art Center, which seems to already own all of Downtown Pasadena, has just bought the area’s massive Jacobs Engineering Building. Also on the move, USC Dean Qingyun Ma has relocated his firm’s offices to none other than Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building. How’s that for pressure? And we’ve learned of the initiation beverage of our favorite architecture-related women’s drinking and discussion group: Denise Scotch Brown. What group would Venturi inspire? We shudder to think... Something about Vermouth?
Posts tagged with "Downtown Los Angeles":
Another symbol of downtown Los Angeles' transformation is the ongoing renovation and rebranding of the Spring Arcade Building. Modeled after the great Beaux Arts arcades of Europe, the space has long been a grubby home for non-distinct shops. The Arcade—actually two 12-story towers connected by the skylit, glass roofed, three-level arcade—was built in 1924 by architects Kenneth McDonald and Maurice Couchot. With its Spanish Baroque entryway, it originally contained 61 shops, and later added a Venetian-style bridge across its center. It now contains space for 21 shops and restaurants and still contains the landmark KRKD radio towers on its roof. Developers Downtown Properties have cleaned the arcade's glass roof, which had been opaque with grime, and they're bringing in notable retail like Guisados tacos (which just opened on Monday), ULI Gelateria, Royal Claytons Pub, and Bier Beisl Austrian foods. Above the arcade, apartments in the structure range from 590–1,600 square feet. The new shops and residents raise the continuing specter of gentrification, particularly with anchors like the Ace Hotel, Urban Outfitters, and Acne nearby. But just walking down the long-neglected, shabby street is evidence that it's still a little ways off.
The Wilshire Grand, a 73-story tower under construction in downtown Los Angeles, hasn’t yet risen out of the ground, but it’s already in the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s thanks to a February 15–16 event promoters called the Grand Pour, in which construction crews poured 21,200 cubic yards (82 million pounds) of concrete in 18 hours—the largest continuous concrete pour in history. Why all the fuss? The idea for the event originated with AC Martin's design itself. Unlike most of Los Angeles’ other high rises, the Wilshire Grand will be built around a concrete core rather than a steel frame. “As we worked through all of those things,...[AC Martin CEO Christopher Martin] realized this was going to be an absolutely huge technical event. It involves a lot of coordination and almost theater in terms of getting [the trucks in and out],” said design principal David Martin. “Then everybody really got behind that [and said], ‘let’s get a marching band and have a parade with the concrete.’” “There was really a buzz downtown about the whole thing,” added project manager Tammy Jow. The parade included 100 members of the USC marching band, representatives of the building’s owners, Korean Airlines, and, of course, the concrete trucks. “Whenever you have the Trojan marching band there you can’t go wrong, they’re all about the party,” said Jow. “What was really incredible [was that] as it got dark there were these huge spotlights, and it almost looked like a stage set,” said Martin. “So we were all having this huge party in the plaza next door, and these big trucks would go through the background.” The Grand Pour was only the beginning of the Wilshire Grand story. “I think what comes next is even more exciting,” said Jow. “Now that the mat is successfully in place we’re going to start seeing vertical.” At 1,100 feet in height, the $1.1 billion building is projected to be the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi River. Its office and hotel floors will be covered in floor-to-ceiling glass, another feature that sets it apart from its granite-clad neighbors. For the skyscraper’s crowning sail, as well as on portions of the east and west facades, AC Martin will use an ultra-clear, low-reflectivity glass. On the north and south sides, a radiant coating will boost performance and give the facade a more mirror-like aspect. The designers experimented with new coating technologies to ensure that hotel guests will be able to see out at night without glare from interior lights. The building’s other highlights include its unusual roofline, which was made possible by negotiations with the fire department regarding helipad requirements. “That allowed this building to be different, and hopefully will leave a legacy so that buildings can get back to being more interesting,” said Martin. The designers also worked to maximize the connection to the outdoors, and to tailor the mechanical systems to Los Angeles’ hospitable environment. Finally, the Wilshire Grand prioritizes urban design. “The lower parts of the building reach out and really embrace the city,” said Martin. “There’s a lot of ballrooms and big windows and terraces that reach out to the city.” For Jow, one of the best parts of working on the Wilshire Grand has been the people involved. “We were able to create a team in our office of fresh talent out of school, with skills some of us older people couldn’t dream of.” She pointed to the design of the tower podium, which was generated parametrically using Rhino and Grasshopper. The younger architects’ digital prowess meshed well with the older designers’ experience in construction, said Jow. “We’re able to work together and rationalize forms to make it affordable and buildable.”
Some people say Los Angeles is run by the entertainment business, but starting this Thursday the city will belong to artists and architects. Well downtown will at least. As part of the first-ever Skyline Festival (February 13-22), local designers will be mounting ten installations within a 10-block radius in the city center. The event is sponsored by LA-based LERATA, which stands for Laboratory for Experimentation and Research in Art, Technology, and Architecture. As you wander around, you'll be able to see architect Filipa Valente's Liminoid Garden, a "bouquet" of mechanisms equipped with electronic controllers that receive readings of light, temperature and pollution and reinterpret them into movements and light changes located in the penthouse of the Cooper Design building. Another stop, inside the Palace Theater on Broadway, will be Guvenc Ozel's Cerebral Hut, a wood frame truncated icosahedron covered in stretchy fabric and moving subtly with the help of plastic pistons. Inside 724 South Spring Street (AN's new home), Behnaz Farahi will present Living Wall, a 3-D, interactive wall that can change shape in response to visitors. And inside the Alexandria Apartments on Spring Street you can visit Juan Azulay and Benjamin Rice's The Passenger, described by the artists as a "celestially enabled interactive micro-planet that engages passing-by inhabitants through releasing its own moody mediated weather system for an experience of immersion and communication with a new planetary logic." We never said the pieces wouldn't be weird, did we?
Speaking of zombies, two of Downtown LA’s most long-stalled projects appear to be rising from the dead. The mixed-use project revolving around Julia Morgan’s beautiful Herald Examiner Building on Broadway is apparently finally getting underway, now developed by Forest City, and no longer designed by Morphosis. The designer has yet to be revealed. Also Metropolis, a multi-building megaproject designed at one point by Michael Graves back in the 1990s, is apparently being brought back by Gensler. Of course downtown giveth and downtown taketh away. We hear that Johnson Fain, who were previously designing the Bloc development, a makeover of the former Macy’s Plaza, is no longer on the project. Studio One Eleven are now, according to a project spokesperson, “moving forward with implementation.” Johnson Fain had been “engaged to assist with the development of the concept and to oversee the schematic design phase of the Bloc.” Too bad they couldn’t finish the job.
Maybe it's because AN moved our West Coast offices here? Or maybe (more likely) there's finally a critical mass of talent, clients, and opportunity? Either way, it seems like Downtown Los Angeles is becoming the place for architecture and engineering firms these days. Recent moves there include Gensler, SOM, SAA, LeanArch, SDA, Freeland Buck, Nous, MADA, and Ahbe Landscape Architects, to name a few. Now these firms are being joined by two engineering giants: Arup and Buro Happold. Arup just opened a 2,500 square foot facility at 811 Wilshire, designed by Zago Architecture. The 25-person space, which will supplement its Culver City offices, will contain flexible work stations that allow workers choose new seating each day, and large open areas for meetings and workshops. Desks, also by Zago, alternate between sitting and standing heights, and look, as office leader John Phillips put it, "like a crashed airplane." The facility will allow employees to be closer to important clients like Metro, Gensler, and NBBJ, said Phillips. "We were reaching the limits of our space and spending most of our time on the freeway," said Phillips, summing up a couple more reasons for the move. Meanwhile Buro Happold moved its entire Los Angeles operations to 800 Wilshire Boulevard on December 30. Their open, 12,500-square-foot LEED Platinum offices includes 40 feet of floor-to-ceiling grow walls, 90 percent natural lighting, and energy-storing phase change materials. Designed in-house, the office will hold 80 Buro Happold employees, and improve connectivity to clients and to Los Angeles in general. All employees have been given year-long TAP metro cards to encourage public transit use. "As downtown has become the epicenter of our Southern California Business we wanted to locate our new space in a central location that encompasses our philosophy—transparent and creative, with a touch of magic," said managing principal David Herd. Did we mention they have a large balcony overlooking the city? Now these downtown moves are making even more sense.
In recent years several proposals have been floated for freeway cap parks in Los Angeles with barely any traction. Until now. On Friday LA City Council voted to have various city departments (including planning and engineering) partner with nonprofit Friends of Park 101 to raise funds for a park that would bridge the 101 Freeway, connecting Downtown's Civic Center with Olvera Street and Union Station. Possible grants could come from local, state, and federal sources. It's still a long way from happening, but this is a big deal. Friends of the Hollywood Central Park have created a function on their web site where users can design their own cap park, but if Park 101 gets some of these funds we could be building a park downtown for real.
Last week Los Angeles councilman, Jose Huizar, announced the formation of a 21-member task force to help re-imagine Pershing Square, the beleaguered central park in the middle of downtown. The group includes local residents, design and architecture experts, business people, and government officials. Huizar said he hoped they could bring "a wide-range of ideas and perspectives to the discussion." They'll also have to develop an agenda and a timeline, and figure out how to fund the project. One possible funding source could be seed money from downtown developments' community benefits funds, according to Huizar's planning director, Tanner Blackman. To help get the discussion going (and shed light on the square's possibilities) Gensler shared its ideas for the square, developed over the last year has as part of its year-long company-wide "Town Square" research and design project. The ambitious goal: to "reconsider the role of public open space in cities." Their studies weighed a dizzying amount of data informing a possible redesign. Who knew there could be so many uses and designs for a park? And who knew that the current iteration could be so out of sync with what's around it. (Well actually, we did know that...) "It's a starting point," said Gensler principal Li Wen. "We'd love to test this model with the park's stakeholders," added associate Brian Glodney. That could be a while off, and there's no telling who will be selected to lead the eventual redesign. But regardless of what direction the square takes one thing is for sure: Gensler has a head start on the competition.
While it's been well-documented that China has been "borrowing from" U.S. designs for some time, it appears that relationship is starting to go both ways. Downtown Los Angeles is ready to get a new residential project that bears a striking resemblance to Steven Holl's Linked Hybrid apartment complex in Beijing. Note the porous, gridded facade and the glassy skybridges, to name just a couple of similarities. The mixed-use Medallion 2.0, designed by Kevin Tsai Architecture, would be located off the corner of Third and Main Streets, reported downtown blogger Brigham Yen. It's scheduled to break ground in 2015 and include 400 rental units, a theater, retail, and over half an acre of green space. We'll keep you posted on more Asian imports as they no doubt continue to arrive.
Writer Anne Taylor Fleming recently interviewed Frank Gehry for Los Angeles Magazine, getting a glimpse into what the architect thinks about Los Angeles and the meaning of his work there. Gehry tells Fleming about some of the missed planning and architectural opportunities that continue to challenge the city, including the push to make a bona fide downtown, which he believes stems from clinging to old ideas about what a city should be. For Gehry, a Los Angeles version of a “center” is something like Wilshire Boulevard. “I have always thought that L.A. is a motor city that developed linear downtowns,” he noted. It’s for this reason he feels Disney Hall would have been better positioned in Westwood and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels near MacArthur Park. He’s a believer of putting the architecture where the people are. Gehry would have also put MOCA across the street from LACMA. “Los Angeles doesn’t take architecture seriously,” he told the magazine, “though I guess you could say that about most cities.” Despite this, he is positive about his role as an architect and the impact he has had here. “I’m happy. I mean, Disney Hall is once in a lifetime. Are you kidding? I could go to the moon and forget it all.”
In recent weeks we've seen a number of important developments in Downtown Los Angeles, like the groundbreaking of the Arquitectonica-designed apartments on Grand Avenue, and the topping out of The Broad next door. The red-hot area continues to make headlines, from the advancement of its upcoming streetcar to the murkiness of its proposed football stadium. •The city's Downtown Streetcar, which last month received funding from a tax on downtown residents, has gotten more good news. According to Curbed LA, LA City Council on March 7 approved an operational plan committing up to $294 million of Measure R transportation tax money to cover the operation and maintenance of the system. The streetcar will travel in a loop along Broadway, Figueroa Street, and other main thoroughfares between the city's Civic Center to its Convention Center. •According to Yahoo Sports, anonymous sources in the NFL have said that AEG and Gensler's Downtown LA stadium (rendered at top) in South Park is looking less and less likely. "The numbers just don't work, no matter how you look at the deal," a "league source" told Yahoo. "It's either too hard for AEG to make money [and pay the debt on the stadium] or too hard for the team. I just can't see a way for it to work." Some have said that the NFL favors a new stadium in Chavez Ravine. Stay tuned. •The LA Times reports that Singapore developer Overseas Union Enterprise has agreed to buy the Pei Cobb Freed-designed, 72-story U.S. Bank Building, the tallest building in California. The developer will be buying the building from MPG Office Trust for $367.5 million. "Its cylindrical design is an inefficient layout for an office building," real estate analyst Jed Reagan of Green Street Advisors told the Times.
As confirmed on its blog yesterday, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has made a proposal to acquire the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA). "Our chief desire is to see MOCA’s program continue and to serve the many artists and other Angelenos, for whom MOCA means so much," said LACMA director Michael Govan in an online letter. Reportedly LACMA would preserve MOCA's two buildings, located on Grand Avenue and in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles. According to the LA Times, the offer was made back on February 24. As part of the arrangement, LACMA would raise $100 million for the combined museums as a condition for completing the deal, according to their story. Another suitor for struggling MOCA is the University of Southern California (USC), which has been reported to have been in talks to merge with MOCA as well. That arrangement has a model in UCLA, which is partnered with the Hammer Museum in Westwood. Either way, it looks like something has to be done about financially-troubled MOCA: “If not us, who?” Mr. Govan said in an interview with the New York Times yesterday.