Los Angeles–based Gehry Partners is moving ahead with a 135-foot-tall office structure slated for L.A.’s Silicon Beach district, the second such creative office project announced in recent months. The firm broke ground earlier this year on an 80,000-square-foot, single-story office complex called Ascend in nearby El Segundo that features spartan formal treatments and exuberant planting arrangements. The subdued creative office complex is designed with 24-foot interior ceilings and is modeled after the ubiquitous wood bowstring truss warehouse structures that populate L.A.’s industrial neighborhoods. With its latest office project—a 200,000-square-foot complex located just next door to the firm’s own offices in Playa Vista—the firm will add another streamlined creative office project to a growing body of tempered, late-career work following in the footsteps of the firm’s headquarters for Facebook from 2015. The purposefully banal projects in question are somewhat of a departure for a firm best-known for exuberant, sculptural works typically made from exquisite materials. Even so, the projects bear a certain resemblance to Gehry’s earliest works, which focused extensively on deploying prototypical materials and building technologies in unexpected ways. The New Beatrice West project, as it is known, expands on this new mode by creating a multi-story office tower complex peppered throughout with terraces and groves of trees. Renderings for the project depict a multi-volume cluster wrapped in alternating expanses of glass curtain walls and solid building masses. The curtain walled areas are delineated by projecting floor plates that create horizontal louvres over the glass expanses while the more solid facades are punctured by punched windows. The building’s 845-stall parking podium at the building’s base is concealed by an expansive arrangement of growing walls, trees, and terraced volumes that will include a restaurant, among other programs. The project is currently undergoing approval by city agencies and will be appearing before the Los Angeles City Planning Commission in coming days. Planning documents submitted in support of the project indicate the complex will take roughly 22 months to build, with final completion expected in 2019.
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The debate over what is—and what is not—historically significant enough to save from demolition continues to heat up in Los Angeles, where a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge recently ruled in favor of the preservation of the historic Lytton Savings bank building. Townscape Partners, the developers behind the Gehry Associates–designed 8150 Sunset project, are seeking to demolish the midcentury modern structure so as to have a clean site for the controversial $300 million project. 8150 Sunset will consist of 60,000 square feet of commercial spaces and 249 housing units organized in a cluster of rumpled towers surrounded by plazas. The mixed-use development has received criticism from multiple fronts, including anti-density neighborhood advocates who see the project as incongruous with its surroundings. Detractors have also criticized the project’s parking stall count, saying the project has either too little or too much parking, depending on whom one asks. Preservationists—never to be left out of a good development fight—have waged a quest to save the historic bank building at the center of the recent ruling. The Friends of Lytton Savings group successfully nominated the structure for Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM) designation last year, but not before the Los Angeles City Council approved a development scheme for the project that presupposed the bank’s demolition. The Superior Court has determined that the city’s overall project approval was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a state law meant to defend both natural and built environments from harmful development. CEQA legislation is often used in California for historic preservation aims, especially with regards to culturally-important structures that might lack normative architectural significance. The decision with Lytton, however, was made easier because the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) included two development alternatives that incorporated plans for repurposing the building, which was designed by architect Kurt Meyer in 1960. Under CEQA guidelines, historic structures must be incorporated into new developments if the project can still meet its fundamental objectives without demolition. As a result of the ruling, the City’s approval is being set aside and 8150 Sunset will have to either be re-approved to include preserving the historic structure or prove that keeping the structure intact would place an undue burden on the viability of the project. Of the various groups challenging the project, the L.A. Conservancy has perhaps has the firmest ground to stand on regarding their bid to positively impact the project's outcome. Sparing the Lytton building is a no-brainer, according to the Los Angeles Conservancy, as the structure is an important example of mid-20th-century design and has functioned for its original purpose—the building is currently home to a Chase branch bank—for its entire history. Moreover, according to the organization, the 20,000-square foot structure makes up a small percentage of the 330,000-square-foot project and could feasibly be incorporated into Gehry Partners’ plan for the site. Simply put, it’s unreasonable that the design and development teams should be able to clear a site of historic structures simply for convenience’s sake. In a statement announcing the Superior Court’s decision, Linda Dishman, president and CEO of the L.A. Conservancy said, “We’re very grateful for this decision, and we’re excited that the development project can move forward incorporating the historic Lytton Savings building.” Adrian Scott Fine, director of advocacy at the L.A. Conservancy added, “We’ve worked with many architects and developers to successfully integrate historic places into new development, and now that can happen here.” Scott Fine explained further: “blending old and new is the wave of the future in Los Angeles.” For now, Townscape Partners’ lawyers are evaluating whether to appeal the ruling.
Los Angeles–based architects Gehry Partners and real estate developer NSB Associates have quietly started construction on an 80,000-square-foot creative office building in Los Angeles’s El Segundo area, establishing a new foothold for the region’s burgeoning Silicon Beach area. The new open-office structure is modeled on the traditional warehouse typologies that are typically being converted to office uses in other parts of the city, including the Arts District downtown. Instead of being organized in a typical manner with a sea of parking lots surrounding the warehouse structure, the project—named Ascend by the development team—is designed to be vertically-stacked, with office uses located above a covered parking structure. The complex is also designed with a large degree of exterior glazing, in contrast to many of the existing, often masonry construction warehouse structures being converted into office spaces. The complex is studded with large, floor-to-ceiling windows and 24-foot tall interior volumes. Sam Gehry—Frank Gehry's son who is also an architect—described the outdoor areas in a promotional video for the project, saying, "We're able to maximize the buildable area of the lot [by stacking the office above parking] to create this large floor plate building. Part of what that allowed us to do architecturally... [is to create] entries at four points on the podium level that [also] become nice outdoor amenities and outdoor space." The building will also contain roughly 16,000 square feet of private outdoor space accessible to the office areas that will double as circulation cores for the parking structure. The complex is to be located a short walk from the Green Line light rail line and is expected to be open for occupation by the fourth quarter of 2017. For more information, see the Ascend website.
The City of Los Angeles recently closed escrow the G2 parcel, a 42-acre strip of land adjacent to the Los Angeles River that will be revitalized as a publicly accessible nature preserve and flood control area as part of the L.A. River’s long-term restoration. The parcel represents the last sizable holding leftover from the 250-acre Taylor Yard site along the river’s eastern banks adjacent to the Cypress Park neighborhood and across from the bustling Frogtown neighborhood. Taylor Yard, a large, river-adjacent industrial lot formerly owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, has been systematically disassembled over the years. Those other portions of Taylor Yard have been turned into the Rio de Los Angeles State Park, the Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies, and the Taylor Yard Transit Village. Acquisition of the G2 parcel allows the city to connect two adjacent, State-owned parks: the Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the Bowtie parcel. This will create, once the G2 Parcel’s revitalization is complete, a roughly mile-long riverfront access frontage for the surrounding community. In a press release celebrating the G2 Parcel’s acquisition, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said, “We’ve always considered G2 to be the crown jewel in our vision to revitalize the L.A. River, and that’s why I have been committed to fighting for the resources to finally return this land to the people of Los Angeles and the wildlife that call it home.” The parcel marks a key step forward for the complex and contentious L.A. River restoration projects that aim to revitalize the concrete-lined flood control channel. It was announced last year that Mia Lehrer and Associates, Oyler Wu Collaborative, and Gruen and Associates would extend the river-adjacent bike path that runs along the banks opposite from the G2 Parcel into the San Fernando Valley. That project would add about 12 miles of riverfront bike paths and further the city’s goal of developing bicycle trails along the river’s entire 51-mile length. Gehry Partners has also been working on a master plan for the river since 2016. Gehry’s planning efforts are being pursued in tandem with the city’s adopted Alternative 20 plan, a proposal that calls for the restoration of an 11-mile stretch of the river north of Downtown Los Angeles. The Alternate 20 plan relies on stitching together a series of river-adjacent plots—including the G2 Parcel and Piggyback Yard in Downtown Los Angeles—in tandem with the restoration of the river channel itself. Next steps for the restoration of the G2 Parcel include site remediation in coordination with the State’s Department of Toxic Substances Control as well as planning efforts aimed at making the site more accessible to the public.
The Los Angeles City Council voted this week to approve a new joint venture partnership and project timeline for the Grand Avenue Project, a long-stalled, $950-million Gehry Partners-designed mega-development across from the Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles. The project's revised timeline now includes a 2018 groundbreaking and—don't hold your breath—a 2022 opening date, according to developer for the project, Related Companies. Chinese developer CCCG Overseas, also known as CORE, has been brought on to invest $290 million on the project. The agreement, recently approved by the L.A. Board of Supervisors, mandates that at least 30% of the construction and permanent workforce must be locally hired and compels the project team to utilize apprenticeships and local training programs to hire workers who have "previously faced barriers to employment," according to a press release issued by L.A. County. The new agreement between Related, CORE, and the Grand Avenue Authority, a joint powers authority representing the County and City of Los Angeles, ushers in a new spirit of possibility for the delayed project. The deal also signals that the project's cost, reported to be $650 million back in 2014, has ballooned in the years since. The project encompasses a pair of residential and hotel towers located above a mixed-use podium. The project will include a 300-room Equinox hotel as well as between 380 and 450 residential units, 20% of which the Los Angeles Downtown News reports will be affordable. Additionally, the developer has agreed to remain neutral if future hotel workers decide to unionize, a standard provision that paves the way toward local workforce unionization. Grand Avenue Project will consist of two towers at the corner of 1st and Olive Streets with one rising 38 stories and containing condominium and apartment units. A smaller, 16-story building located along 2nd Street would contain the hotel. Current plans call for 200,000 square feet of commercial space, 1,500 parking spaces as well as a large public plaza along Grand Avenue and across from the Broad Museum.In a press release for the project Ken Himmell, CEO of Related Urban, celebrated the addition of CORE to the project, saying, “We welcome CORE as our joint venture partner on Grand Avenue. They share our vision for the creation of a world-class destination and as a global Fortune 110 company, they boast not only a sterling financial record but also have great excitement for the development.”
After much political wrangling and the promise of several key changes to the project, Gehry and Partners’ $300-million mixed-use project, 8150 Sunset, has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council, taking the controversial project one step closer toward beginning construction. Designs for 8150 Sunset, which was originally designed to add 249-units of market rate housing, 37 units of affordable housing, and 65,000 square feet of retail space to the Sunset Strip, were originally approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission back in August. The project features a cluster of five buildings grouped around public open spaces with commercial areas along the ground floor and a 15-story tower marking the northwestern corner of the site. The L.A. City Council’s approval comes a week after the project cleared the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee in a five-hour long meeting that included community input, as well as an in-person testimonial by architect Frank Gehry in support of the project. At that meeting, local Councilperson David Ryu dogged the project for its height, density, and paltry affordable housing component while also citing worries among community members that the project, as proposed, would badly increase traffic in the area. The meeting resulted in developers Townscape Partners agreeing to shorten the tower to 178-feet in height, increase the overall affordable housing allotment slightly, and provide an additional $2 million in funding for traffic mitigation measures. At the meeting, Ryu highlighted the project’s passage as the result of healthy compromise, stating, “8150 Sunset Blvd. is a much better project today” because of the agreed upon changes. Although developers Townscape Partners and the architect have wrestled with neighborhood and City Council opposition for months, the question of whether—and how—to save the historically significant Lytton Savings Bank building currently occupying the site is still an open question. Designed by Kurt Meyer in 1960, the late-modernist bank building is capped by a distinctive folded concrete roof plane and was recently approved as a city historic-cultural landmark in September. Back then, Adrian Scott-Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, told The Architect’s Newspaper that the Gehry project—as presented—would “unnecessarily demolish a historic cultural monument,” adding “there's a very clear way for this project to move forward and preserve this bank building.” Consideration of the historic building’s future will be taken up by the City Council in November, when it will be decided whether to save the building or not and if so, whether to incorporate the structure into Gehry’s scheme or simply relocate the relic to a different site.
Two historically-significant structures in Los Angeles were temporarily granted a reprieve from the wrecking ball last month when both were approved by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Committee (CHC) to receive cultural landmark status as a Historic-Cultural Monument. One structure, the Charlotte and Robert Disney House, a craftsman bungalow that served as Walt Disney’s first Los Angeles residence and the location of his first animation and production facilities in the region, was recently being eyed as a potential tear-down property. A demolition permit was filed by the owner to remove the one story structure and garage to enable new construction. Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood, the house originally owned by Walt Disney’s uncle and aunt, and was used by the visionary storyteller as a temporary residence in the early 1920s when he first moved to the Los Angeles area. The structure was recently listed on the Los Angeles Conservancy’s preservation watch list, a designation that brought public attention to its impending demolition and helped convince the CHC to take action on the structure's nomination. Adrian Scott-Fine, director of advocacy for the Los Angeles Conservancy, credited a diverse partnership between activists and city officials for the preservation success, telling The Architect's Newspaper (AN) over the telephone, “The Disney residence represents another threatened building where the Department of City Planning stepped up to the plate and initiated the nomination process.” Community and political will toward preserving the vernacular structure was anchored by the cultural and symbolic importance of Disney’s work in that community and in Los Angeles at-large. A second structure, the midcentury modern Lytton Savings Bank building designed by Kurt W. Meyer in 1960 , has also cleared the CHC’s vetting process. That structure has been under threat of demolition to make way for 8150 Sunset, a Gehry and Partners-designed development proposed by Townscape Partners. The $300-million complex is organized as a pair of towers stacked above an articulated podium, rising between five and 15 stories above the city, on a site carved into multiple, leafy public plazas fronting the Sunset Strip. The design for 8150 Sunset was approved by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (LACPC) in August and aims to add 249-units of market rate housing, 37 units of affordable housing, as well as 65,000 square feet of retail space. One problem: The developer’s preferred scheme calls for a blank site, wiped clean of the historic bank. The bank’s architectural features, a roof made of folded concrete plates and expanses of glass and stone, invigorated preservationists to make a case for the structure. Scott-Fine told AN that the Gehry project, as presented, would “unnecessarily demolish a historic cultural monument,” and that “there's a very clear way for this project to move forward while preserving the bank building.” The developers were prepared for this turn of events and presented various options for the development to the LACPC in an Environmental Impact Report, including several of which called for the preservation and restoration of the bank structure. The project has been controversial on multiple levels, with other neighborhood factions decrying the project’s density, height, and massing. The LACPC’s project approval itself was contingent on the developers boosting the affordable housing component of the project by nine additional units, from 28 units to 37 units. Regarding where preservation in relation to other complex urban issues like affordability, gentrification, and development, Scott-Fine told AN, “One doesn’t trump another, nor are they mutually exclusive. You can achieve multiple goals at once,” adding, "Starchitecture doesn't trump our heritage." Next, both of the structures will head to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee for final approval of their nomination status. So far, Townscape Partners have not issued a statement on the bank's nomination.
If words were water, the Los Angeles River would be overflowing its banks. If pronouncements were viable projects, a very green sustainable Southern California is in the offing. There certainly were a lot of words and pronouncements at the industry heralded “FutureBuild” convocation in L.A. this week, staged over two days by the venerable VerdeXchange conference with the Urban Land Institute. Attending were an estimated 700 people described by the sponsors as “public and private sector market-makers who buy, manufacture, sell, finance, endorse, and legislate green technologies, products, innovations, infrastructure, and sustainable services.” It was very much a design and development crowd. Of major interest was a keynote session entitled “A River Runs Through It: Reimagining L.A.’s Water Way,” with opening remarks by the city’s personable Mayor Eric Garcetti, to be followed by a widely promoted panel prominently featuring celebrity architect Frank Gehry. Garcetti was his smooth self, reviewing the rise and fall of the river’s prominence through the city’s history, touting its present planned revitalization by a concerted community effort, and its critical importance to the future of the city. It was a variation on a speech the mayor has been delivering for several years. However, it did not assuage the announcement that Gehry had bowed out of the event at the last moment. His appearance had been anticipated as an opportunity for him to reply to the skepticism surrounding his appointment by the mayor’s L.A. River Revitalization Corp. to master plan the 51-mile waterway. Instead of being viewed as a second coming, the selection roiled river advocates who had been involved in various long term and long suffering efforts, marked by team planning and transparency. They charged that Gehry, with little landscape experience, has come late to the party, attracted by the publicity it is generating and a $1.4 billion price tag. Gehry has been sharply dismissive of any criticism, while his fans, including the mayor and his minions, have been hinting at the architect generating concepts that will catapult the city to prominence and also enhance its bid for the 2024 Olympics. They will have to wait a little longer, according to Tensho Takemori, Gehry’s surrogate, who said the office was still gathering information while working on a 3D model of the river. “We are not holding our breaths,” commented architect Gerhard Mayer. Indeed, in addition to the one on the L.A. River, the sessions covering every shade of the rising “green” consciousness, from energy to infrastructure, were mostly standing room only. Said an architect trading candor for anonymity, “We’re here not for Frank, nor really for the presentations, but for the networking.” Green is hot.
Last February, Facebook announced the company was moving its Seattle offices. The company has hired Frank Gehry to design its new Dexter Station space in the burgeoning South Lake Union neighborhood. Now, we the floor plans have been leaked, revealing more detail surrounding the always-amenity-rich tech offices. Last week, GeekWire obtained blueprints of the Gehry Partners–designed outdoor areas and a photo of a model of the interior. The plans show a rooftop park with a curving, looping trail (the younger cousin to the nine-acre park on Facebook's Building 20 in Menlo Park, also designed by Gehry). There's a fire pit, meeting and covered dining terraces, as well as a barbecue prep area, all spread over three rooftops. "The over-the-top amenities are the latest demonstration of the lengths to which Facebook and other tech companies are going to recruit and retain talent in an increasingly competitive market for top-notch software developers," wrote GeekWire. Facebook Seattle is currently working out of Metropolitan Park. The company is expected to move into its new space by the middle of next year, and have enough room to grow to 2,000 employees. In 2010, they started with just two.
Is there gold in the L.A. River? The Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation just released news that it was awarded a million dollar matching grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in support of the Frank Gehry-led study of the 51-mile waterway. Making clear that what they are embarking on is an initial study and not a “master plan,” the L.A. River Corp and the Gehry team, which includes OLIN Landscape Architects, Geosyntec, and others, are “developing a data-driven analysis of the river and formulating a set of recommendations for a range of river interventions and capital improvements based on design storm impacts and process methodology.” The stated goal of the study is to establish an identity for the river and propose “multi-use benefits.” The L.A. River Corp noted that the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy grant originated from the Safe Drinking Water, Water Quality and Supply, Flood Control, River and Costal Protection Bond Act of 2006. Deliverables associated with the award will focus on the Upper L.A. River, even as the study tasks itself with the full length. According to the organization, the $1 million represents one-third of the larger project cost, which seems like a pretty trim budget for a project of this size.
With the entire hubbub over the L.A. River non-master plan, Gehry Partner’s new designs for Sunset Boulevard, a medal from the Getty, and critic Paul Goldberger’s hagiographic biography it’s easy to forget that a major retrospective simply entitled Frank Gehry opens LACMA on September 13. The exhibition originated at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and was curated by Frédéric Migayrou and Aurélien Lemonier, LACMA curators Stephanie Barron and Lauren Bergman curated the Los Angeles installment, which is designed by Gehry Partners. The Resnick Pavilion will be filled with over 60 projects, illustrated with dozens of models and drawings, from the 1960s onward. Several projects will be on view for the first time, including Facebook’s new campus and the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s renovation. Touring the exhibition, the LA Times discovered a model of the Jazz Bakery, a non-profit music venue in search of a new home. Gehry’s pro-bono design for a site in Culver City includes 266-seat theater, a 60-seat black-box theater, and a West Coast jazz museum. According to LACMA, the exhibition tracks two threads of Gehry’s career: urbanism and digital technology. While the latter suggests a straightforward trajectory leading to CATIA Digital Project and Gehry Technologies, the first is more impressionistic, focusing on the architect’s use of everyday materials and his sensitivity to context to “create heterogeneous urban landscapes.” With conceptual themes in the exhibition such as “Composition | Assemblage,” “Conflict | Tension,” and “Unity | Singularity,” don’t expect much urban planning in the gallery. Gehry will be in conversation with Goldberger at LACMA’s Bing Theater on Sunday, September 13 at 2:00p.m. The event is free to the public, but tickets are required. More info on LACMA's website.
“This is not a master plan,” said Omar Brownson, executive director of the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation (LARRC) at an event to introduce members of the press to the work underway by Gehry Partners on the Los Angeles River. The news earlier this month that Frank Gehry was spearheading a new master plan for the river drew surprised and mixed responses from design, development, and landscape communities near and far. Gehry was not in attendance at the press event, hosted at 100 Years Studio in Downtown Los Angeles, due to recent back surgery. Instead, partners Tensho Takemori and Anand Devarajan presented a series of boards documenting the beginning phases of a study, which Brownson suggested would take 3–6 months and would be supported by public and private funding. Specific private partnerships were kept under wraps. Fifty-one miles—the length of the entire L.A. River—was reiterated again and again. The figure acted as shorthand for an all-inclusive vision for the redevelopment and the identity of the waterway. Representatives from Gehry Partners’ full team were present: landscape architects Olin, Geosyntec, and 270 Strategies, the community engagement firm that got its start doing grassroots work on the Obama campaign. The last, underscores the scope and challenge of working with the river's diverse group of institutional, governmental, and individual stakeholders. The boards presented to reporters were preliminary strategies for tackling the whole river, and in parts seemed thin. Gehry Partners has conceptualized the river as a series of “layers,” a term familiar to anyone who uses drafting or mapping software, but at bit jargony for the public. These include: flood control, water recharge, water quality, ecosystems and habitat, parks and open space, land use, stakeholders, public health, transportation, and arts and culture. Presently, the team is continuing to review the multiple reports and master plans from Alternative 20 to work by the Arid Lands Institute to documents from the DWP and Department of Sanitation, with the hope of codifying the wealth of already completed research on the river from Canoga Park to Long Beach. Much of this data is in GIS form, but the team is also working with a beta 2-D model from Army Corps of Engineer. Long term, however, Gehry Partners is developing a 3-D model in Trimble of the whole L.A. River, which should be available for public interface. According to Takemori, the company used a LIDAR unit to map close to seventy percent of the hard-bottomed sections of the channel. Soft bottom sections in Elysian Valley and Sawtelle will require more on site documentation. Devarajan suggested that the comprehensive map would help identify opportunities to “solve multiple problems with one intervention.” A question about who would design these interventions or what the overall design of the river would look like left the architects a little flummoxed, who noted that Gehry Partners has no desire as a firm to design the whole river. Brownson hedged that there might be a couple select projects. Most of the designs on view were initial screen shots of what the architects called the L.A. River Media Platform, a public, interactive website to host a centralized database of river basin materials, including the eventual 3-D model. Given the scale and scope of such a comprehensive digital effort, it is no wonder that the design firm selected is named Prophet.