Frank Gehry must have a green thumb. First he snags the Los Angeles River and now Townscape Partners has released renderings and a model of the $300 million development on the site of the Garden of Allah, a former Mediterranean hotel rich with bohemian lore on the Sunset Strip. But what exactly is he growing? “It was all white, the Garden of Allah. It was low rise, a lot of incense burning, and people in flowing gowns,” Gehry recalled to Architectural Record. The new project replaces a strip mall and the design shows a typically Gehry Partners scheme: buildings clustered around a plaza. The firm used a similar strategy on a small scale with the 1984 Edgemar development in Santa Monica and on a grand scale with the proposed designs for Parcel Q across from Disney Hall. Gehry’s compositional jumble of mixed-use development adds up to 333,600 square feet, with 249 residential units and retail spaces. Two residential towers—one 11-stories along Crescent Heights Boulevard and one 15-stories—flank the glassy, mall-esque central building, which will feature shops, cafes, and restaurants, topped by penthouses. According to Record, the design is meant to be responsive to the scale of the street and partner Anand Devarajan was mindful about making the site feel “porous.” This need for approachability may be in response to a group called Save Sunset Boulevard, which is fighting to block the project. In March, AN reported that anti-development lawyer Robert Silverstein, objected to “the project’s potential to add to congestion, dwarf local historic buildings, block views, and waste water and other resources.” Townscape Partners plans to submit an Environmental Impact Review in the near future, with the hopes of breaking ground in winter 2016/17. (You can read the Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF), here.) Update: After seeing the new Gehry designs, the folks at Save Sunset Boulevard have had a change of heart. In a blog post on their website, Andrew Macpherson wrote: "As one would expect Frank Gehry has transformed the project from something that looked like an airport hotel into a landmark design. That Townscape listened to the voices of the neighborhood and brought in a great architect gives me great hope that they will continue to address our other concerns."
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We like to give Frank Gehry a hard time for his foibles, but he has actually undertaken a lot of pro bono work, including a Make It Right home in New Orleans and the Pasadena Playhouse and Jazz Bakery Theater in Los Angeles. His latest effort is in one of the most troubled neighborhoods in Los Angeles: Watts. Gehry Partners has agreed to design a new campus for the Childrens Institute (CII), a social services non-profit. They're collaborating with Inglewood firm (fer) Studio, who will be Executive Architect. The 2-acre, 50,000-square-foot campus, at 1522 East 102nd Street, will be located near the famed Watts Towers, by far the most recognizable structure in the area, and near what was once downtown Watts. While both teams have been working for about three months, the designs are not developed yet, (fer) Studio's Chris Mercier told AN. But the program will include a multi-purpose space, an art room, a kitchen, activity rooms, sports facilities, a tech lab, offices, counseling rooms, and observation spaces. "It will have a friendly, you're ready to relax atmosphere," said Mercier. The varied rooms will be scattered and integrated throughout the center and often connected to the outdoors, making people more comfortable going through counseling. The facility will allow the organization to expand its support services to over 5,000 families in the Watts area, said CII. CII president Nina Revoyr seems optimistic. "We're not going to build Disney Hall in the middle of Watts," she told the LA Times. "But that being said, the idea is that this will be something special." So many efforts to jumpstart the neighborhood have failed in the past, but Revoyr told the Times that the group has "seven figure commitments" for the project, so perhaps this one will move ahead?
The road to fruition for the Frank Gehry–designed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial has been full of twists and turns. And now, it seems, the Los Angeles architect’s plans may have reached a dead end. Last week, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) voted seven to three to reject the preliminary site and building plans for the memorial. The vote followed five hours of testimony from the proposal’s supporters and detractors, including House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA). Issa spoke against one of the design’s most (but not only) controversial features: the massive stainless-steel “tapestries” meant to depict scenes from Eisenhower’s life. Gehry’s design, which centers around a colonnade supporting three 80-foot-high tapestries, has been the subject of fervent debate since its unveiling in early 2010. In late 2011, two of Eisenhower’s granddaughters expressed public dissatisfaction with the design. The following March, Congress held a hearing on the matter. Then, in March 2013, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) proposed a bill to shut down the design. In the meantime, the most vocal of the Gehry proposal’s opponents, the National Civic Arts Society, launched a competition for a more traditional design. Last July, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved an updated design, but in January, Congress, unimpressed with Gehry Partners’ revisions thus far, cut off funding to the Eisenhower Memorial Committee. The NCPC executive director’s recommendations [PDF], which the commission adopted on Friday, cited concerns with “the proposed scale and configuration of the tapestries” and how they jeopardize several of the design principles outlined during the 2006 site approval process. These include protecting views to and from the Capitol building, preserving building and tree lines along Maryland Avenue, and working within the L’Enfant Plan’s broader vision for Washington, D.C.’s civic core. The report asked Gehry Partners to modify the memorial design to address specific issues of pedestrian circulation, perimeter security, lighting, and public space. On a positive note, the NCPC report announced that the stainless steel alloy proposed for the tapestry panels passed a series of durability tests. No one has said for certain that Gehry’s design is a goner. The NCPC report “[n]otes the Commission’s continued support for a modern and innovative approach to commemorate President Dwight D. Eisenhower, including the possible use of stainless steel tapestries, although not as currently proposed.” If nothing else, the price associated with scrapping the Gehry proposal—an estimated $17 million—has kept the process going this long. But the question remains: how many more stops and starts can one project take?
Yesterday the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved Gehry Partners' and Related Companies' long-stalled Grand Avenue Project, all but assuring that it will go ahead after years (and years, and years) of delay. The only remaining vote comes later today as the Grand Avenue Authority, the city-county agency overseeing the project, votes on the project. At the Supervisors' meeting the head of that authority, Supervisor Gloria Molina, praised Gehry's newest plans, a three-acre, mixed use development centering around a terraced, U-shaped plaza. "It's really a much improved design," said Molina. "It really creates an environment of a lot of activity and a lot of connectivity to the rest of downtown." She referred to an earlier iteration, by Gensler along with Robert A.M. Stern, as "very enclosed, very fort-like." Gehry returned to the project last month after being off the project for close to a year. The Grand Avenue project was first approved back in 2007 (after already experiencing years of false-starts), and Related has received almost a dozen extensions until this point. Gehry Partners' Paul Zumoff described the firm's new approach "to carve out the interior of the Grand Avenue scheme...giving views both to the interior and the exterior." He added: "It's a bit like Disney was inside and was pulled out of the interior." The Grand Avenue Authority meets today at 3pm to vote on the project. Also up for discussion is whether the project will be exempt from environmental review.
Frank Gehry and Foster + Partners have been selected to design the third phase of the mixed-use Battersea Power Station development in London, which includes a retail pedestrian street that serves as the entryway to the complex. Gehry and Foster will collaborate on the High Street section, and each firm will design residential buildings on the east and west sides, respectively. This will be Gehry’s first building in London. He will approach the project with the “goal to help create a neighborhood and a place for people to live that respects the iconic Battersea Power Station while connecting it into the broader fabric of the city.” The iconic Battersea Power Station has captured the imagination of everyone from furniture designers to rock stars. Take a look below at AN's roundup of 12 of the most amazing Battersea Power Station photos.
October is upon us, which means that the Chicago edition of Facades+ PERFORMANCE is only a few weeks away! Be there as leading innovators from across the AEC industry converge on Chicago from October 24th and 25th at AN and Enclos' highly anticipated event to discuss the cutting-edge processes and technologies behind the facades of today’s most exciting built projects. Don't miss your chance to take part in our groundbreaking lineup of symposia, keynotes, and workshops, and work side-by-side with the design and construction visionaries who are redefining performance for the next generation of building envelopes. Our Early Bird special has been extended until Wednesday, so register today to save on this unbeatable opportunity! Join Neil Meredith of Gehry Technolgies as he examine the relationship between digital design methodologies and real-world construction and fabrication constraints in the complex, wooden ceiling of the Burj Khalifa’s lobby. With representatives from Thornton Tomasetti and Imperial Woodworking, Meredith will lead an intimate, interdisciplinary discussion of the innovative, on-site solutions that his team developed in order to deliver one of the most visible features of the world’s tallest building, so don’t miss out on this rare opportunity! With the deadline fast approaching, Mederith and his team at Gehry Technoligies worked with SOM, Imperial Woodworking, and Icon Integrated Construction to develop new systems, mid-construction, for the design and fabrication of the large, double-curved, wooden ceiling of the Burj Khalifa. Coordinating the work of architects, fabricators, and construction professionals through complex, shared parametric models, Meredith redesigned the ceiling system from the ground up using pre-fabricated, unitized panels to create its astounding, wooden forms. Join in the discussion to hear the rest of this dramatic AEC industry saga in the not-to-be-missed dialog workshop, “Designing for Wood Fabrication in Complex Geometries: The Burh Khalifa Ceiling,” and learn the technologies and techniques behind the creation of this historic project. After earning his Masters in Architecture from Univeristy of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Neil Meredith taught and ran the Digital Fabrication Lab at his alma mater. Meredith earned hands-on experience with cutting edge design technologies and real-world construction challenges with Detroit-based design/build firm M1, the European Ceramic Workcentere in Holland, façade consulting office Front, and as founding partner of design and fabrication studio Sheet. In 2007 Meredith joined up with Gehry Technologies, the go-to design technology and consulting company for the industry’s leading architects. Through the pioneering use of the latest digital tools and processes, Gehry Technolgies has worked with world-class, visionary architects, like Zaha Hadid, David Childs, Jean Nouvel, and of course Mr. Gehry himself, to triumph in the realization of the truly innovative forms of some of the era’s most ground-breaking projects. Register for Facades+ PERFORMANCE today to take part in this and other exciting workshops and symposia. Featuring representatives from SOM, Morphosis, Thornton Tomasetti, and other industry-leading firms, this is one event that is not to be missed. Check out the full Facades+ PERFORMANCE site for the schedule of events and book your tickets now to start the next chapter in your professional career!
Frank Gehry has unveiled renderings of its shortlisted entry for the competition to design the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), the predestined showstopper of Beijing’s new cultural district. Gehry was shortlisted alongside fellow Pritzker Prize winners Jean Nouvel and Zaha Hadid for the high-profile project. Gehry's submission incorporates transparent cladding, an interior comprised of lofty, geometric courtyards evocative of pagodas and temples, and a layout that would accommodate nearly 12 million annual visitors. [beforeafter] [/beforeafter] In acknowledging the globalization of art and its role in connecting the world’s various cultures, the firm's plans seeks to address the concept of 21st century Chinese architecture. Gehry Partners has created a unique design tailored to the museum’s framework, as the structure will be situated facing the central axis of Olympic Park, over the course of the three competition stages. To convey delicate movement, the firm considered glass as a facade material, and in doing so developed a new material—translucent stone—that grants the building an imperial appearance suitable for a national museum. The translucent stone, which is part of the inventive sustainable facade system that integrates a ventilated airspace, allows the structure to efficiently transform for the seasons, festivals, diverse exhibitions, and as a canvas for artists. The renderings reveal four dispersed entrances at each corner and expose a structure that can accommodate a record number of visitors. A formal entry resembling a Chinese temple is positioned in the center of the west facade. The interiors are organized around large public spaces linked vertically by escalators. Visible only from the inside, the spaces are inspired by temples and establish a proper connection between the shapes of the building facade and the interior. The project is currently part of Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art exhibition called A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California.
OMA and Robert A.M. Stern are not the only starchitects zeroing in on Santa Monica. Frank Gehry is designing a 22-story, 244-foot-tall tower on a 1.9 acre site on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Plans for the project were submitted to the city yesterday, according to the Santa Monica Planning Department. The tower, located just a block from the beach and around the corner from the 3rd Street Promenade, would house a 125-room hotel, 22 condos, and two stories of retail and restaurants. A 36,000-square-foot art museum, incorporating two landmarked structures, would also be built just north of the tower. The $72 million scheme, known as the “Ocean Avenue Project,” is being developed by M. David Paul Associates and the Worthe Real Estate Group. Neither the architect nor the developer would comment on the project at this point, but according to the project web site, the development uses "urban planning principles consistent with the vision and principles of Santa Monica's Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and the city staff recommendations for the Downtown Specific Plan." That includes a stepped-back design that reduces the bulk of the building, street level retail to activate the street, and the integration of public space and amenities—including a rooftop observation deck—into the design. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the "architects chose to go with a white material to play off of other prominent Santa Monica buildings, and attempted to marry an art deco feel with Gehry’s distinctive style." The project still needs to get city approval. The first community meetings are expected to be held in March. Right now the city is considering over 30 development applications, a sign that the economy is definitely back in a big way, and a precursor to several upcoming neighborhood battles.