Various reports indicate that L.A.’s Parker Center, an International Style structure designed by Welton Becket and Associates that once served as the headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), is set to be demolished starting August 20. The much-maligned building will make way for a new 750,000-square-foot, 27- to 29-story office tower that is being developed as part of a new master plan for the surrounding Civic Center neighborhood. There was a short-lived effort to landmark and perhaps preserve the Parker Center last year that failed in large part due to community opposition to the building. One reason the building is unpopular is that the site for the complex was taken from what once the cultural and commercial core of L.A.’s Little Tokyo neighborhood. Resentment over the displacement of businesses and cultural institutions resulting from the land-grab still runs high in the area and helped to derail the building’s application for Historic-Cultural Monument status. The building is also widely criticized in Latino and African American communities for its associations with the LAPD itself, an organization with many documented cases of brutality and injustice against members of those communities, including the brutal 1992 attack on Rodney King and offenses resulting from the ensuing L.A. Uprising. The building was originally designed as an “ultramodern” and “scientific” police headquarters that focused both on internal efficiency and—ironically—on thoughtful public interfaces. The building’s lobby features an open design, for example, and is populated by a series of site-specific artworks, including a mural by the artist Joseph Young titled Theme Mural of Los Angeles that depicts city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The complex also features a bronze exterior sculpture titled The Family Group by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. In a 2017 interview with The Architect’s Newspaper, Louis Naidorf, one of the architects who worked on the complex, lamented the building’s sordid reputation. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” The LAPD left the building in 2009 when a new 491,00-square-foot, 11-story tower designed by AECOM located down the street opened for business. Earlier this year, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other preservationists attempted to convert Parker Center into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, but the plan failed. Ahead of the planned demolition, the public art elements were removed for storage and eventual restoration. The complex is slated to make way for a key component of a new “Civic Innovation District” that will bring housing, offices, and new open spaces to the area. The new office tower that is set to rise on the Parker Center site has yet to be designed, but official estimates put its cost at $700 million. A detailed plan for the design and construction of the tower has not been announced, but planning documents explain that the city plans to complete the replacement tower around 2020.
Posts tagged with "Los Angeles Civic Center":
The Parker Center complex in the Downtown Los Angeles Civic Center is quickly moving toward demolition in recent months as the City of Los Angeles begins to make headway on a new master plan for the district. The complex originally opened in 1955 and was designed by legendary L.A. architecture firm Welton Becket & Associates as a headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department. The building has been featured prominently in films depicting the city and is largely intact, architecturally speaking. The complex, however, was controversial from its inception. The police headquarters takes up a full city block in an area that was once part of the commercial heart of the Little Tokyo neighborhood, a factor that weighed heavily on and ultimately derailed recent efforts to grant historic status to Parker Center. On top of that, the complex carries a great deal of psychological baggage due to its use as a base of operations by the LAPD during the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, an event associated with widespread police abuse and dysfunction. Perhaps understandably, instead of saving the structure, city agencies are instead working full-speed toward organizing its demolition. Urbanize.la reports that the city recently sent out RFPs to interested parties to solicit demolition bids; estimates put the cost of demolition at $12 million. The complex will be replaced in coming years by a yet-to-be-designed office tower containing 712,500 square feet of office space and 37,500 square feet of ground floor retail, according to a draft master plan for the area. The existing eight-story International Style structure is defined by a primary, tile-clad facade that bears the name of the building in midcentury-era script. The abstract, rectilinear office mass sits on a series of one-story piloti and was considered state-of-the-art for its time. On a Los Angeles Conservancy page dedicated to the complex, a quote from a July 1956 issue of Popular Mechanics describes the building as follows: “Ultramodern in all respects, the new eight-floor Los Angeles Police Building makes available to the city's police department the most scientific building ever used by a law-enforcement group." Behind the main facade, the building’s expenses are clad in alternating bands of ribbon windows and blue tile mosaics. Along ground floor areas, the complex features a large lobby space defined by glass enclosures that provide visual indoor-outdoor connections. Like many of contemporary works of architecture built in Los Angeles during the time, the complex featured integrated public art that complemented the architecture. The lobby space contains a series of public artworks, including a bronze sculpture along the exterior titled “The Family Group” by artist Bernard J. Rosenthal. The lobby’s interior spaces are highlighted by a large mural by Joseph Young titled “Theme Mural of Los Angeles” depicting various city landmarks amid abstract color fields. The Architect’s Newspaper spoke with Louis Naidorf, one of the designers of the complex, to learn more about the project. Naidorf worked for Becket for over a decade starting in 1950, a stint that included design work on the iconic Capitol Records tower in Hollywood when the architect was just 24 years old. Naidorf explained that the conceptual idea of placing an office tower over thin piloti was Becket’s idea, and that Naidorf himself had designed “the entire first floor, [including] the auditorium and the lobby, the concession stand, and the parking structure.” Naidorf explained that fellow legendary midcentury designer Richard Dorman was the author of the police and jail wings of the complex, with Naidorf designing exterior treatments for those areas as well as an accompanying security gate. He said, “My job was to design a welcoming setting—something light airy, friendly, and courteous.” In describing the design of the interior lobby, Naidorf had proposed a “battery of telephones to call bail bondsmen from, with a floated panel spanning across the structural columns. The mounted telephones—with a mural at the front that had some liveliness—gave people a degree of privacy and tucked that less-than-happy aspect of the lobby out of view.” Naidorf described the era surrounding the early post-war boom during which Parker Center was built as a “strange period that, in effect, wiped out the lives of a generation of architects” who had been educated before the Great Depression, but who, because of the economic collapse, the deprivation caused by the ensuing global conflict, and their age, were never drafted for the war and had been left bereft of professional opportunity as a result. In this period, Naidorf explained, any architects of the time found work on Hollywood film sets as set designers, working in light timber framing and plaster. He told AN, “People old enough to be our parents were just getting licensed” during the tumultuous era, adding, that “architecture had been in the tank” for the preceding decade. Younger architects like Naidorf —who was “three days out from UC Berkeley” when he was hired by Becket’s office—found themselves enjoying a great deal of responsibility and creative agency consequently. Naidorf lamented the loaded and problematic history of the building. He said, “[I] always assumed architects were supposed to positively affect the lives of the people who used their buildings and that the ‘real client’ for projects like Parker Center were the people who work in the building, the people who walk by the building, the people who were affected somehow by the presence of the building.” Naidorf added, “Your work was a setting for their lives. At a more basic level, [you] can create spaces that are depressing or spaces that are happy.” Regarding the proposed demolition of the Parker Center, Naidorf said:
Buildings need to be seen as mute elements in this society. The police from that time are probably mostly dead. The most productive thing is not to destroy it; it’s to find some good and productive use for [the building] that serves a good civic purpose. Perhaps that purpose should be related to the needs of people who have not been listened to very much. I don’t know if spending the money to tear it down and then rebuilding it is in our best interest. There are areas of the site that are less significant; the parking structure could go away, for example. It won’t be seriously missed. If you wanted to—remove the jail wing. But the building [overall] is really a pleasant, adaptable office building with a useful auditorium and a welcoming lobby that can go to many new uses. To throw away a piece of the city’s history—as well as throw into the recycling bin the narrative of that building—seems to me very foolish.
The City of Los Angeles is moving quickly in its efforts to rework the historic Civic Center district as it aims to rectify nagging post-World War II era planning and building legacies amid a period of intense development within surrounding Downtown Los Angeles neighborhoods. The areas around the district—roughly encompassed by the 101 Freeway, Judge John Aiso Street, 1st Street and Grand Avenue—are already undergoing broad change, including the recent completion of the SOM-designed Los Angeles U.S District Courthouse and the forthcoming First and Broadway park by Mia Lehrer+Associates and OMA. The area is also due to receive a series of high-rise residential towers from Canadian developers Onni Group, including a boxy scheme by Gensler and a collection of pointed condo towers by AC Martin. The draft plan aims to convert the purpose-built bureaucratic and administrative quarter into a “Civic Innovation District”—a mixed-use neighborhood containing street-fronting retail, startup office space, broad pedestrian paths, a bounty of public parks, and high-rise residential housing. In March, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve the new Civic Center Master Plan—a document based on a study by multi-service firm IBI Group that would guide the redevelopment of the area. The plan envisions adding 1.2 million square feet of office space to the area, as well as roughly 1.1 million square feet of housing, and at least 217,500 square feet of retail space, all the while reworking surrounding streets and blocks into a network of interconnected, axially-driven, pedestrian-friendly promenades. Most controversially, instituting the plan involves demolishing a variety of structures, including the historic but socially-problematic former Los Angeles Police Department headquarters from 1955—designed by architect Welton Becket and known as Parker Center. The modernist-style City Hall East building and the Metropolitan Detention Center, a 757-bed federal prison, would also be demolished via the plan, among other structures. Another aim of the plan is to establish City Hall as the visual and conceptual locus for an area that would stitch together the Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo, Arts District, and El Pueblo neighborhoods. The plan would be implemented over six phases beginning later this year with the demolition of Parker Center. That structure was recently denied historic status and is headed toward demolition, to be replaced with a high-rise tower containing 712,500 square feet of office space and 37,500 square feet of ground floor retail. The existing City Hall South building will be replaced starting in 2019 with 569,000 square feet of housing and 90,000 square feet of retail uses in a podium-style tower that would also create a paseo between itself and the City Hall East building. The housing tower would face the Morphosis-designed CalTrans Building from 2004 and would sit diagonally from the new Los Angeles Police Department Headquarters building by AECOM from 2009 that made the Parker Center structure functionally redundant. Starting in 2021, the scheme calls for converting the existing Los Angeles Mall into a 390-foot tall tower complex containing 675,000 square feet of government office, commercial, and flexible spaces. The podium-style building will leave generous, wedge-shaped areas along the ground as open space. A fourth phase would bring another 520,000 square feet of housing and 90,000 square feet of retail to the southern portion of the block containing the Parker Center’s replacement between 2024 and 2027. Planning documents show those structures as a series of wedge-shaped housing towers and low commercial buildings organized around a continuation of the paseo started on the block just to the north. This paseo would connect to the booming Little Tokyo and Arts District neighborhoods, which are due to receive a slew of high-rise, mixed-use developments along the Alameda Corridor, as well. Following that development—the document times phase five to start in 2027—the Metropolitan Detention Center at the eastern edge of the block will make way for a 360,000-square-foot government office and retail tower. It is unclear whether the prison will be replaced locally or elsewhere. The final phase of the plan would demolish the modernist-style City Hall East building, replacing the striking 13-story tower with a small cultural building and a civic plaza. The plan, as specified, would be completed sometime between 2030 and 2032. A recently-released rendering by IBI Group describes the area as a more uniformly 12-20 story tall cluster of towers separated by broad swaths of open space. The plan—more radically—also envisions placing a lid over a three-block section of the 101 Freeway currently dividing the Civic Center from the El Pueblo and Union Station areas. The connection would make the Civic Center area accessible to the currently-under-construction $410 million La Plaza de Cultura project by Johnson Fain, Benchmark Contractors, and the non-profit Cesar Chavez Foundation. That project aims to bring 355 housing units at 46,000-square feet of retail space to the area. Once completed, the Civic Center Master Plan has the potential to convert the sleepy, bureaucratic district into the lynchpin of a continuous, mixed-use center spanning from Pershing Square at the heart of downtown to the western banks of the Los Angeles River on one end and Chinatown on the other. The areas between the Civic Center and the Arts District are expected to receive a series of stops along the new Regional Connector subway line, a condition that will surely drive further residential and commercial growth in the area. The plan was recently approved by the Los Angeles City Council’s Entertainment and Facilities Committee. It now heads for consideration by the full city council, and eventually, the mayor’s office.