Los Angeles’ impressive new bridges have gotten a lot of press lately, including HNTB’s epic 6th Street Viaduct and Andrew Leicester’s unusual so-called basket bridge for the Metro Pasadena Gold Line extension. But one crossing is being worked on in total secrecy: a span over the 101 Freeway at Los Angeles Street, connecting the Civic Center and the Pueblo de Los Angeles. Artists Jenna Didier and Oliver Hess, who run the city’s Materials and Applications gallery in Silver Lake, are designing the bridge. No renderings have been unveiled, and it’s all very top secret within the city, which is why eavesdrop is on the case. And while Thom Mayne (101 pedestrian bridge) and Asymptote (Steel Cloud) have both failed to make similar ideas happen, this looks like it’s actually moving. Stay tuned.
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At a DeLab (Design East of La Brea) Tour this Saturday, Los Angeles-based firm Lettuce Office shared the epic story of its new solar array for LA's Occidental College. The 1 megawatt installation, made up of 4,886-panels, follows the contours of its hilly site, with its angled panels raised just two or three feet off the ground. To guard against sliding, each set of panels had to be imbedded into the earth via concrete-supported columns. The array was supposed to open two years ago, but infighting at the university over the ambitious design caused considerable delay. In the end, Lettuce's plans won out, and now the handsome array supplies 11 percent of the university's power. And despite initial objections (the firm was at one point "shouted out of the room," explained principal Kara Bartelt), the $6.8 million project is now becoming a selling point for both the school and its builder, Martifer Solar. "It represents a new paradigm for arrays as architectural objects that, like buildings, are expected to contribute aesthetically to their environment," noted Occidental President Jonathan Veitch. See a live view of the solar field on the university's solar cam, here.
Think LA has too many issues? Then start voting in the My LA2050 Challenge, a competition handing out $1 million in grants to some of the most innovative and creative ideas meant to tackle the city's biggest problems. Voting, which is all online, began on April 2nd and lasts until April 17th. More than 275 ideas have been proposed. One is AN West Coast Editor Sam Lubell's exhibition, Never Built: Los Angeles, which brings to life more than 100 innovative, often unbelievable, unbuilt schemes—many dashed by LA's inability to embrace innovation—and challenges the city to change its culture of public timidity and banality. Another favorite is Farm on Wheels, by LA-Más, in which food trucks will serve as citywide "hubs of healthy food." The Hammer Museum has proposed Arts ReSTORE LA, in which the museum would curate an artisanal pop-up village in Westwood and offer a long term strategy to turn the neighborhood around permanently with long-term work and retail spaces for artists. Then there's TRUST South LA 2050, a group that would create affordable homes for our local families, placing land under community control, and building green, healthy neighborhoods. And given AN's 2010 competition, we of course have a soft spot for the Cleantech Hub, which proposes expanding the La Kretz Innovation Campus—an incubator for clean tech companies—and putting together a plan to develop the entire Cleantech Corridor east of Downtown LA. The challenge is part of a larger LA2050 initiative that's looking at the long-term health of the city through workshops, discussions, research reports (making projections about where we'll be in 2050), and a whole lot of online feedback. The "indicators" that LA2050 is studying, and hoping to improve are: education, income & employment, housing, public safety, health, environmental quality, social connectedness, and arts & cultural vitality. Not a small task, but we're impressed that they're trying.
LA Cleantech Incubator LA2050 Video
Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood
Well it looks like the tech craziness on LA’s west side—a.k.a. Silicon Beach—is just getting going. Of course, Google has basically taken over Venice, and a number of tech companies, including YouTube, are taking over Howard Hughes’ old facility in Playa Vista. Now we hear that Amazon is looking for a huge space in Santa Monica. The new LA outpost could measure as much as 80,000 square feet, putting this development in the upper echelons of the city’s tech world. It will certainly compete with the new campus they’re building up in Seattle, designed by NBBJ. Meanwhile, in Silicon Valley, the architectural one-upmanship continues. That same firm (NBBJ) just unveiled designs for its new HQ for Google, which it hopes will stand out among the other ambitious schemes for Apple, Samsung, Nvidia, and so many more.
Dialogues, the series of conversations between architects and artists that took place at the MAK Center in Los Angeles over the last couple of months, is finishing up tonight with an exhibit of the designers' work. The show features drawings, images, and models from a serious lineup at For Your Art on Wilshire Boulevard. Contributors include: Doug Aitken, Barbara Bestor, Escher Gunewardena, Fritz Haeg, Jorge Pardo, Linda Taalman, Xavier Veilhan, Pae White, Peter Zellner, and many many more. The show will be up until April 16.
On Saturday I moderated one of two AIA/LA-sponsored panels about bio-inspired design at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The first panel looked at the general influence of nature on design, from the Mars Rover to the San Diego Zoo, and ours zeroed in on architecture's envelopes and skins, with insights about breaking away from the static, heavy, and largely-unresponsive architecture of today by architect Tom Wiscombe, Arup engineer Russell Fortmeyer, and evolutionary biologist Shauna Price. Speaking of bio-inspired design, before the panel I got an early look at the new gardens at the Natural History Museum, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates. The gardens, which are scheduled to open in time for the museum's centennial this June, are designed to finally bring the institution's exhibits outside of their built home, with diverse elements that are laid out as a microcosm of LA's ecosystems. That includes plant species that draw all types of animals and insects, jagged rock formations, and even a recreation of the local water system, with a pond that flows into a stream, and eventually becomes an arroyo. The design creatively mixes natural and urban materials like a chain link vine arbor and rebar rose supports. There's even an on-site natural laboratory, so scientists can work in open daylight instead of in a sequestered chamber.We'll be looking at the gardens more closely in the coming weeks when they officially open, along with the glassy new entry to the museum by CO Architects, which is coming this summer.
Once again the courtyards at the USC School of Architecture are bubbling with installations as part of the second-year 2b studio, in which several teams of undergraduate students design and build structures in a very short period of time. Perhaps the most striking is the shimmering pavilion created by the 14-student class of professor Roland Wahlroos-Ritter. The studio focused on glass' structural, reflective, and refractive qualities. All of those attributes are apparent in the installation, in which 800 translucent and triangular polycarbonate pieces (actual glass was deemed too expensive and time-consuming) were folded like origami and zip-tied together. Each piece was drilled with several holes and inserted with vinyl tubing to reinforce the connections. In fact, the model for the structure was made with paper, then translated into its new, highly refractive form. The installation was brought to the site in five segments and then pieced together on site. The students see this as a 1:1 prototype for a future pavilion to be built in glass.
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.
SCI-Arc is hosting a competition—called 40/40—open to all graduates for the design and construction of an installation capable of digitally presenting the work of the school's alumni. The installation will celebrate the school’s upcoming 40th anniversary. To tie into the April 11 Downtown Art Walk, the exhibition will first be installed—or rather the winner of the competition has to figure out how it will be installed—in the lobby space of the monumental downtown Farmers and Merchants Bank. It will subsequently move to SCI-Arc for the 40th Anniversary Celebration Weekend of April 19-21, 2013. The competition will be accepting entries until March 18. According to the website, “The total budget for design, construction, assembly, and disassembly is $1,000, and will be payable to the winner upon project completion.” Since this budget has to include production, fabrication, installation, and de-installation, entrants will have to be VERY creative and efficient.
El Segundo, CA-based developer CenterCal recently revealed plans for a revamped Redondo Beach waterfront near Los Angeles, which includes parts of the Redondo Beach Pier, as well as the nearby boardwalk and Seaside Lagoon. According to The Daily Breeze, CenterCal presented its plans to residents, local business owners, and community groups at a meeting on February 23. The response was largely appreciative of the developer’s efforts to propose something that doesn’t radically affect an area considered sacred by locals. Some of the key provisions include expanded public spaces, improved bike and pedestrian access to the pier and waterfront, a connector bridge linking the pier with the adjacent waterfront, and a re-designed lagoon that would be open year-round. Will the new inclusion of such amenities, including a boutique hotel, more restaurants and shops, bring a renaissance to the area? The pier and surrounding waterfront haven't been the same since a huge storm and subsequent electrical fire in 1988 knocked the “horseshoe” section out and caused millions of dollars in damage. Now that the proposal is complete the Redondo Beach City Council is set to hold a vote in mid-March. The projected cost of the project could range from $150- to $200-million and is expected to take several years to complete. According to CenterCal President Jean Paul Wardy, "It will be at least two years before a shovel hits the ground."
Once considered downtown LA’s central park, the problematic 4.5-acre Pershing Square may soon be slated for a few welcome changes. Councilman José Huizar of District 14 recently told LA Downtown News that sports and entertainment company Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) has committed $700,000 seed funding to re-think the 164-year-old park. The money is part of a community improvement package AEG had agreed to in order to create a football stadium in Los Angeles. One of the possibilities the office is investigating is returning the park to a much simpler design, more in line with the needs of downtown's added population. “As it stands now, Pershing Square is overdesigned. If you’re standing outside you can’t even see what’s going on inside,” said Rick Coca of Councilman Huizar’s office. Coca said there are still several other details that need to be put in place before the office can further push the move. For one thing, the seed money is contingent on the realization of the Farmer’s Field football stadium, which was approved last year, not to mention the question of who would ultimately purchase AEG. Pershing Square’s history has been problematic since its conception as Block 15 in 1849. The park has gone through a number of names and renovations since then, the latest of which came at the hands of Ricardo Legoretta and Laurie Olin in the 1990s. Greenery gave way to granite and concrete with a 125-foot purple campanile rising from its center. The re-design has served to isolate the public from the space and the amount of hardscape can become intimidating for passers-by. As more and more residents move back downtown, Huizar’s office has said that starting the conversation about Pershing Square will someday lead to more opportunities to turn things around in the historic park.
Alas. One of LA's greatest weird treasures, the Bahooka Family Restaurant, is set to close on March 10. The gem, which opened its Rosemead location in 1976, is perhaps the most ornate example of Tiki architecture in the city. Not only is it full of every Polynesian tchotchke imaginable—Easter Island heads, hula dancers, blowfish, diving bells—but most of its walls are covered with fish tanks, creating the feeling of being inside Sponge Bob's home. The restaurant's owners have said they're simply ready to retire, which we certainly understand, but we must admit we're a little sad.