Ladies and gentlemen, we finally have a blood feud in Los Angeles. It seems that Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne doesn’t care for Thom Mayne’s work. At all. Reviewing his new Perot Museum in Dallas, he called the building, “One of the pricey, preening old breed.” Adding, “it is a thoroughly cynical piece of work, a building that uses a frenzy of architectural forms to endorse the idea that architecture, in the end, is mere decoration.” Hawthorne has used this vitriol on other Mayne buildings, like the Caltrans building and the Cahill Center at Caltech, which, he said, employs a “skin-and-stair strategy that allows the client to make the rest of the building—every interior office or gallery—conventional at best and banal at worst.” Mayne, not surprisingly, doesn’t appear happy. In a recent public tour of his new offices in Culver City, led by our friend and design journalist Alissa Walker, Mayne said he would not be allowing a local architecture critic to write about his new building for his firm’s offices—he was asking a science writer to do the story instead. “All local writers are horrible,” he said. “There are no good writers in Los Angeles.” We beg to differ!
Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":
For those of us who grew up in the 70s and 80s, it's time to feel old. As part of its "Curating The City" series, the Los Angeles Conservancy is tomorrow hosting an amazing tour called Venice Eclectic: Modern Architecture from the 1970s and ’80s. The event features looks inside whimsical buildings by, among others, Frank Gehry (Indiana Avenue Houses/Arnoldi Triplex), Steven Ehrlich (Ed Moses Studio), Brian Murphy (Hopper House, above), Frederick Fisher, and Frank Israel. Yes, it's time to appreciate these decades for more than disco and Madonna. After the tour there will be a panel featuring Ehrlich, Fisher, and Murphy. And that's just the beginning of a busy weekend for LA architecture and urbanism buffs. There's also SCI-Arc's 40th birthday party on Saturday night and CicLAvia—with an expanded route going all the way to the ocean for the first time—on Sunday. Get going.
It’s been about a year since the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (DOT) took the reins over MyFigueroa, a project that hopes to remake the 4-miles in and around Figueroa Street from LA Live to Exposition Park, near USC. But things are quickly wrapping up, because the $20-million Proposition 1C funds it was awarded need to be spent by 2014. On April 9, DOT hosted a community meeting in downtown LA to unveil updated designs for this crucial connective corridor, which when finished, would be the city’s first implemented complete street. The design includes plans for a cycle track, a fully separated path from 7th Street south to 11th Street and then again from 20th Street south to Exposition Boulevard. Remaining areas will have painted, buffered bike lines, which would delineate between bike lanes and car lanes. Other elements include: bus platforms built into the sidewalk; improved LED street lighting; pedestrian-oriented signage (including ones that will inform pedestrians how long it takes to walk toward certain destinations); high-visibility crosswalks; new and repaired paving; as well as additional and removed plantings. The result is meant to be a street that “reflects the way we live now,” said Melani Smith, principal at Melendrez Design Partners. It would transform Figueroa Street into a fast-paced alternative to taking the 110 highway into a multimodal hub that would accommodate bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrians on its streets. A few skeptical community members raised concerns on the design’s traffic impact, especially on 11th Street, which will be reduced to one car lane from two, but will have a buffered bike lane and possibly an extended sidewalk. Damien Goodmon, executive director of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition, looked for the traffic studies and environmental study that was done in the corridor. David Somers of City Planning assured the public that traffic projects with a 20-30 year horizon were taken into consideration in the plans. Past precedents do make a strong case for MyFigueroa. Designing complete streets not only increases pedestrian safety, but also adds to commerce. When Union Square North in New York was protected from traffic, studies showed a 26 percent decrease in injuries and 49 percent decrease in commercial vacancies. When complete street extensions were implemented on 8th and 9th Avenues (again in New York), there was 35 and 58 percent decrease in injuries respectively while retail sales increased 49 percent. Jeff Jacobberger, vice-chair of Mid-City West Community Council agreed. “Change is always unsettling,” he said. But as a cyclist and a car driver Jacobberger said MyFigueroa is something that needs to be done rather than maintaining a status quo where drivers are continually given precedence on the streets at the expense of the city’s quality of life. MyFigueroa plans have finished environmental studies and will be up for approval by the Los Angeles DOT General Manager sometime in May. Once approved, the designs will go out for bid the rest of 2013. Construction will occur throughout 2014.
Last week, AN reported on the development of Alameda Square in Los Angeles, the 1.5-million-square-foot mixed use project being designed at the old American Apparel factory site on the southwest edge of LA's Arts District. Movement on projects like this beg the question: Just how hot is LA's Arts District? AN's West Coast Editor Sam Lubell sat down for a short chat with James Sattler, a Vice President of Acquisitions at JP Morgan Asset Management, to find out. The Architect's Newspaper: What potential do you see in the LA Arts District? Do you see it as one of the major development areas of the city? James Sattler: Clearly there is a lot of development activity in the area, and this mirrors the pattern we are seeing in many parts of Downtown. I think the Arts District has the potential to become a terrific example of LA’s current wave of post-industrial urban renewal and can ultimately mature into a veritable live/work/play neighborhood with a deeper array of housing, office, and retail uses. Why is it such a major draw for real estate investment? I think the residents, artists, and businesses here today are attracted to the Arts District because it is such a truly authentic urban environment that is connected to the energy and grittiness of Downtown but with a very approachable, pedestrian-friendly scale. Access to a rapidly improving public transport system is also a big plus. It’s hard to find this combination of characteristics in a neighborhood here in Southern California, yet people appear increasingly drawn to the type of urban lifestyle that the Arts District offers. Investors are drawn here for similar reasons. Are there any particular projects in the area that you see as transformative? I think the LA MTA’s Regional Connector project will be huge. When complete it will provide much more convenient access from the Little Tokyo/Arts District station to the rest of the Metro Rail system which will ultimately link to other parts of LA County like downtown Santa Monica, and potentially LAX and UCLA. I also think that the city’s plan to revitalize the LA River corridor, which runs along the east side of the Arts District, will have a big positive impact. Some people call this the next Meat Packing District, ala Manhattan. Do you agree? While I think there are some parallels in terms of an industrial neighborhood in transition, I think it’s too facile to compare them like that. I think one of the reasons for the success of the Meat Packing District is that the city took a very active role in developing the High Line and helping to preserve historical elements of the neighborhood that create its unique sense of place. Time will tell if the Arts District evolves similarly in LA.
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.
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.