Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":

A One of a Kind Line

After more than a decade of waiting (up to 15 years, depending who you ask), a light-rail Breda train will depart for East L.A. from Union Station this Sunday, November 15 as part of Metro's new Gold Line Eastside Extension. The eight-station line, with stops in Little Tokyo, Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, will offer continuing service on the first phase of the Gold Line, which heads northeast through Pasadena and was completed in 2003. And today, I got to ride the shiny new rails on a private tour with 25 or so of my newest, closest friends, including Frank Villalobos, who acted as the lead architect for the project with his firm Barrio Planners. The Gold Line is the only train that heads north and south out of Union Station (the rest of the trains, no matter what direction they come from, all terminate in the station, meaning they all roll into the railyard in the same direction and must reverse to get out). So this S-bridge that travels over the 101 freeway to the south is especially unique. The bridge was also built in a way so it never stopped traffic over the 101. After swinging through the Little Tokyo/Arts District station, designed by Ted Tokio Tanaka, the line travels over the 1st Street Bridge, the 1929 structure which is currently being widened to accommodate the extra lanes of traffic. Bizarrely, all the historical elements from the bridge have been removed and are sitting down near the Los Angeles River below, like some kind of ruins. The train then heads up into Boyle Heights and its first Eastside station, Pico Aliso, where the bright Mendez Learning Center on the corner was also designed by Barrio Planners and has obviously laid a cornerstone for new development. Each station has its own architectural team and artist that created a neighborhood-appropriate vision; for example, here Korajack Srivongse designed the arched canopies and Rob Neilson picked 25 faces from the community to place in their ironwork. After traveling along 1st Street, due to Boyle Heights' narrowing roads, we plunged underground for two of the below-grade stations. We had to remain in the train so we couldn't explore what these stations from the top down but it was a trip to see one of the Eastside's most famous destinations rendered in Metro signage. William Villalobo and Alejandro de la Loza collaborated on Mariachi Plaza; Aziz Kohan and Nobuho Nagasawa did the second underground station, Soto. The Indiana station, where the line heads back into the right-of-way established by an old 1920's electric car, includes a station designed by Larry Johanson with artwork by Paul Botello that references the carvings and patterns by Central American craftsmen. We traveled down 3rd to Maravilla station (designed by Aspet Davidian with art by Jose Lopez) and then continued on to what is by far the most exciting station on the entire line, if not completely due to its design alone. A few blocks before arriving at the East LA Civic Center, the neighborhood explodes with bright mosaics from the Roybal Comprehensive Health Center, which zig zag into a bright green park with a lake at its center. The canopies here (designed by Villalobos with art by Clement Hanami) borrow from the vibrant colors as bright orange California poppies. Finally, the tensile canopies of the Atlantic station (the end of the line, for now) point towards the future with a purposeful angle, designed by DMJM with art by Adobe LA. The tent-like structures--which look more than a little like Denver International Airport's abstracted peaks--also hint at the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance. Multiple celebrations (including mariachis, of course) will be taking place this Sunday to celebrate the Gold Line's eastward advances. Stay tuned for a full AN review of the line and station design--including an all-important stop at King Taco--after it opens this weekend.

Moss: SCI-Arc Staying Put

Architect and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss talked to us the other day to correct our recent post on SCI-Arc's future in the LA Arts District. Yes, he agreed, SCI-Arc does want to eventually own its own home (it tried unsuccessfully to buy its building from its landlord, developer Meruelo Maddux, a few years ago) . But the school's lease is not up next year, nor does SCI-Arc face any pressure to leave anytime soon. "SCI-ARC’s not going anywhere. SCI-Arc has no plans to go anywhere, and is not obligated to go anywhere," he said. The lease, it turns out, isn't up until 2019. SCI-Arc does have the opportunity to opt out if it wants next year, in 2013, or in 2016. But that possibility, said Moss, is unlikely, especially because it's happy with its building (which he said had become a local icon) and its location. "SCI-Arc is committed to downtown," said Moss, who praised the area's "varied sociologies and different possibilities" and pointed to the benefits for architecture students in "an area still trying to discover itself." He added: "Downtown seems to be a perfect place for us... Santa Monica, Century City, the San Fernando Valley: forget about it." Moss didn't rule out the possibility of SCI-Arc eventually finding a new home though. "If a great opportunity came up we'd take a look at it," he said.  He added that the economic situation and falling real estate prices could present good possibilities for ownership. When asked if Meruelo Maddux's recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing would help SCI-Arc  obtain its building, Moss said, "It’s premature to say what the implications of that are."

Bad News For LA: Estolano Out!

We've just learned thanks to the LA Times and Curbed that LA Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA/LA) CEO Cecilia Estolano is stepping down from her post at the end of this month. Estolano was widely-praised for her aggressive moves to promote affordable housing, turn around struggling neighborhoods, establish a Clean Tech corridor in Downtown LA, and bolster the agency's funding, even in difficult economic times. We just ran a Q+A with Estolano in our last issue, which can be read here. Estolano is reportedly taking a job with Green For All, an Oakland-based environmental group focused on generating green jobs in underserved neighborhoods. We're trying to get a follow-up with Estolano now, so stay tuned...

Mayne Street

Granted he's won the Pritzker Prize and had a string of recent successes, but all the same we were more than surprised to get a forwarded White House press release from Morphosis today touting the appointment of Thom Mayne, one of the industry's gruffer individuals, to the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. He is the only practicing architect on the list. Created in 1982, the committee, according to its website, brings, well, the arts and humanities into the White House. Headed by the First Lady, activities under the previous administration included an "unprecedented" cultural exchange with China, a "bi-national cultural communique" with Mexico, and the creation of the Coming Up Taller awards to honor school-age artists. Of the 24 other committee members, there is one other architect, Christine Forester, though she has left the field for marketing and branding in the 1980s according to the release. Noted green guy and urban thinker Ed Norten is also a committee member, as are other notables Teresa Heinz Kerry, Yo-Yo Ma, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kerry Washington, Forest Whitaker, and Anna Wintour. And despite our initial suspicions, a search of public records show no political contributions on behalf of Mayne.

Fancy Digs For Crime Fighters

On Saturday the LAPD cut the ribbon on its new police headquarters in downtown LA. The $437 million dollar facility, designed by AECOM, will house officers and staff within a 10-floor building that includes a rooftop helipad, glass-walled passageways, a large plaza, and exterior concrete walls with energy efficient high-performance glazing. Visitors will be able to eat at the 200-seat restaurant, LA Reflections, before viewing the outdoor memorial created to honor officers killed in the line of duty. AECOM partnered with a massive team that also included landscape architect Melendrez, Gensler, John Friedman Alice Kimm, and many many more. Read our review of the building in the next California issue, where we also give props to interesting new police buildings in LA by A.C. Martin, Perkins + Will and others.

Metro Finally Gets It Right (sort of)

As the LA Times and Curbed LA both reported yesterday, the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) finally voted yesterday (after several postponements) to approve its Long Range Transportation Plan. The plan outlines  how METRO will spend  about $300 billion over the next 30 years, focusing on mass transit projects like the Westside subway extension of the Red Line to Santa Monica, for which the county will be seeking substantial federal funding (most of the projects will need support from the feds, although LA County is aided by its new sales tax increase approved last year). Other major initiatives include the Gold Line extension east from Pasadena, a downtown regional connector, the continuation of the Expo Line to Culver City and Santa Monica, and a Green Line extension to LAX. Of course before Angelenos get too excited about all this rail-related news,  it's worth noting that more than 2/3 of the plan is dedicated to highway (widening and surface improvements) and bus-related expenditures (rail makes up about 1/6). And then there's the timeline: is there one? We haven't seen it yet... Please help us find it!

One Santa Fe Finally Moving

It's been a long time coming, but the fully-entitled One Santa Fe mixed-use project, designed by Michael Maltzan in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District,  is finally nearing the start of construction. After nearly a year of reworking the final drawings to minimize costs, the $150 million project, developed by a partnership that includes the McGregor Company, Polis Builders, and Goldman Sachs,  will begin construction in mid 2010 with an anticipated completion 36 months thereafter.The 435,000 square feet development will include 438 units, 77,000 square feet of ground floor commercial uses, and 750 parking spaces. From the onset, the 4-acre project has been lauded for its proximity to the Los Angeles River, but its sinuous form acts as a better wall than a window to the nascent river restoration efforts. Mimicking the long, slender footprint of the adjacent Southern California Institute of Architecture (Sci-Arc), One Santa Fe blocks both the river and the maintenance yard from public view. While an attractive new Michael Maltzan building with an activated ground floor and street level open space is surely prettier than looking at a train maintenance yard, its 65-year land lease from Metro does not necessarily guarantee its perpetuity. However, the start of any major project is a good sign for the stalled downtown renaissance, which had been devastated by the credit crisis.  --Gunnar Hand

Next Up For Ambassador Site

The once-great Ambassador Hotel is gone. And in its place rises the Central Los Angeles Learning Center #1, a 4,000+ student megacomplex that will include  elementary, middle, and high schools. The elementary school was just completed (article forthcoming in our next issue) by Gonzalez Goodale Architects, and the other two schools will be done next fall. On our tour we got a preview of the Ambassador, circa 2010.  The High School will have a huge glass curtain wall, allowing onlookers on Wilshire Boulevard to spy into classes. The Ambassador's Cocoanut Grove nightclub is being recreated to form the school's new auditorium. Like the Cocoanut, it will have some intricate ornamentation and even recreations of trees (via projector). Two pieces from the original building will remain: its east wall, and its west canopy (pictured above). Other recreations will include the hotels' cavernous ballroom, which will hold the school's library (pictured below).

And the Gehry Goes To

The Urban Land Institute is hosting a new awards program for Los Angeles called the ULI LARC (Los Angeles Real Creativity) Awards, which will be presented annually to "four recipients who, through their extraordinary vision and creative action, are helping to change our world" The winners will be divided into four categories: Design (conceptual designs), Enterprise (innovative companies or initiatives), Place (a completed building or space), and Idea (for a big idea with profound effects).  The fun part is that anyone can nominate a candidate here until October 14. The awards ceremony will take place at 5900 Wilshire Blvd (former home of the A+D Museum) on December 5, and award presenters will include none other than Frank Gehry, who has also "designed" the award's trophies. That is to say the ULI is handing over some Gehry-designed paperweights. Granted it's a $975 paperweight the architect made for Tiffany's, so it's not too shabby of an award after all.

Police Drama

Gensler yesterday installed their shimmering Memorial to Fallen Officers, a 11,000 pound, backlit structure made up of hundreds of staggered brass plaques, in front of AECOM's  almost-finished Police Headquarters in Downtown LA. The structure travelled via trailer from Kansas City over the weekend. That was the good news. The not-so-good news, according to the LA Times, is that after the memorial was craned into place the designers realized it was facing the wrong way! Instead of swiveling the whole structure, they're going to have to unscrew all the plaques and re-install them on the other side. Someone's gonna have to investigate this one...

Park It Here

Today  is Park(ing) Day LA. It’s the third year that the City Of Angels is participating in this transformation of metered parking spots into temporary microcosms of park-like environments -- some replete with bench seating, grassy areas, and fresh food off the grill. San Francisco-based art and activist studio, Rebar, created the idea in 2005 as a comment on the lack of quality public spaces as well as to promote social interactions and critical thinking among urbanites. And the meters? Organizers are continually plunking change into the metal coin collectors while the parks occupy the parking spot. Some highlights include: •Everything Gardens at 3147 Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village will be occupying a spot from noon to 6 p.m. This is a place to stop if you’re interested in learning about drought tolerant gardening. •Osborn Architects are holding up a spot at 100 N. Brand Boulevard in Glendale from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. They’re sharing their dream of greener pastures for tomorrow. •A cool pocket pasture is located at Local Restaurant in Silver Lake, with design by green meme. Also features real goats! •For Westsiders, Mar Vista Community Council will be setting up park at 3631 S. Centinela Avenue in Los Angeles. Find them from 3 p. m. to 6 p.m., when they’ll be turning a decommissioned fire station into a Community Center.

Emerson Morphs in Hollywood

When Boston's Emerson College chose to open a satellite "campus" for students studying and interning in LA (it's really just one building), the school would have been hard pressed to find a more suitable architect than Thom Mayne. After all, Morphosis has had a string of academic successes of late, including the new 41 Cooper Square in New York and the Cahill Center for Astronomy at Caltech. Indeed, some of the firm's earliest successes were two high schools in Southern California. Now, Curbed alerts us to this latest project, complete with the above rendering. The details are kind of sketchy, though we do know there will be 224 residences in that La Defense-like box with classrooms in the inner blob, which is, like, so Thom Mayne.