With all the news coming out of Gensler lately we've officially declared November Gensler Month. The latest is the firm's new offices inside the Jewel Box building in Downtown LA, a glassy former bank branch located between huge towers at City National Plaza. Completed in record time (construction didn't start until about March of this year) the project, headed by Gensler Associate Richard Hammond, feels like a miniature city with flexible, open banks of offices and small, colorful meeting spaces abutting the open atrium—created by cutting a 30 foot by 50 foot skylight in the ceiling—that defines the space and provides views throughout the interior and onto the city at large. The offices contain an unmistakeable energy collected from the whirl of activity and people and from the connection to the city. The firm, which moved in a week ago, has signed a 12 year lease and can sign two 5-year extensions, so it looks like they'll be here for a while.
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Yesterday, Gensler unveiled its newest plans for Farmers Field, Downtown LA's proposed football stadium, which, of course, is still awaiting a team to play in it (as are several other proposed stadiums in California). The biggest changes to the design involve the roof, which will now have large projecting wings (likely made of ETFE, said one Gensler architect). The roof will no longer be retractable, but "deployable," meaning the roof can be taken off, but not instantaneously, which will bring the structure's cost down significantly, Gensler pointed out. The new roof design, which will open up views to the city, was likened to "shoulder pads" by Curbed LA, perhaps a fitting design for a football stadium? So that the stadium doesn't dwarf the rest of the adjacent LA Live, it will be partially sunken into the ground, noted Curbed. Meanwhile two levels of stadium meeting and suite space will connect directly to the new convention center that developer AEG is also planning for the site. AEG hopes to have the stadium ready by the 2016 football season.
Just when we were getting used to Behnisch Architekten having an office in Venice we learn that leader Christof Jantzen is leaving and the office is closing. Stuttgart-based Behnisch opened the outpost back in 1999 and the location has worked on projects ranging from a lab at Yale, student housing at UC Berkeley, and an upcoming parking garage in Santa Monica. Now Behnisch's only U.S. office is in Boston. "It's an evolution," described Jantzen. "We had a successful story together." Here comes the good news: Jantzen is starting his own firm, Christof Jantzen Architecture, just down the street, and he hopes to take some of Behnisch's eight Los Angeles employees with him. Jantzen described the venture as on the "smaller scale" to begin but noted, "we'll see how it develops." The web site isn't yet live, but it will be www.cjantzen.com.
In an effort to consolidate its efforts in Los Angeles, Google has leased 100,000 square feet of office space in three buildings in Venice, including space inside Frank Gehry's Chiat/Day Building, a.k.a. the Binoculars Building. Why is it called that? Because one entryway is shaped like a gigantic pair of binoculars, of course. Finished in 1991 on Main Street, the space is probably the most famous of Gehry's forays into...shiver... Post Modernism. The binoculars themselves were designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The new Venice Googleplex will hold many more employees than its present collection of buildings in Santa Monica, which contain about 300. Earlier this week Google announced that it would be adding 6,000 total employees this year. Recession? What recession? Not in Google's world.
We heard back in April that architecture giant Gensler's move to Downtown LA was spurred largely by a million dollar enticement arranged with the city. But it's only now that we get to see the details behind the move. The LA Times' Steve Lopez was able to dig up the emails that set the process in motion, and they include corporate requests to pave the way for federal community development block grants (usually reserved for low income communities) to go to Gensler. The emails were sent from big-time developer Thomas Property Group to an aide in councilperson Jan Perry's office. This seamless connection between business and government, we all know, is how things work in LA. But it's rare to "look inside the sausage factory," as Lopez puts it.
In last issue’s Eavesdrop we noted that world famous LA architectural writer Reyner Banham (Architecture of Four Ecologies), who died back in 1988, now has a Facebook page with over 600 friends, most of whom think he’s still around. We've discovered who’s behind the fake page. Architect Parsa Khalili tells us he started it for an assignment in a seminar course at Yale School of Architecture in 2008. Khalili says he forgot about the account until one day he signed in and saw 30 people waiting to be his friend. Since then Banham has accrued friends from around the world, sending him birthday wishes and thanking him for the great honor of friending them. “Honestly I have no idea why I even bother but it has become such an absurdity it's hard to totally let go,” explained Khalili.
New York isn't the only city celebrating Archtober. In Los Angeles, October has officially been "Architecture Month" since Mayor Villaraigosa declared it so back in 2007. The AIA/LA hopes the month-long festivities will help to "educate the public about architecture and architects, celebrate the profession and encourage the dialogue between those interested in the built environment." Some of the highlights include: October 3, Big City Forum panel: Edgar Orlaineta, Solar Do Nothing, a panel about modern design including AN West Coast Editor Sam Lubell. October 4, AIA|LA & The Department of City Planning: Working Together to Build Better Communities. October 7, DESIGNING HEALTHIER LIFESTYLES: an AIA|LA design symposium about improving the health impacts of the built environment. October 9, Preserving Lautner's Legacy: The Spectrum of Stewardship. October 9, CicLAvia, 10am - 3pm October 10, Curse and Vision: The Future of Westwood Village. October 19, The AIA|LA Urban Design Committee... THE URBAN TRANSFORMATION OF LOS ANGELES - Part Two. October 22, Unfrozen Music 2011: Architects in Concert, hosted by AN's Sam Lubell. October 23,AIA Los Angeles Fall 2011 Home Tour, featuring East Side homes. October 26, 2011 Design Awards Party.
If all goes according to plan, sometime in early October an enormous boulder will leave a Riverside, California quarry and a couple of weeks later roll onto the grounds of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, to become an installation called Levitated Mass. In 1968, Michael Heizer, the artist behind Levitated Mass, made a drawing of a rock he hoped would one day emerge from the quarry he had been visiting. Decades later in 2007, the boulder he’d been looking for tumbled out of its granite escarpment. The 21½-foot-tall rock came to rest several yards from the quarry face. “It was quarried up top, and they pushed it with 2 bulldozers and a Caterpillar loader 300 feet. That’s how we pulled it off the mountain. But when it became a work of art, they had a big cradle and crane to move it,” remarked Stephen Vander Hart, the head of Stone Valley quarry, who seems both pleased and anxious to see the boulder leave his custody. It has taken nearly five years of fundraising and engineering to work out how to move the rock the 85 miles to Los Angeles. To get from quarry to museum, the 340-ton chunk of granite will be slung on thick cables suspended between two 127-foot-long steel beams and hauled at a snail’s pace by a Kenworth truck in front and an Oshkosh military transport from behind. Each truck is capable of producing 550 to 600 horsepower. The entire rig, front to back, will be 273'-10" inches long. LACMA says the rock is the “largest monolith moved since ancient times," a lofty claim no one could really prove or disprove. Still, toting the 670,000-pound boulder requires Emmert International (the firm building and driving the rig) to construct a transporter consisting of two hollow beams of welded and gusseted T-1 laminated steel. Each beam is roughly 2 feet wide, tapering from 40” up to a height of 6’-9”. The beams, which have been pieced together on site around the boulder, are made up of five sections that will be drawn together by bolts along vertical seams. When closed, the seams push against each other, like the keystone in an arch, becoming stronger because they are in compression. When completed, the beams will be connected by cross members and trusses, forming a 26’-7” wide saddle that will sit on 22 dollies with remote control steering. A total of 196 tires will bear the load. Empty, the rig will weigh nearly a half-million pounds; fully loaded about 1.1 million pounds. It will lumber, by night, at an average speed of five miles per hour. “It’s just a big rock,” said Rick Albrecht, Emmert’s supervisor for the move. “I’ve seen most of the route so far. We’ll do it,” he added flatly.
What if we could transform part of the massive space we dedicate to urban parking into public parks, and what would it look like? On Friday, over 100 cities worldwide participated in the sixth annual PARK(ing) Day, where citizens and designers temporarily converted metered parking spots into open public space. While we couldn't jet set around the world, a couple of our reporters checked out the happenings in California, where the concept was born. Before you check out the parks, we should mention that these grassroots efforts are slowly influencing permanent change. In San Francisco, a City Planning Department collaboration with design firm Rebar, which helped begin PARK(ing) Day, has led to the creation of the “Parklets” program, where parking spots around the city are being converted into permanent plazas and outdoor seating. And on Friday, LA City Council members Jan Perry and Jose Huizar announced a partnership with local neighborhood groups in downtown LA and Eagle Rock to begin a Parklets pilot program in Los Angeles. San Francisco, by Ariel Rosenstock Visiting the west coast for the week, I had the opportunity to check out PARK(ing) Day in San Francisco. It was a perfect September day in northern California, crisp but sunny and a little breezy. Walking north along Valencia Street, I arrived at the first park: a grassy patch with a petite shed with a mini green roof. I talked with Jeanette Arpagaus, from the Green Roof Alliance, who discussed her foray into the green business after hearing an inspiring lecture by scientist Paul Kemper, from the California Academy of Sciences. Parking spots were creatively fashioned into a variety of venues. Further north was an outdoor yoga session—a parking space lined with yoga mats and visitors perfecting their stretches. Continuing down Valencia, I spotted a pallet wood structure bordering a parking space with a tree rising from the center. Here I met Andrew Dunbar from Interstice Architects, who was dressed in a pirate costume. He told me that the “Parrrrrrrrrk-let” represented a pirate ship, with decks for seating, and the tree a “mast.” The Interstice park was located in front of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit after school writing program that houses a pirate-wares shop in the storefront. Dunbar also explained that the volume enclosed by the pallet wood ship represented 800 cubic feet, the amount of soil a tree requires for healthy roots. He was proud to support the Robin Hood style cause. For my last stop, I was urged to pet Shaun the Sheep down the street. Outside of the coffee shop, Ritual, was a tiny urban barn: two parking spaces were lined with hay benching and a mini alfalfa patch for the sheep. Los Angeles, by Sam Lubell Perhaps it's the economy or a slight dip in enthusiasm, but it was a pretty disappointing Park(ing) Day in LA, with fewer architecture and landscape firms taking part, and fewer parks with more creative elements than turf and tents . But still some of the city's mini parks managed to stand out on this uncharacteristically grey day in the city. By far the most impressive was Standard's park outside of Silver Lake restaurant Local. The project was highlighted by a topiary-like artificial turf "PARK" sign, wrapped around plywood and sitting in front of elegant sandboxes and beach chairs that while at first sitting empty eventually became quite popular. Just down the street the Echo Park Time Bank put together a park called "Visions of the Circuit City Ruins," that while not much design-wise, was a lot of fun. Visitors were asked to think of replacements for the abandoned Circuit City behind the park (ideas included a roller rink, a plant forest and a film center), and were treated to astrology readings and free shots of water infused with "clarity" and "absolute joy". In Downtown LA Pfeiffer Partners put together a plant shrouded park on 7th Street. Benches and walls made of plywood shipping crates and a floor made of carpet samples showed imagination. Right next door SWA put together a flexible canopy made entirely of used plastic bags (to be recycled later) and PVC piping. The Downtown LA Neighborhood Council's park on 7th and Spring showed a lot of energy, with it's sod floor and potted plant barriers abutting one of Downtown's most walkable streets. A nice touch were bikes that could be pedaled in place to recreate the experience of biking downtown. On West 3rd street in West Hollywood local firm Front Yard Farming showed off a line of parklets showcasing simple but pretty flowers, tables, chairs, and willow fencing over a sod groundscape. But unfortunately the crowd wasn't having it. C0-organizer Helen Jupiter, author of blog Front Yardening, said that "out of 50 people walking by, about 42 didn't even look at us." Must be something in the air, because in other parts of the city crowds gathered, and one school group even made an effort to visit every parking day structure the city had to offer.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Broad center for contemporary art features a distinctive structural honeycomb facade. It may be getting a neighbor with another notable facade, a new 19 story apartment building with staggered windows in a variety of sizes designed by Miami-based Arquitectonica. According to blogdowntown, the building would include 258 units with 52 set aside for affordable housing and 308 parking spaces in a three level below-grade garage. Developed by Related Companies, the tower would share the plaza with DS+R's museum and back up to the planned Regional Connector light rail station.
Chimes Bridged. It seems there's something to making music while we walk. First a Swedish architect designed piano stairs and now an artist has created a musical bridge. Blending the sculptural, auditory, and kinetic, artist Mark Nixon designed a whimsical bridge that "sings." Chimes hidden below the span are activated as visitors walk across, Gizmodo says. The musical creation was last displayed at Sculpture by the Sea, an exhibition in Aarhus, Denmark. Village Uncovered. Villa Epecuen, a town located on Lake Epecuen, southwest of Buenos Aires, was flooded in 1985, but now after more than two decades, the water is receding. Photographs by The Atlantic uncover a strange, haunting landscape: aerial views expose the original street layout of the town, while others reveal original trees and cars visible amid the rubble. Carmageddon Averted. For two days last weekend, the busiest stretch of highway in America—the 405 Freeway in LA—was shut down for construction. While many feared disastrous traffic jams bringing life in LA to a halt, it turns out that life went on without incident, according to the LA Times. During the traffic-non-event, JetBlue offered to fly residents between two of the city's airports in Burbank and Long Beach, sparking a challenge from cyclists who said they could make the trip faster. As reported in Slate, it turns out the bikes were right, making the trip nearly an hour-and-a-half faster than by plane. Destruction Archived. Information Aesthetics points us to the “Hiroshima Archive” which documents the extensive societal and structural devastation the atomic bomb caused 66 years ago. Using Google Earth’s virtual globe, the digital archive exhibits topographical maps, contemporary building models, photographs, and personal accounts from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the Hiroshima Jogakuin Gaines Association, and the Hachioji Hibakusha (Atomic Bomb Survivors) Association.
This Saturday the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will unveil Dinosaur Hall, a 14,000 square-foot permanent dinosaur exhibit featuring 20 dinosaur skeletons and over 300 fossils, as well as interactive displays and informative excavation videos. The majority of the prehistoric bones are real, giving viewers an authentic glimpse into the world 65 million years ago. With its footprint unchanged, the museum was rejiggered to accommodate the super-sized Hall. The new exhibit boasts two, two-story galleries that are conjoined into a mesmerizing display of jumbo-sized specimens that visitors can walk under, around and even come face-to-face with. Designed by CO Architects in collaboration with exhibition design firm Evidence Design, the new dinosaur digs encompass the museum’s original, recently restored, 1913 Beaux Arts structure and its 1920s addition which has been outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows. The show-stoppers include Thomas, one of the 10 most complete T. rexes in the world (70 percent of his skeleton was found and pieced together with the remainder artificially sculpted) and the exhibit’s largest specimen, a 68-foot Memenchiaursus, among others. It's also home to a trio of fossils—a baby, a teen and an adult (Thomas)—part of the only “T. rex growth series” which spotlights the carnivore’s life stages. The project marks the halfway point of the museum's seven-year, $135 million transformation and according to Dr. Jane Pisano, NHM president and director, “it will position the Museum as an international hub for dinosaurs.” So far, $86 million has been raised in this unique-public-private partnership. Due to the exhibit’s expected popularity, guests and members will need a reservation for a specific date and time to visit the new Dinosaur Hall. For ticket information and reservations, visit here.