Posts tagged with "Los Angeles":

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wHY subtly transforms historic Masonic Temple to house Marciano Art Foundation

Rather than donating artworks to large, existing institutions, it is becoming more and more common for wealthy art collectors to create their own museums for displaying their extensive collections.

In Los Angeles, we have the Getty Museum; the Broad Museum; the Hammer Museum; and the Norton Simon Museum, for example. This arrangement allows the collector to assure that the works he or she acquired will be displayed in a manner that they control and won’t get lost within a much larger institution.

In New York, Ronald S. Lauder opened the Neue Galerie, and of course, in 1959 further up Fifth Avenue, the Guggenheim family opened their museum, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Sometimes these museums are very successful and draw visitors for years after their initial opening.

Adding to the trend, the Maurice & Paul Marciano Art Foundation (MAF) recently opened in Los Angeles to display some of the 1,500 art objects that the brothers have collected. The Marciano brothers made their fortune by creating and marketing Guess Jeans. For the last seven years, they’ve been working closely with MAF Deputy Director Jamie G. Manné to acquire a very diverse and often innovative collection. It was always their intent to create their own museum and four years ago the artist Alex Israel noticed that the large Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard was for sale. He told his friend—Manné—who also thought it had great potential. Manné told Maurice and he decided to buy it for $8 million.

The Masonic Temple was designed by artist and architect Millard Sheets. It opened in 1961 to serve the growing population of the Masons of California, a fraternal order whose mission was to “foster personal growth and improve the lives of others.” The Masons had noble goals but maintained a very private organization, which is reflected in the Millard Sheets design. It is a large and imposing 110,000-square-foot travertine structure on Wilshire Boulevard with essentially no windows; in other words, a big white box.

Three years ago the Marciano’s retained architect Kulapat Yantrasast and his New York and Los Angeles–based firm wHY to convert this white elephant into a museum that would engage the community, welcome the public, and display a wide range of art objects in a variety of media. wHY was an informed choice—they have extensive experience designing museums both new and old, including the Grand Rapids Museum in Michigan; the Speed Museum in Louisville, Kentucky; the Pomona College Studio Art Hall in California; and the interiors for the Art Institute of Chicago and Harvard Art Museums.

The design approach within their practice is based on collaboration, both externally and internally. Externally they work with the owner and engage the community to develop their design approach. Internally they integrate the firm’s four studios, each of which is named for its focus: “buildings,” “objects,” “grounds,” and “ideas.” Yantrasast said, “We intentionally work together from the beginning; architects, landscape architects, planners, and interior designers. We create a group of thought leaders, with the ideas workshop as the glue.” Yantrasast sees himself as the conductor of a group of “the best musicians.”

With MAF the goal was to respect the architecture of Millard Sheets while transforming his very private, enclosed box into a welcoming and engaging environment to experience contemporary art within. For the most part, they have achieved their goals with a few shortcomings.

wHY created a sculpture garden courtyard to welcome visitors who may approach by car from the rear or as pedestrians. This works well. The entry foyer is flanked by a bookstore and lounge, leading to the lobby, where they have saved and restored two beautiful light fixtures and three elegant elevator cabs.

The galleries comprise essentially two levels and a mezzanine to display the very diverse Marciano art collection. On the ground floor wHY converted the former 2,000-seat auditorium into a spacious 13,600-square-foot exhibition hall, with all interior lighting; essentially a vast black box that includes 65 pieces by the L.A.-based artist Jim Shaw. The former stage has been transformed into a dramatic sunken sculpture court, with Adrian Villar Rojas's reinterpretation of Michelangelo’s David lying in repose.

While the mezzanine is also dark and filled with video art, the top floor holds the most dramatic spaces. Yantrasast removed the hung ceiling from this floor to reveal the bold structure that supports the roof, creating a large 12,000-square-foot gallery to display major pieces of the Marciano collection. By stripping away a portion of its rear travertine elevation and replacing it with glass, the gallery is filled with waves of natural north light. This move also offers a pleasant promenade overlooking the city and the famous Hollywood sign. One unfortunate detail is that a beautiful Millard Sheets mosaic mural has been preserved, but a full height wall has been erected only six feet in front of it, making it virtually impossible to truly appreciate Sheets’ artwork.

Yantrasast believes that architects who design art museums are a “matchmaker between the art and the people,” and that the building “must support the art,” he said. It’s a delicate balance creating inviting spaces to exhibit art and making buildings that enhance their environment. In essence, wHY’s architecture becomes a subtle, quiet partner and does not dominate the art. At the MAF, generally wHY has succeeded as a “matchmaker.” They have created flexible, spacious galleries to display the extensive and diverse art. The inaugural exhibition, labeled Unpacking: The Marciano Collection and curated by Philipp Kaiser, formerly with L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, works well in the newly re-imagined building and includes the work of 44 artists. Maurice Marciano seemed quite pleased with the result. He said, “We’ve been really blessed to give back to the artists’ community, and to share our passion with everybody.” In an ironic turn of events, the MAF has given new life to the Masonic Temple and extended the Masons’ goal to “improve the life of others.”
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Los Angeles will host the 2028 Olympics

Los Angeles is set to host the Olympics in 2028, its third time doing so following the 1932 and 1984 games, as first reported by the New York Times.

L.A gave up the bid for the 2024 games, which will be hosted in Paris, after a deal was struck with the International Olympics Committee (IOC). The Committee had not reached a consensus as to which city would take the earlier games until today. The unusual arrangement saw the simultaneous announcement of the hosts for both the 2024 and 2028 games.

The city, when making its bid for 2024, proposed using its existing facilities from the previous Olympics. While extensive retrofitting and building temporary facilities will take place, no new permanent structures will have to go up. In this way, L.A. would be the “most affordable” of any U.S. proposal, as Mayor Eric Garcetti claimed. The L.A Memorial Coliseum and surrounding Exposition Park will be the main stages for the games; other significant venues include the Staples Center, Nokia Theater, Griffith Observatory, Dodger Stadium, and Rose Bowl. 

The city’s proposal also relies heavily on expanding transit infrastructure, including the light rail, streetcar systems, and LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal. Officials have made the promise that 80 percent of spectators and visitors will be connected to venues by public transportation.

The U.S. has not hosted a Summer Olympics since 1996 when it was held in Atlanta. The success of both games, and especially in 1984 when the city turned a $250 million profit, as well as the advertised lower cost due to existing infrastructure, has made both the public and city officials amenable to hosting. Boston was originally chosen to be the American bid over Los Angeles and San Francisco but withdrew last minute in 2015 due to cost overruns. 

L.A. had originally made its proposal and plans for 2024, and not 2028. According to the Times, while the city is still willing to accommodate for four years later than planned, officials have acknowledged that the cost and logistical estimates in the bid will likely be higher in 2028.

The official announcement will take place on September 13 in Lima, Peru.

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Murmur’s Heather Roberge appointed new chair of UCLA architecture department

Heather Roberge, principal of Los Angeles–based architecture firm Murmur, has been appointed the new chair for the University of California, Los Angeles Department of Architecture and Urban Design (AUD). Prior to Roberge’s appointment, Los Angeles architect Neil Denari had been interim chair. Denari’s appointment came in 2016 after former chair Hitoshi Abe decided to step down. Roberge’s appointment is not the only recent change at UCLA—Brett Steele was named as the new dean of the university’s School of Arts and Architecture late 2016. Roberge has been a faculty member at AUD since 2002 and has taught widely at schools such as Washington University in St. Louis, Ohio State University, the Pratt Institute, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, among others. According to Murmur’s website, Roberge’s academic work “investigates the spatial, structural, and atmospheric potential of digital technologies on the theory and practice of building.” Roberge has helmed Murmur since 2008. The firm was also named an Emerging Voices awardee in 2016 by the Architectural League of New York. Murmur’s 2015 exhibition, En Pointe, won an AIA|LA Design Merit award in 2015, as well. Roberge worked as a partner at the design practice Gnuform prior to starting Murmur. Roberge assumes chairpersonship as wider shake-ups have infused new waves of leadership at several other Los Angeles area architecture schools. Milton Curry was recently appointed as the new dean of the Southern California University School of Architecture while Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter was named new dean of the Woodbury School of Architecture earlier this year, for example.
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Hollywood’s historic John Anson Ford Amphitheatre set to reopen after major renovation

The newly upgraded and renovated John Anson Ford Amphitheatre in Los Angeles is making its official debut this weekend following nearly three years of construction. Levin & Associates Architects acted as design architect while Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA) performed landscape architecture services on the $72.2 million project; both firms are based in L.A. The 1,200-seat outdoor amphitheater complex was originally built in 1931 as a replacement structure for a previous theater that had burned down. The complex—then known as the Pilgrimage Theatre—was built out of masonry to resemble the fabled gates of Jerusalem. The original complex utilized rough, board-formed concrete surfaces throughout, with smoother treatments deployed across the crenelated towers and walls that make up the theater’s stage areas. The completed renovation brings a new two-story, 11,055-square-foot concessions and office structure to the complex that includes a commercial kitchen, new projection booth, control room, and a series of catwalks designed to optimize new stage lighting upgrades. The renovations also carved out 3,500 square feet of “found space” from underneath the stage. The removal of the underlying bedrock allowed the design team to address rampant drainage issues—The stage is embedded into the hillside site, an arrangement that resulted in storm runoff rushing directly into the complex’s basement levels. Levin & Associates also added ADA-compliant artists’ spaces, including accessible restrooms and dressing areas, as well as new telecommunications systems. MLA has reworked the hillside landscape behind the stage to introduce a native “generational landscape” that will age gracefully in place and is designed to be held in place by a series of retaining walls. The landscape architects also added a series of mature tree specimens to the site, including two mature coast live oaks and two strawberry madrone trees. The amphitheater area is wrapped in a modular acoustical metal panel wall assembly that is designed to keep sound from performances inside the complex while deflecting the traffic and noise of the nearby Interstate-101. The entry and approach areas of the complex were also reworked to be ADA-accessible.
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Another 33-story tower is coming to L.A.’s Koreatown

Los Angeles–based architects Archeon Group and developer Jia Long USA are working to bring a 33-story mixed-use tower to Los Angeles's subway-adjacent Koreatown neighborhood. The 420,000-square-foot podium-and-tower complex will bring a 200-key hotel, 250 condominium units, 28,490 square feet of retail, 49,227 square feet of offices, and 545 parking stalls to the area in a somewhat retro-looking dark glass-clad design. The project’s automobile parking stalls will be joined by 344 bicycle parking spaces, 286 of which will be deployed as long-term bicycle storage lockers. Of the 250 condominium units, 18 will be set aside as “very-low income units,” according to documentation filed with the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. Documents show that the designers intend to wrap the podium levels in metal louver systems, with storefront areas demarcated by large expanses of reflective glass. The project's silhouette is outlined in vertical bands of aluminum composite panels that rise up the building’s edges and cut across its midsection, demarcating the end of the hotel and office programs that occupy the lower half of the tower mass from condominiums above. The building’s upper half is studded with wide, glass-framed balconies and a series of penthouse levels that will be occupied as offices by the developer. The tower rises to 450 feet at the highest points of its building’s pointed architectural cap; the cap will frame rooftop amenity spaces. The project joins a growing list of upcoming mixed-use high-rise projects slated for the areas immediately around L.A.'s Purple Line subway. The subway line is currently being extended to the city's Westwood neighborhood in conjunction with ongoing regional transit expansions. Construction on the project is set to begin later this year and is expected to conclude in late 2019.
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Koning Eizenberg combines symbolism and craft for a new chapel in Hollywood

It took decades of piecemeal construction—a new day school here, a dank brick chapel there—to build the Temple Israel of Hollywood (TIOH). But it would require 10 years of work by Koning Eizenberg Architecture to transform the 90-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival–style temple into a flexible and social campus for worship. So far, the project has yielded a collection of generous, sunlit spaces, including a sculptural multiuse chapel.

The chapel is a study in contrasts: A large glass wall populated by staggered, canted window panes fronts a courtyard framed by the masonry-clad temple and a low administrative wing, the glass surfaces of the new chapel sheathed by a folded-aluminum louver system. That steel-supported shade was meticulously designed and fabricated against the restrictive physical tolerances of the aluminum material—its design is partially inspired by the ceremonial tallit cloth. The expanse is interrupted by a wall enclosing the Ark of the chapel, an extra-thick volume that appears to be made of solid sandstone but is actually hollow inside. The sedimentary exterior treatment on the Ark is achieved by hand-applying compositions of different colored sands and tiny pebbles—brought to Los Angeles from congregants’ visits to Jerusalem—over a shotcrete substrate.

Nathan Bishop, principal at KEA and project designer for TIOH, explained that a tight budget forced the architects to develop custom but frugal approaches. “There are no off-the-shelf products,” Bishop explained regarding the chapel’s major components.

Along the inside of the chapel, the Ark itself is interrupted by a large vertical screen made of CNC-milled maple. The Ark screen is decorated by a dense geometric pattern that conceals a space containing a Torah. The chapel interior is topped by a suspended CNC-milled, segmented plywood ceiling. Its crisscrossing and angular profiles sweep from east to west, variable peaks and valleys rising and falling to create a cavernous lid. The segments allow for the ceiling to have two readings: an airy structure from below, and a solid one from afar.

Bishop explained that among the Ark wall, sunshade, and chapel ceiling, the designers aimed to establish an open-ended dialogue between architecture and ritual. The sunshade, for example, can exist as a discrete architectural element reflecting light every which way, while remaining vaguely associated with “something that feels like the frayed end of the tallit,” as Bishop put it.

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Paul Matt of MATT Construction passes away at 85

Paul Matt, Chairman of MATT Construction, the builder behind many of Southern California’s most iconic architectural works like the Louis Kahn–designed Salk Institute, the Philip Johnson–designed Crystal Cathedral, and the Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed Broad Museum, passed away earlier this month at age 85. In a memorial posted to MATT Construction’s website, Steve Matt, MATT CEO, said:
My father loved his work and the people he collaborated with. During his recent battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, he continued to apply his amazing passion for building. All of us at MATT take great solace that he lived to see his dream fully realized … building a company of great builders and great people. We will proudly carry on his legacy.
The senior Matt was born in Rome, New York in 1932 and earned a degree in structural engineering from Oregon Institute of Technology as a beneficiary of the G.I. Bill. Matt originally got his start in construction working as a welder on the Dalles Dam in Oregon outside of Portland. He later worked as a surveyor for the George A. Fuller Company, eventually landing the superintendent position for Kahn’s Salk Institute in 1962. During the course of the project, after the client scrapped the project in lieu of a complete re-design, Matt developed thoughtful approaches for constructing the complex’s iconic concrete formwork walls. The collaborative interchange between Matt, Kahn, and the client would go on to imbue Matt’s construction philosophy with the type of flexibility, ingenuity, and know-how necessary to cater to the needs of the era’s visionary architects. MATT Construction will hold a public celebration in honor of Paul later this month. See the MATT Construction website for more details.
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Inside the diverse practice of the Los Angeles Design Group

The offices of the Los Angeles Design Group (LADG) are located on a sleepy street in Venice, California, that even on cloudy days looks a bit sun-bleached. There, a few blocks from the ocean in a diminutive storefront open to the street, one can find Claus Benjamin Freyinger, Andrew Holder, and their small team of designers charting a unique trajectory in what one might call “disciplinary architecture.”

“[Things like] structure are always subordinate to the [disciplinary] agenda we are trying to pursue,” Freyinger said, describing a vibrant grid of project views organized neatly along the main studio wall. He continued, “We are trying to work against the understanding of a building as a collection of integrated systems, one piled on top of the other.” Which is not to say that the firm does not consider structure or systems, but rather that it focuses instead on subverting the all-too-easy tendency those components have of making themselves apparent in the final work. Instead, LADG explodes the building process horizontally and explores each component—drawing, model, and detail—individually, in pursuit of “what happens when each idea develops independently of hierarchy,” as Holder put it.

After 13 years, the firm has produced a compellingly diverse collection of work ranging from installations to interiors to complete structures, swapping disciplinary and professional focus with each project.

The Kid Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Kid Gets out of the Picture, installed at Loeb Library at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2016, was developed in concert with architects First Office, Hirsuta, and Laurel Broughton / Andrew Kovacs for Materials & Applications. The contemporary interpretation of an English picturesque garden is based on priest and artist William Gilpin’s travel sketches, which LADG mined for symbolic and literal inspiration in its attempts to explore “topics left unfinished by the picturesque.” With the installation, the designers explored “clumps,” the collections of heterogeneous objects and plants used by picturesque designers to organize their compositions. Here, the designers arrange a collection of plaster-coated, plywood-rib-framed drapery atop wooden-beam and stacked-block bases.

Surefoot Santa Monica  Santa Monica, CA

The interiors for Surefoot Santa Monica are a creative solution for an abstract programmatic challenge: Create a storefront for a shop with no inventory. The ski-boot store acts as a fitting room mostly, where patrons pick out and get sized up for new custom-made ski boots produced off-site. The firm toyed with the formal complexities of lofted and faceted finishes for the project, creating a collection of object-like surfaces that act independently of one another. Gable-shaped plywood display walls—punctuated by boxed-out display cases—hold forth under a billowing plaster tent.

Oyster Gourmet Los Angeles

The Oyster Gourmet is a mechanical kiosk designed to house a champagne and oyster bar in L.A’s Grand Central Market. The structure’s operable walls fold up and down via hand crank, creating an awning for the bar below when fully extended. The structure is made out of plywood ribs, canvas cloth, and steel supports. But the built form of the mollusk-shaped eatery is but one manifestation of the kinetic kiosk—the pink-hued worm's eye axonometric and gray-scale floorplan drawings are also of merit.

Armstrong Avenue Residence Los Angeles

The Armstrong Avenue Residence is a 1,894-square-foot renovation of an existing split-level house in Los Angeles. The charred cedar-clad “upside down house” is organized with a top-floor living room located above an unceremonial set of bedroom, study, and garage spaces. The setup ensures the living areas have the best view of a nearby reservoir, which can also be seen from a cyclopean bedroom window that has been torqued to be in line with the water feature. The inset bay window is mimicked along the back of the house via Marcel Breuer–inspired massing, creating a house that steps out in parallel with the scrubby hillside behind.

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How Ball-Nogues Studio crafted this sculptural steel pavilion for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

The Max Factor Building—built in 1974 by A.C. Martin & Associates as an extension to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles—has never really been well-loved. The forlorn hospital complex is made up of a trio of institutional towers placed atop a pair of parking structures that are arranged around what should be a courtyard but is actually a five-lane boulevard that delves underneath the main tower. In a 1992 review of complex for The Los Angeles Times, critic Aaron Betsky described the black glass and limestone-clad structures as an example of “purposeful blandness” and labeled the hospital an “anti-urban bunker of bad form.” Flash forward to 2017: The towers remain unchanged in their appearance but stand renewed along the podium terraces that flank either side of Gracie Allen Drive, where AHBE Landscape Architects and Ball-Nogues Studio (BNS) recently completed work on new healing gardens and a pavilion, respectively. According to Calvin Abe, principal at AHBE Landscape Architects, the terraces had been a forgotten public space at the hospital for many years, a fact Abe hoped his interventions could shift by reorienting the way patients and visitors arrived at Cedars, as they made their way from the parking structure to the hospital proper. Benjamin Ball, principal at BNS, explained that the neglected terrace “had not been given much consideration as public place for the hospital” when originally designed, a fact worsened by its sensitive location sandwiched between air intake grilles and operating rooms. The arrangement meant that any construction activity would have to be undertaken rather silently and without generating much dust. To boot, the site’s existing structural arrangement meant that improvements would need to be vigorously studied in order to guarantee that new loads were being resolved without disrupting the podium’s original structural grid. As a result, the project team came to consider the site as more of a performative skin than a static structure. The surface-level project tries to heal the “epidermis of the complex,” as Abe explains, referring to the outermost public region of the hospital, by “grafting a piece of living, breathing landscape above the existing parking decks.” To achieve this goal, the firm re-designed the two terrace areas as a series of multi-functional outdoor garden rooms—what they call “portable gardens” due to the fact that the structural requirements forbade permanent installation of these new planters. Even so, Abe was able to soften the edges of the terraces with wide swaths of tall grasses, wooden boardwalks and benches, and ancillary, succulent-rich beds framed in three eights inch thick stainless steel sheets. Along the north arm of the terrace, sinuous benches made from kiln-dried Brazilian hardwood pop in and out of their surroundings, sometimes nestled into supple berms, at other times sitting proudly under the sun above the boardwalk. The planted areas are mirrored in a more minimal and integrated fashion across the way, where the edges of the wide, wavy beds seamlessly transition from stainless steel border to wooden bench and back again. The north arm of the terrace is organized as a tripartite band of terraces, with a large wooden boardwalk sandwiched between the grassy precipice and succulent bed. At the center of the run, the path bulges out to make room for BNS’s pavilion, a looming husk crafted by humans and CNC machines out of woven networks of stainless steel tubes. Ball explained that his team wanted to contrast the prototypical architecture of the medical towers with a sculptural pavilion that could stand out on the improved terrace. To counter the geometric, stone-clad exposures of the towers, BNS designed a multi-lobed shade structure that would be inspired by self-supported concrete shell structures but be constructed out of CNC-shaped steel tubing. “We tried to develop a language that could only be achieved using this type of machine-shaped caged shell,” Ball explained. Ball described the pavilion as having “no hierarchy in terms of structure,” a quality that would instead be lended by the pavilion’s billowing forms, which themselves were finessed by the quotidien requirements of the structure’s lateral loads. The billowing form wraps over the walkway on one side and frames a smooth, J-shaped bench underneath a parallel and transversal lobe. When seen from the boardwalk, the structures appear squat and wide, a quality that disappears entirely when the pavilion is viewed from the opposite edge, where the shells rise proud of the boardwalk and slip past one another. BNS, working with local fabricator Hensel Phelps, worked to meld into reality a form that not only faithfully represented the computer-generated mass—Rhino and Maya were used, among other programs—but that also reflected what the CNC machines could ultimately produce. Ball explained that the design and fabrication teams had to work iteratively to establish limitations for the structure, adding that  the back-and-forth process ultimately “outlined the aesthetics of the project—It created the rule book, not the other way around.” The structure was eventually fabricated off site, assembled in its entirety prior to installation, and finally craned into place. Ultimately, the structure came within a two centimeter tolerance of the digital model, due in equal measure to the digital tools and the highly skilled craftwork of the fabricators. Ball explained finally: “To get a project like this to look polished and highly crafted, you need hand skills.”
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Mike Alvidrez, CEO of L.A.’s Skid Row Housing Trust, to step down next year

In an effort to reorient one of the country’s most innovative homelessness alleviation organizations around a new generation of leadership, longtime Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT) CEO Mike Alvidrez has decided to step down from his post effective sometime next summer. Alvidrez’s tenure with SRHT has spanned 27 years so far, with 13 of those years spent at its helm. Under Alvidrez’s stewardship, Los Angeles–based SRHT has grown to become a leader in re-housing initiatives via the implementation of the “housing first” model. Under this model, individuals are afforded permanent housing first, with other supportive services following afterward. SRHT has implemented the model through a series of high-profile collaborations with Los Angeles area architects in an effort to bring thoughtful design to contemporary models of American social housing. The organization has collaborated on multiple projects with Michael Maltzan Architecture, including the firm’s much-lauded prefabricated Star Apartments and most recently on the Crest Apartments in the San Fernando Valley. SRHT also recently completed work on The Six apartments, a 52-unit complex by Los Angeles–based Brooks + Scarpa aimed toward housing veterans who have previously experienced homelessness. Regarding the project, Angela Brooks of Brooks + Scarpa described how the firm emphasized the need to create a multi-layered sense of public and private space for the complex. She said, “Where’s the threshold between the neighborhood and your house? If it’s just a single line, that’s too thin. We want it to be deep with a sense of public, semi-public, and then finally private [spaces] along the way.” In a statement announcing his planned departure, Alvidrez stated: “The public perception of supportive housing has forever changed thanks to our partnerships with renowned architects to design beautiful residential and community spaces that foster reconnection, healing, and dignity.” Alvidrez’s announcement comes after the success a pair of SRHT-supported ballot measures aimed at increasing funding for supportive housing services in recent elections. Those initiatives—Measure HHH in the City of Los Angeles and Measure H in Los Angeles County—aim to provide funding and support for the construction of 10,000 supportive housing units, among other initiatives, a windfall that will surely impact SRHT’s initiatives moving forward. For now, the organization is going to take its time to transition to new leadership. Alvidrez announced that SRHT will begin reviewing applicants later this year and he would stay on with the organization as an ambassador after the fact. See the SRHT website for more information.
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Another L.A. parking lot bites the dust for MLA’s Ishihara Park

Since opening in 2016, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (Metro) new Expo Line light rail has yielded an array of world-class public amenities at its western end in Santa Monica, including the new Ishihara Park by Mia Lehrer + Associates (MLA).

The 2.35-acre buffer park—named after local World War II veteran George Haruyoshi Ishihara and commissioned by the City of Santa Monica—is built on a slight 110-foot-by-55-foot space set aside during construction of a new maintenance facility servicing Metro's Expo Line fleet.

Astrid Sykes, senior associate at MLA, said that the firm designed Ishihara Park to be “more than just a buffer” between the low-rise neighborhood and the monolithic maintenance depot. “We designed it to be a true asset for the community as well,” Sykes explained. The multifaceted park, shaped by local input, reflects a desire to create spaces for recreation and decompression that also sequester carbon and groundwater.

To meet these ends, the park is organized as a series of discrete “garden rooms”—a bird habitat, community pavilion, rock garden, fruit grove, and meadow—connected by a meandering half-mile-long walking trail.

The far western end of the park not only contains vine-covered trellis structures, salvaged pine trees, and lush undergrowth habitats for birds, but also has a collection of stationary exercise equipment. Tranquil wooded trails flow through the bird-habitat/exercise area and lead to a central community space. Here, a pair of lawns and two picnic pavilions flank a plaza. The picnic pavilions are spared in their construction: A set of steel-beam structures that provide shade over streamlined cast-concrete picnic benches. Between the pavilions, low concrete walls studded with integrated cantilevered seating frame the plaza, while four light poles run tidily through the center of the space in parallel with surrounding trees. The eastern pavilion runs into a second, diminutive lawn populated by smooth concrete sitting-rocks and benches made from planed-off logs.

Beyond the lawn is a fenced playground—called the “rock garden”—containing a parabolic swing set, climbing-rock area, merry-go-round, and an assortment of sinuous cast-concrete benches. Further down its length, the park contains a fledgling orchard and a teaching garden. At the far eastern end, the walking path splinters into a series of sand-packed trails that frame a collection of ficus trees.

The ends of the park are populated by trees, some already existing on the site, others transplanted from along the light rail line’s path. The end result, according to Sykes, is “a new park in the spirit our changing metropolis.”

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L.A. Metro takes multi-pronged approach to improving aging Blue Line

The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LAMTA) is working toward making a series of modest but necessary improvements on the 27-year-old Blue Line light rail line connecting Downtown Los Angeles with downtown Long Beach. The 22-mile-long transit link was the first modern transit line built in the region and with 83,612 boardings per day, is considered one of the transit system’s workhorse lines. The LAMTA recently approved a $81.5 million contract to move forward on several practical improvements to the line that would boost efficiency, shorten disruptions caused by maintenance work, and speed up overall travel. The biggest item on the list of improvements for the line consists of the addition of four new interlocking segments to the route. Interlockings provide opportunities for trains to bypass certain segments of track in the event of a stalled train or while maintenance work is being performed on a certain section of track, for example. The transit line currently features only six such interlockings, a situation that can create waits of up to 40 minutes when track maintenance is being performed. These delays typically disrupt service for several hours after the fact, when they do occur, snarling the transit system’s already spotty on-time performance throughout the day. The new interlockings are expected to reduce these types of delays substantially, allowing trains to run every 15 to 20 minutes or so, while maintenance work is performed. The transit authority has also begun switching out the line’s aging fleet with new rail cars. The line’s train fleet has not been substantially upgraded since the early 1990s, so the aging Kinkisharyo P865 trains will be replaced by newer P3010 trains, the same locomotives that run on the system’s Gold and Expo Lines. The first of the new trains went into service in May of this year and are going be completely rolled out by the end of 2018, according to The Source.   Long Beach is also working toward implementing a long-delayed light synchronization improvement plan throughout the line’s final stretch in downtown Long Beach, Longbeachize reports. The improvements would coordinate traffic signals along the parallel and intersecting streets that run around the transit line in order to assure Blue Line trains hit green lights at each intersection, speeding the line’s passage through the downtown area. Delays along this stretch due to the lack of synchronization reportedly increase travel times by between five and 30 minutes. The transit authority has also studied creating express lines between Downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Long Beach but has not released any plans to implement such measures.