Posts tagged with "Santa Monica":

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Cult-favorite L.A. video store Vidiots will reopen in a renovated theater

Like the LP and the hardcover book, the DVD is a form of media subject to unpredictable waves of popularity and stagnation, never to be officially put to rest. However, it may come as a shock that, in 2019, a video store housing more than 50,000 DVDs, BluRay discs, and VHS tapes is in the works. The owners of cult-favorite Vidiots, a “one-of-kind hub for film lovers, filmmakers, and everyone curious about cinema” that first opened in 1985 in Santa Monica and closed in 2017, announced that they will reopen next fall as a store, movie theater, and event space in the youthful northeastern neighborhood of Eagle Rock. The nonprofit will be housed in the former Eagle Theatre, a 200-seat independent theatre built in 1929 that shut down in 2001 and has since operated as a church. “Vidiots relaunching on the cusp of our 35th birthday," said Vidiots executive director Maggie Mackay, "is a triumph for Los Angeles film history and cements the legacy of Vidiots founders Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber as innovators in L.A. film culture. Bringing the Eagle Theatre back and providing L.A. with a long-needed new film space is thrilling.” The original theater space will be renovated and equipped with state-of-the-art sound and projection, as well as a second 50-seat screening room that will host screenings, workshops, and receptions, and a storefront from which its vast collection of film materials will be sold. According to renderings, the original 1980s-era Vidiots sign will be hung above a renovated marquee, which will continue to function as a space for advertising upcoming movies and events. Vidiots secured funds for the theater space with the support of development partner Jeffrey Birkmeyer and “founding members,” which include actors Mark Duplass, Katie Aselton, and director Jason Reitman, who will be donating a 35mm projection system. Until it opens roughly a year from now, Vidiots will continue to remotely host events in the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Los Angeles, and the Bootleg, a concert venue in Historic Filipinotown.
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The Cayton Children's Museum turns an L.A. mall into a playscape

395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 374 Santa Monica, CA 424-416-8320 The 21,000-square-foot Cayton Children’s Museum is a new multilevel experience curated to engage children with the physical world. OFFICEUNTITLED (formerly R&A Design), a Culver City, California–based firm, has designed a space for children to explore unhindered, as the nets, colorful palette, costume lockers, full-size helicopter and firetruck, and even a wall covered in pool noodles are all intended to spur tactile interaction without requiring constant adult supervision. The museum is on the third floor of the open-air Santa Monica Place mall, an adaptive reuse project on the top floor of the Frank Gehry-designed building. Despite being titled as a children's museum, the space provides a welcome respite for parents and children alike. However, if visitors walk past the enormous aardvark carved from plywood that houses the reception desk, they’ll find the “Courage Climber,” an entire level made from nets, which only children can access and that spans 20 percent of the museum’s footprint. Other architecturally scaled objects house the museum’s various non-exhibition programmatic elements such as ticketing and security, including the “Armadillo, Porcupine, Onion, Egg, Houses and Drum.” The space is broken into five exhibition “neighborhoods” with distinct educational elements. Launch Your is a space for zero-to-two-year-old children to explore different topological arrangements through touch and is intended to help them strengthen their coordination. In Let’s Help, children can explore what it means to be a farmer, veterinarian, or first responder. The Together We section has been stocked with exhibitions meant to promote group activities and team building. In Reach for, visitors can stretch their legs and climb all over the web of nets. Finally, things slow down in Reflect On, where children are encouraged to take a more contemplative attitude about the world and consider how they can better connect with nature. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $14, but the museum will be free for low-income families during the first year.
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Jason Long and Shohei Shigematsu plot inventive works across California

Although the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has been in business for decades and keeps a steadily growing constellation of offices around the globe, the firm has, until recently, had a relatively modest profile on the American West Coast.

But things are changing. As West Coast cities pursue new building efforts—including new neighborhoods, ecologically sensitive public parks, and experiments in multiuse complexes—OMA’s brand of frank intellectualism has slowly found a preliminary foothold in California.

The firm’s expanding Golden State presence includes a recently completed urban master plan for Facebook’s Willowbrook campus in Menlo Park, a residential condominium tower in San Francisco, as well as a trio of inventive projects in Los Angeles. Over the next few years, these projects are poised to join the Seattle Central Library and the Prada Epicenter Los Angeles, both from 2004, OMA’s only completed West Coast projects to date.

The latest westward push represents an ascendant energy emanating from the firm’s New York office, where OMA partners Jason Long and Shohei Shigematsu lead many dynamic projects taking shape across the continent and in Japan. When asked if a new California outpost was in the works for OMA, Shigematsu replied, “It’s always been a dream of ours,” before adding that current conditions were favorable but not exactly right for a potential OMA West branch. “Maybe if we get more projects out here.”

First and Broadway Park (FAB Park)

Also created in collaboration with Studio-MLA, the new First and Broadway Park in Los Angeles is set to contain a playful 100,000-square-foot retail, food, and cultural programming pavilion that anchors the ecologically sensitive park. The pavilion will be capped with an edible rooftop garden and a dining terrace that overlooks L.A.’s City Hall.

Along the ground, the park will be wrapped with ribbons of bench seating, elements fashioned to create interlocking outdoor rooms and plazas surrounded by native oak and sycamore trees. Water-absorbing landscapes around the seating areas are designed to harvest and retain rainwater while solar collection and a “Golden California” landscape lend the project its ecological bona fides.

The Avery (Transbay Block 8)

Related California’s crenelated 575-foot tower, known as The Avery, is part of a larger development created in conjunction with Fougeron Architecture for a blank site in downtown San Francisco’s bustling Transbay District.

For the project, the designers have carved a generous paseo through the buildable envelope for the site, creating a new retail and amenity plaza while also lending a tapered look to the 55-story tower. The gesture animates views for a collection of condominiums, market-rate apartments, and affordable housing units while also bringing sunlight down into the paseo and to the mid-rise block designed by Fougeron. Currently under construction, the tower is expected to open in 2019.

Audrey Irmas Pavilion

The Audrey Irmas Pavilion is the firm’s first cultural and religious project in the region. The trapezoidal building shares a site with the Wilshire Boulevard Temple and is made up of three interlocking volumes that connect to the outdoors via a sunken rooftop garden designed by landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA. An arched portal connects to a shared breezeway between the pavilion and the temple, which is framed by the leaning pavilion. The latter was designed with a pronounced slant both out of deference to historical structure and to illuminate the courtyard.

Referencing unbuilt proposals for Universal City and the L.A. County Museum of Art, Rem Koolhaas, OMA cofounder, said, “[The Pavilion] is part of a very consistent effort to do things here. It’s exciting if one thing happens to succeed, because architecture is a very complex profession where maybe a quarter of all attempts get anywhere.”

The Plaza at Santa Monica

Shigematsu explains that one concern driving the firm’s California projects involves delving into the region’s rich history of indoor-outdoor living. The approach is fully on display in The Plaza at Santa Monica, a 500,000-square-foot staggered mass of interlocking buildings intended to create a new mix of public outdoor spaces.

With a cultural venue embedded in the heart of the complex and ancillary indoor and outdoor public spaces laid out across building terraces, the complex aims for a unique take on the regional indoor-outdoor typology. The building is set to contain offices, a 225-suite hotel, as well as a market hall and public ice-skating rink.

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Santa Monica looks to cap Interstate 10 in new downtown plan

Local planning politics on Los Angeles's Westside is in a sad state of affairs. There, a municipally-led push to complete city streets by adding bicycle infrastructure and other pedestrian improvements has been met with fierce opposition from local drivers. Recent efforts in L.A’s Mar Vista neighborhood, for example, grew so toxic that community members launched a now-stalled recall bid to remove Mike Bonin—the local council person who champions the so-called “road diets” as well as the city’s Vision Zero plan those diets support—from office. The embarrassing spectacle has thrown into question the commitment L.A. residents have not only toward prioritizing the City’s plan for eliminating all traffic deaths by 2025, but also their reluctance to take personal responsibility for reducing transportation-related carbon emissions across the region. Nevertheless, there might be hope yet. That hope comes in the form of a new downtown plan taking root just a few blocks from Mar Vista, in the City of Santa Monica. The beachside municipality recently approved its new Downtown Community Plan (DCP), a document that looks to convert downtown Santa Monica into a “complete community” offering dense urban housing, multi-modal transportation options, and a healthy sprinkling of public open and green spaces. The city’s planning agency has taken a variety of steps to promote this vision by increasing maximum Floor-Area-Ratios for sites that include housing development in certain zones, eliminating parking minimums for some types of new construction, and pushing to reconfigure downtown streets in the image of universal transport. Through this new plan, the municipality is working to expand the functionality of its sidewalks and streets by increasing their capacity to support bicycle infrastructure, demarcating specific loading zones for buses and ride sharing services, and recognizing key “signature sidewalk” areas that will strategically enhance street life. The plan indicates that Santa Monica city officials are keenly aware that the future of the L.A. region will depend just as much on what happens in the spaces between buildings as it will on the buildings themselves. Critically, the plan also calls for capping the western terminus of Interstate 10 with a new park, a move that would fully transform the southern edge of the city into a civic and commercial node while also providing the city with an opportunity to rework surface streets to better accommodate the new focus on multi-modal transport. The section of I-10 in question sits in a 20-feet-below-grade channel spanning roughly 7,000 feet across what was once the city’s civic core; the stretch of highway is bounded on one side by Santa Monica City Hall and Ken Genser Square and on the other by the James Corner Field Operations–designed Tongva Park. Santa Monica Lookout reports that the DCP’s Gateway Master Plan element—the document spelling out just how the highway-adjacent areas are to be redesigned—will go up for consideration by the city’s Department of Planning and Community Development sometime this spring. The department recently issued a report that includes support for the freeway cap as part of several long-term changes for the city. The report describes the freeway park’s ability to offer a “unique opportunity for strengthening connections” within the city as a principal reason for its construction. Aside from proposing a specific, multi-modal plan for reconnecting the city’s street grid, the Gateway Master Plan will envision a method for reworking and connecting several key sites surrounding the future park, including an adjacent Sears department store complex, the Santa Monica Civic Center, and nearby Expo Line and Big Blue Bus stations. Although calls for the freeway cap park in Santa Monica date back to the 1980s, recent years have seen a bevy of proposals for similar installations across the Los Angeles region, including over Interstate 110 in Downtown Los Angeles and over U.S. Route 101 in Hollywood. Another proposal is still in the works to cap another portion of U.S. Route 101 with an overpass that would allow local mountain lions and other fauna to traverse the highway safely. Though Santa Monica’s freeway cap is still in the early stages of approval, the municipality expects to implement the initial phases of the Gateway Master Plan by 2021. An official timeline for the freeway cap park has not been released.
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Frank Gehry halves Santa Monica hotel to meet height restrictions

Gehry Partners has released a new batch of renderings of their mixed-use tower on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, California, nearly five years after initially announcing the project. What was once a 22-story tower has now been cut down to 12, after the Santa Monica City Council imposed wide-ranging height restrictions on new construction in the city’s downtown in April of 2017. When AN last wrote about the Ocean Avenue project in 2013, Gehry’s tower-on-a-base was still 22 stories and 244 feet tall, and destined to sit in a major 1.9-acre redevelopment at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. The $72 million mixed-use tower would have housed 22 condos, 125 hotel rooms, two stories of restaurants and retail, and a 36,000-square foot art museum with a glassy facade nearby. After years of legal battles stalled out development at the site over the tower’s height, Gehry’s rippling building could finally be on the rise following a City Council meeting on January 11th. While the overall massing and white-paneled, rippling façade of the revised tower still resembles the original plan, Gehry’s team has implemented sweeping changes. The project will now top out at 130 feet at its peak, with an average height of 44 feet across the tiered building. According to the Ocean Avenue Project website, the floor area ratio (FAR) has been reduced from 3.2 to 2.6, all condo units have been removed, the number of residential and affordable units has been increased, and Gehry has tried to improve integration with the street. A more concrete timeline for the project’s construction will likely become available following the upcoming City Council meeting.
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Controversial OMA development in Santa Monica scaled down

Plans for a long-delayed and controversial mixed-use project by OMA in Santa Monica, California have changed once again. OMA’s Plaza at Santa Monica development—a project that, if built, would be the firm’s largest work in Los Angeles to date—is to be located on city-owned land and will contain a flurry of programming, including a hotel, affordable housing, creative office, and retail spaces. The mixed-use project, originally pitched in 2014, has been dogged by outcry from anti-growth community activists who take issue with the project’s size and density and would rather see the 2.57-acre site used to house a neighborhood park. According to information presented on the project website, the development—as newly proposed—will contain 280 hotel rooms, 48 units of affordable housing, 106,000-square-feet of creative offices, and 12,000-square-feet of cultural space. Santa Monica Lookout reports that the project is also designed to contain a grand plaza facing the ocean, two street-level pocket parks along its perimeter, and an elevated terrace park. One of those pocket parks is being designed to contain an ice skating rink. In total, the newly re-proposed project will bring roughly 2.86-acres of open space to the area, including the elevated terrace. The new changes represent a modest downsizing for the project: While previous iterations had risen up to 148-feet in height, the new proposals bring the tallest point of the project to 129 feet. The project also includes 200,000 fewer square feet of retail space and more hotel rooms than it did prior to the changes, up from 225 rooms initially. Renderings for the project depict a staggered stack of rectilinear building blocks that rise in height from a single story alongside the grand plaza to roughly 12-stories high toward the back of the site. The shifting building masses create roof terraces and covered outdoor loggia as they rise and are wrapped in glass curtain walls on all sides. Community members have until March 2 to review new renderings of the project. See the City of Santa Monica’s website for more information on the project.
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Santa Monica Airport to become public park in 2029

Marking an end to a years-long legal and political struggle, the Santa Monica City Council announced an agreement with the United States Federal Government last weekend that calls for the closing of Santa Monica Airport on December 31, 2028. Upon closing, the site will be converted into a public park. The announcement, first reported by Santa Monica Next, calls for immediately shortening the airport’s runway to 3,500 feet in an effort to reduce airplane traffic at the 227-acre complex. The airport would continue to operate commercially for the next 11 years after which it will be “returned to the residents of Santa Monica.” City residents voted in 2014—via the ballot initiative Measure LC—to use the site only for park purposes after it closes. Any other proposed change in use—including converting the site for much-needed housing—would require a public vote. Architecture and landscape architecture firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios) developed a series of proposals for a 14-acre expansion to the existing Airport Park located beside the currently active airport.  RCH Studios' is currently working on final designs for the expansion; Construction is slated to begin within the next two years. A community group known as Airport2Park coalesced around the conversion idea several years ago and advocates for a mixed-use park that contains, among other programmatic components, hiking, jogging, and cycling trails; playgrounds for children; senior citizen recreational areas; natural habitats; and artworks and cultural facilities. The Santa Monica City Council’s announcement establishes that the city does not need to perform an environmental assessment to close the airport. The overall agreement to convert the airport to a park comes after many years of community outcry and the filing of dozens of legal initiatives by local residents to close the airport. The agreement also follows a back and forth debate between the Santa Monica City Council, which passed a motion last year seeking to close the airport in 2018, and a federal judge, who sought to keep the airport open until 2023. Planning and community input gathering is also currently underway to add a 12-acre plot of land adjacent to the park site to the overall airport park scheme. Neither a final plan for the park nor a timeline for construction have been released by city officials. For more information, see the Airport2Park website.
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Santa Monica to make all new single-family residential construction net-zero energy starting in 2017

The city of Santa Monica, California has become the first municipality in the world to require net-zero energy construction for all new single-family residences. The city recently passed an ordinance mandating that all future single-family homes built in the coastal enclave achieve ZNE status, based on the standards contained within the 2016 California Green Building Standards Code (CALGreen). Though the term has many nuanced definitions deployed across the construction industry and energy development fields, the CALGreen standard referenced by the Santa Monica ordinance defines ZNE construction as resulting in a building where the value of the energy produced on-site by renewable energy technologies and the value of the energy consumed annually by the building are equal. The new sustainability ordinance was approved by the Santa Monica City Council last week and will go effect in 2017 pending further approval. The new rule also contains a provision requiring new multifamily and commercial buildings reduce their energy consumption to ten percent below the rates set forth in the currently-in-effect 2016 California Energy Code. In a press release announcing the new guidelines, Santa Monica Mayor Tony Vazquez celebrated the city’s environmental bonafides, saying “Santa Monica is proud to take a global lead in zero net energy building standards that put the State’s environmental policy to action. Council's adoption of this new ordinance reflects our city's continued commitment to the environment,” adding, “ZNE construction, considered the gold standard for green buildings, is a major component that will help us reach our ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.” The measure comes after a steady increase in environmentally-focused regulation across the state and follows the adoption of the state’s Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan by the California Public Utilities Commission in 2008. That plan established a roadmap for all buildings in the state to be zero net energy users over time. The plan also established a goal for all residential construction to be ZNE by 2020 with all new commercial construction achieving the same status by 2030. Most municipalities, however, have lagged in reaching efficiency targets and Santa Monica’s aggressive timetable for realizing these changes marks the first ordinance passed by a California municipality to strive for ZNE construction. The measure also brings into relief a gaping disconnect in terms of what is and is not considered “sustainable” in the public mind, with the glossy, technological approaches to sustainability being pursued at the municipal level being seemingly at odds with draconian, anti-development measures being pursued via the ballot box aimed at reducing the city’s ability to generate dense, urban development. Before final implementation, the measure must gain final approval from the California Energy Commission.
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L.A.'s anti-development “Neighborhood Integrity Initiative” heads to March 2017 ballot

After being approved by their respective municipal bodies, a Los Angeles-area anti-development ballot measures isofficially heading to March 2017 ballot, raising many questions about the future of development and architecture in the region. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously in September to send that city’s Neighborhood Integrity Initiative (NII)—a measure that would, among other things, block certain kinds of new development in the city for two years and force the city to update its General Plan—to the ballot. The approval comes a few weeks after supporters of the initiative delivered the necessary 104,000 signatures to City Hall, setting in motion the official leg of what has already been a brutal and painful political slog in the city. The initiative is organized by a group known as the Coalition to Preserve Los Angeles (CPLA), itself primarily funded by the nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). The group contends that the region’s recent development boom has had adverse impacts on the lives of its patients, who, because of new development, must now struggle with more traffic and rising rents. The group’s initiative, adopting the anti-establishment tenor of the other so-called populist movements of this election cycle, takes aim at politicians and developers. The group’s literature and social media presence paint a vivid picture: Los Angeles as a dystopia made up of crooked politicians in cahoots with monied developers, with both groups exploiting the city’s hugely outdated General Plan for personal and political gain at the expense of everything else, “neighborhood character” especially. But the organization’s goals—limited high-density development and the preservation of spread-out, low-density neighborhoods—also happen to align with the growing voices of so-called Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) groups. The suburban-minded citizenry supporting the NIMBY movement aim to use political and legislative maneuvers to maintain  sparse, auto-dependent neighborhoods, propping up property values and physically manifesting social stratification in the process. The Los Angeles region’s capacity for high-density housing has been slowly hemmed in by these groups over the decades, resulting in the current and ongoing housing crisis. Estimates indicate that the L.A. region would need to build more than a quarter-million units today just to keep up with demand, and as of December 2015, the region’s vacancy rate for rental units stood at a meager 2.7 percent, a historic and unhealthy low. Increasingly, academics and housing and social justice activists have argued that high rents resulting from low vacancy rates actively harm local economies and the poor. This idea has gained such prominence that even President Barack Obama has voiced his position. In the recently-released Housing Development Toolkit, President Obama calls for anti-NIMBY planning ideas, saying, “By modernizing their approaches to housing development regulation, states and localities can restrain unchecked housing cost growth, protect homeowners, and strengthen their economies.”   Amid the larger context of an intensifying regional homelessness crisis and the potential economic sluggishness resulting from high housing costs, one must ask which version of Los Angeles that the anti-development measures aim to preserve. One of the group’s central policy planks is the abolition of so-called “spot zoning” decisions, the types of lot-by-lot concessions working within contemporary Los Angeles’s outdated zoning code demands. Because Los Angeles’s zoning ordinances and current General Plan have not been updated since the 1990s, many of the large-scale projects delivering housing infrastructure to the region—luxury, affordable, and supportive alike—require “spot” modifications to the code in order to allow for the higher density and height associated with their development. CPLA, in a press release, accuses the City Council, where “campaign cash, gifts, and donations” are exchanged openly, of being too cozy with these developers, saying that benefactor developers “are allowed to destroy community character and max out local streets and water mains” through their use of these spot zoning measures. Because the Los Angeles City Council has the power to approve and make demands of development projects that need spot zoning variances, the opportunity for crooked politics is certainly rife, but many across the region are asking if an outright moratorium on spot zoning isn’t too drastic of a response given the current conditions. And because high-density housing development is already relatively limited to certain pockets and enough housing has not been built overall, the region is also contending with a parallel gentrification and displacement crisis. The initiative is seen by the development community as a project-killer and in pro-housing circles as a threat to working class neighborhoods. Housing advocates argue that a halt in construction would further limit the development of affordable units in tow with the luxury projects the initiative seeks to curb, and push wealthier professionals into working class neighborhoods, displacing residents further down the economic ladder. Michael Lehrer, principal at Lehrer Architects in Los Angeles, told The Architect's Newspaper (AN) via email, "The insidious effect of the new initiative will be a trickle down lack-of-housing. There will be less and less affordable housing, so that cheaper housing will be filled by people of more means. More people of lesser means will then become homeless." NII backers, though, have successfully peddled fear and suspicion through their campaign, bringing together an unholy alliance of Hollywood celebrities, anti-gentrification and working class advocacy groups, and wealthy landowners, blaming the skyline-changing projects for altering a perceived sense of “neighborhood character” and decrying the city’s “rigged development system.” These groups ignore the fact that the largest impediment to the city’s affordability lies not with luxury towers, but with an overabundance of single family homes and low-density zoning. If Los Angeles is to get more affordable, it must densify—not continue to spread out into the desert. Lehrer went on to say that restricting development as the NII proposes to do "radically restricts housing development. Legitimate concerns about lesser quality development must be answered with higher collective, legislative, and political leadership for design excellence and thoughtful urbanism and architecture that cherishes streets and quality pedestrian experience. That’s what we must always focus on and demand." In Santa Monica, the proposed Measure LV is on the Nobember 2016 ballot and would dole out even more draconian measures by requiring every building built taller than 32 feet in height to be put to a public vote. Regarding how anti-development initiatives like Measure LV would impact the ability of local architects to produce innovative architectural solutions that work toward alleviating the housing crisis, Julie Eizenberg and Hank Koning of Santa Monica—based Koning Eizenberg Architects told AN, “Requiring a public vote on buildings over 32-feet will inhibit any creative solutions in the development of multi-unit housing. Project budgets will stay the same, but the money currently spent on inventive solutions and creative design will instead be spent campaigning for a public vote. It’s a shame people are so afraid.” The Santa Monica ordinance would also upturn decades of civic progress for the beachside municipality that has a long tradition of mixed use development and pedestrian life. Worse still, the recently-opened Expo Line extension to the city from Downtown Los Angeles has reinvigorated the city’s potential for transit-oriented development; Measure LV would decapitate that energy with generational consequences. Koning and Eizenberg take issue with the relatively-low height threshold imposed by the measure, saying, “Under the current code, the maximum height that can be built by-right on most boulevards in Santa Monica is already 32-feet. Anything over that, up to a cap of 55-feet, goes through the Development Review Process that involves extensive public hearings. In most cases, we’re only arguing about 23-feet—but those feet make all the difference in terms of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and housing creation." The Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIALA) also recently came out against Measure LV, saying in a press release, “Measure LV ... is extreme, costly, and would result in devastating consequences ranging from haphazard planning, increased housing costs and decreased supply of affordable housing.” AIALA argues that the measure would undermine the city's Land Use and Circulation Element, a planning instrument already developed for Santa Monica via a “20-year-long democratic process.” The organization points out that Measure LV would hinder the development of housing units, overall, undercut the orderly planning approaches already in place through unpredictable voter approvals, lacks exemptions for public buildings like firehouses, and could also potentially limit the effectiveness of the city’s Architectural Review Board. L.A's measure, among several development-related initiatives that have gained traction this election year, will have to wait until the presidential election is over to have its test before voters. 
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Michael Folonis Architects crafts a new approach to Santa Monica's setback guidelines

Housing in Santa Monica is understandably highly prized: The air is clear and cool, the ocean is nearby, and there is ample public transportation, including the new Expo Line connecting Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles. The arrival of high-tech employers like Google and Twitter has given the area a new name: Silicon Beach. And so, young professionals seeking employment, enjoyment, and well-designed, efficient apartments are searching L.A.’s coastal areas for affordable, convenient housing.

One of the more forward-thinking design responses to this need involves what is typically viewed as a restriction: height setbacks. Michael W. Folonis Architects, who is designing several housing projects that include both market-rate and affordable apartments in the area, has taken an innovative approach to setback requirements in its six-story complex at 1415 Fifth Street. This mid-block development, with 100 feet of street frontage on a 150-foot-deep site, contains 64 units, 13 of which are affordable, and includes a mix of studios, one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and three-bedroom units. Santa Monica has adopted the Affordable Housing Production Program (AHPP) requiring that 20 percent of new units serve moderate-income residents.

One of the unique challenges for architects working in the City of Santa Monica is responding to the “step-back” requirements of the planning and zoning department: Typically the building volume is set back just 10 feet on the ground floor and then steps back further on each of the upper floors, like a giant staircase. At 1415 Fifth Street, this required a setback of 84,600 cubic feet to be removed from the development envelope.

In an inventive alternative solution, Folonis proposed a deeper setback on the ground plane, creating a large open space for outdoor dining and interaction with the community. In addition, Folonis created a major three-story open portal that allows natural light and ventilation to flow into a central courtyard that is open to the sky. This achieved 88,563 cubic feet of open space, more than required by the planning and zoning department. The design maintains the cornice line, while the portal provides residents with an outdoor amenity that Folonis describes as “a cultural, social gathering place” that connects residents to city street life.

Travis Page, City of Santa Monica senior planner, said, “It’s unusual for an amazing idea like this to come forward” from the planning and zoning requirements. The city is looking at modifying the requirements to encourage future creative solutions.

The exterior facade facing southwest employs dramatic perforated aluminum sunshades that were generated directly from solar studies to allow sunlight to enter in the winter and also provide shade in the summer. This “passive solar design” is an integral part of Folonis’s design approach that he has been practicing since 1983. 1415 Fifth Street also provides bike storage for 150 bicycles, and the complex is just two blocks from the new Metro Light Rail station, which encourages the use of public transportation. All units benefit from natural ventilation, reducing the use of mechanical ventilation. 

The project is expected to break ground later this year and to be complete in 2017.

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Tropical Modernism: Lina Bo Bardi's SESC Pompéia falls under Veronika Kellndorfer's lens

Berlin-based Veronika Kellndorfer will be exhibiting Tropical Modernism: Lina Bo Bardi at the Christopher Grimes Gallery in Santa Monica through September 2 of this year. Showcasing Italian-born Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi's SESC Pompéia in São Paulo, Kellndorfer's duotone works examine the dialogue between Bardi's Brutalist style and the vegetal context of her buildings. In 1958, while lecturing in Salvador, Bo Bardi defined architecture as “an adventure in which people are called to intimately participate as actors.” Bardi refrained from having an office during her career as an architect and her desire to mix Brazil's modernist architecture movement with a natural, but Brazilian, approach is reflected in Kellndorfer's work. “I wasn't born here,” Bo Bardi once said. “I chose to live in this place. That's why Brazil is my country twice over.” Using a process she honed in the 1990s, Kellndorfer silk-screens photographic images to highly reflective glass panels to merge hues and blur the distinction between image and form. Here, the translucency of her work lends itself to the modernist style of Bo Bardi's work while contrasting to the more sinister tones applied to the images. Further juxtaposition can also be also found in the arrangement of Kellndorfor's work. Placing natural against the Brutal(ist), Bo Bardi's laconic detail work is amplified through this medium yet distorted when used in conjunction with the glass. The exhibition also builds on Kellndorfer's solo exhibition last year which was held at the Casa de Vidro in São Paulo, a former residency of Bo Bardi. During this period, Kellndorfer was exposed to further realms of Brazilian modernism in the form of Oscar Niemeyer and the gardening work of Roberto Burle Marx who's work is currently on display at the Jewish Musuem.