After years of trying, it looks like SCI-Arc is finally going to own its building in Downtown LA's Arts District. According to the school the project should close escrow before this May. According to blogdowntown, the school will pay $23.1 million for the 100,000-square-foot building and its surrounding 4.75 acre lot. The deal had been held up because of property owner Meruelo Maddux's continuing bankruptcy, but the company just settled with its debtor, Legendary Investors Group, which has pledged to honor the deal. "We don't want to be renters anymore. SCI-Arc is absolutely committed to downtown," SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss told AN when recently discussing the project. Interesting facts about the building: The quarter-mile-long Santa Fe Train Depot was converted into the school's campus in 2000. Built in 1907, the depot was designed by Harrison Albright. At 1,250 feet long, if it were upended, it would be as tall as the Empire State Building.
Posts tagged with "SCI-Arc":
37 first year SCI-Arc students have just finished a mesmerizing new installation in the school's parking lot called Sway. The project is made of 228 thin bundled steel rods, bolted into the ground and joined via flexible (and wild) wire units above. The vast and tightly-packed array of bendy rods are responsive to subtle changes in wind force (and not-so-subtle pushing by visitors), enabling the structure to move around like trees in a forest, or a collection of organisms. At night they catch the light in changing and surprising ways. The 1A Studi0—which produces a large installation every year— was led by professors Nathan Bishop, Eric Kahn and Jenny Wu. Bishop accurately called the piece an "encompassing environment." Which is what makes it so great: the chance to walk right into the art and interact with it.
For you last-minute types, the deadline to register for AN and SCI-Arc's Clean Tech Corridor Competition is the end of the day tomorrow. The competition asks architects, landscape architects, designers, engineers, urban planners, students and environmental professionals to create an innovative urban vision for Los Angeles' CleanTech Corridor, a several-mile-long development zone on the eastern edge of downtown LA (which includes a green ideas lab and a Clean Tech Manufacturing Center). Entries should look beyond industrial uses; creating an integrated economic, residential, clean energy, and cultural engine for the city through architectural and urban strategies. That could include not only sustainable architecture and planning, but new energy sources, parks that merge with buildings, new transit schemes, and so on. While registration is due tomorrow, entries are due on September 30. So get a move on!! You can download the brief here.
A band of students from SCI-Arc and Caltech have been selected to compete in the DOE's Solar Decathlon, to be held on the National Mall in Washington, DC, on October 2011. The team will go head to head with 20 other student groups from all over the world—including Canada, Belgium, China, and New Zeland—to determine once and for all, or at least for the next two years, who can build the most livable and sustainable sun-powered residence of 500 square feet or less. SCI-ARC/Caltech will spend the next year and a half completing design and construction on their entry, which, at least in its conceptual stage, they have dubbed CH:IP/Compact House: Increasing Possibility. An exhibition of the proposal is now on display at SCI-Arc, and will be shown at Caltech on Earth Day, April 22. The team will also have a booth at the ArtBuild Expo on May 7-8 in Santa Monica. Go, see, and you may have a chance to meet AN intern Elizabeth Neigert, who is a member of the team from SCI-Arc.
Architect and SCI-Arc Director Eric Owen Moss talked to us the other day to correct our recent post on SCI-Arc's future in the LA Arts District. Yes, he agreed, SCI-Arc does want to eventually own its own home (it tried unsuccessfully to buy its building from its landlord, developer Meruelo Maddux, a few years ago) . But the school's lease is not up next year, nor does SCI-Arc face any pressure to leave anytime soon. "SCI-ARC’s not going anywhere. SCI-Arc has no plans to go anywhere, and is not obligated to go anywhere," he said. The lease, it turns out, isn't up until 2019. SCI-Arc does have the opportunity to opt out if it wants next year, in 2013, or in 2016. But that possibility, said Moss, is unlikely, especially because it's happy with its building (which he said had become a local icon) and its location. "SCI-Arc is committed to downtown," said Moss, who praised the area's "varied sociologies and different possibilities" and pointed to the benefits for architecture students in "an area still trying to discover itself." He added: "Downtown seems to be a perfect place for us... Santa Monica, Century City, the San Fernando Valley: forget about it." Moss didn't rule out the possibility of SCI-Arc eventually finding a new home though. "If a great opportunity came up we'd take a look at it," he said. He added that the economic situation and falling real estate prices could present good possibilities for ownership. When asked if Meruelo Maddux's recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing would help SCI-Arc obtain its building, Moss said, "It’s premature to say what the implications of that are."
The LA Downtown News and Curbed LA report that SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture) is having some serious issues with its current location in LA's Arts District, and may be considering a move to Hollywood, the Wilshire Corridor, or the Westside. The school rents its massive train-depot-turned-school building from developer Meruelo Maddux, which apparently charges a pretty penny (and recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy). Their lease is up in one year. According to Jamie Bennett, SCI-Arc's COO, the school has not yet decided on whether it will renew the lease, and wants a building of its own. "We will be operating in our own self-interest. We haven't been unhappy down here in the Arts District. We've got flexibility in terms of our future and we have optimism about our future, but our future will include owning where we are," he told the Downtown News. Stay tuned, because we know downtown doesn't want to lose one the Arts District's driving forces...
We recently noted the impending demise of SCI-Arc's original building in Santa Monica, which the school's founder, Ray Kappe, didn't consider much of a loss. As he put it, referring to renovations subsequent to SCI-Arc's departure, the building "had good character, but now it’s got dumb character." We didn't exactly get what he meant, but then the fine folks at Archinect were kind enough to link to our story, and therein occasional AN contributor Orhan Ayyüce posted some pics from his time at SCI-Arc back in the day, some of which we've posted here (click the above link to see the rest). Now we get it, are kinda sorry we missed it, and sorry to see it go.
"I hadn't even heard about it," Ray Kappe told us when we called him to find out about an item in Curbed the other day noting that the Santa Monica City Council had overturned a ruling by the Landmarks Commission that would have designated SCI-Arc's original home as a historical icon worthy of preservation. Kappe, who founded the school in 1972 at a 1950s industrial building at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue [map], actually sided with the council in its decision, calling the building "messed up completely." He said it used to sport "a pretty good 30s modern look. It had good character, but now it's got dumb character." That's because at one point the landlord replaced the ribbon windows with generics, among other changes. According to Curbed, "The city's Landmarks Commission made the site a landmark in February 2008 based on its relationship with SCI-Arc and Kappe, its reflection of the neighborhood's development, and its architectural merits, which include what the Commission's action says is a 'late Bauhaus, mid-century fenestration pattern.'" But now, the council has overturned that decision because, according to a staff report, "The structure is a common example of a utilitarian, vernacular industrial building that has been significantly altered. It is not unique in design or rare architecturally." With appeal in hand, Curbed speculates new owners NMS Properties are going to build apartments on the site, which Kappe thought was a fine idea. "The building was good and it served its purpose, but I don't think it should stand in the way of somebody's development," he said. Might we suggest a certain Southern California architect educator for the job of building NMS' new apartments?
PACKING UP CAMP Now that Donald Fisher’s CAMP project in San Francisco is officially dead, talk is swirling about where the Gap founder’s art collection will go. The whispers have focused on one obvious suspect: SFMOMA, which has already begun planning a 100,000-square-foot expansion that could get even bigger. One rumor has it that the museum is talking to the city about acquiring an adjoining fire station and building a new one elsewhere in return, in order to offer the Fishers their own digs. SFMOMA director Neal Benezra coyly parried questions with the comment: “We welcome the opportunity to partner with the Fishers to find a home for their collection as part of an expanded SFMOMA campus.” PEARLS BEFORE SCI-ARC Few talking heads can dent an architectural ego like critic, curator, and professor Jeff Kipnis, who moderated a chat at SCI-Arc on July 29 with Eric Owen Moss and Thom Mayne about Moss’ new installation at the school. Among Kipnis’ gems, he praised Moss’ garrulousness with the bon mot that he got paid by the hour for such events, and marveled at Moss and Mayne’s ability to argue with themselves—not among themselves, mind you, but each with his own self! Days later SCI-Arc hosted another panel, this time with Moss, Mayne, Hitoshi Abe, Peter Cook, Wolf Prix, and Peter Noever, among others. The event had the makings of a navel-gazing nightmare, but Eavesdrop promptly fell asleep and can’t recall a thing. Honest. RAISE HIGH THE WINDOW WALLS Everyone adores the Center for Architecture in New York, the storefront space run by the AIA New York chapter that draws more activity than any other such facility. Word has it that AIA Los Angeles is among those green with envy, which could mean a departure from its eighth-floor digs in Mid-Wilshire. The group is said to have hired a real estate consultant to scout locations nearer to Museum Mile. Will Wright, head of legislative affairs at AIA/LA, was semi-mum on the matter: “We have long-range plans to evaluate the opportunity to evolve into an Architecture Center.” Roger that, Will. Easy does it, we always say.
Thanks to some strategic re-scheduling, it appears that this weekend has become LA Design Conference-Palooza. It all started when AIA Los Angeles decided months ago to merge its Mobius conference with the popular Dwell On Design. Both shows will be held at the La Convention Center this weekend (June 25-28). All was well with the world.. But then came more recent news that design entrepeneur Charles Trotter had rescheduled his March design show, CA Boom, for the same weekend, at the former Robinsons Department Store in Beverly Hills! Well then all hell broke loose... The good spin: we have a new design weekend LA. The bad spin: attendees and vendors have been forced to choose sides, and both shows will suffer on account of the move (and Dwell employees are particularly peeved that CA Boom has roped in the Coolhaus ice cream truck, which was also set for the Dwell show). Regardless of what side of the debate you sit on, it certainly will be an entertaining weekend in LA. Some highlights: A screening of the new film Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman, as well as conversations with Williams Krisel, Yves Behar, and Peter Walker at Dwell on Design. An AN/SCI-Arc panel about architects getting involved with transportation design, featuring architect Eric Owen Moss, LA Planner Simon Pastucha, METRO art and design director Jorge Pardo, and Art Center College Mobility Director Geoff Wardle at Mobius. And tours of Pierre Koenig's Case Study House #22 (the Stahl House) at CA Boom. Hold on to your seats, folks..
Sorry, this post was accidentally erased last week. Finally, the public events for AN's New Infrastructure competition have ended! (there's one more at the AIA/Mobius Conference in June, but that's not exactly public..) The final event- also one of the last at GOOD magazine's space at 6824 Melrose Avenue, which is moving down the street in the coming months (more details to come as they emerge)- included a workshop led by Metro planner James Rojas, in which the audience was asked to build their own transit systems out of found materials like beads, legos, wooden and foam blocks, plastic figures, chess pieces, and much more. The ideas, concocted in just minutes, were stunning in their beauty and creativity, revealing a public desire to make LA's transit systems more efficient, user-friendly, and most of all fun. A few schemes incorporated transit along the LA River, with trains, boats, and (in one case) jet packs running on the along the existing infrastructure. One plan incorporated public plazas around transit stops as well as a system of car and bike sharing to supplement public transit. Another aligned itself along two concentric circles united by a long spine to increase efficiency. And quite a few incorporated green space into the system, changing development to increase park and wildlife space, lowerering auto-friendly space, encouraging local work and production, and reducing the need for transit in the first place. The event also featured an intelligent, and sometimes contentious, panel inspired by the winning designs, and by the future role of transit in LA. Led by design goddess Alissa Walker, its participants included urban designers John Chase and Simon Pastucha, LA METRO officials Rojas and Michael LeJeune, and architect and SCI-Arc Graduate Director Ming Fung. Debates raged over how great a role the public should play in transit decisions and how much power METRO should have in development. But most agreed that planning and transit should be developed together, not on in reaction to each other. Chase and Pastucha have pledged to make their way through all 75 entries to the competition, sorting them by category and culling for the best ideas. Good luck guys!
On Saturday, before we headed over to the Standard for my star turn on the media panel, Sam Lubell and I first swung by the Flat, home to celebrated LA restaurant Blue Velvet. We were there for an event hosted by colleague and co-panelist Alyssa Walker, part of her de Lab (design east of LaBrea) series. SCI-arc professor and hunk Alexis Rochas had installed easily the coolest green roof we've ever seen on top of the condo, and two dozen or so people had shown up for a tour, followed by a most-interesting lunch. The Flat, you see, is an old Holiday Inn motor hotel on the border of Westlake and downtown that was converted three years ago into luxury apartments. (I guess this is what passes for historic preservation in LA.) Well, shortly after the residences and attached restaurant opened, the folks at Blue Velvet asked Rochas to design a green roof for them, not only to retain stormwater runoff but also to supply the most local produce imaginable, at least for Downtown LA. With a group of his students, Rochas devised SynthE. The team took about 950 laser-cut panels, no two alike, bent them into the desired forms, welded them all together, and created what looks like Logan's Run if it were set on the Inner Mongolian steppe. Rochas explained that the form serves two purposes, directing the flow of water into the planted bands as well as subtly outlining the mechanical systems hidden beneath. Because the building was built before the 1967 code took effect, the weight tolerances of the roof were incredibly thin, and only 20 pounds per square foot could be added. This necessitated not only the use of the lightweight aluminum, but also a special soil, which only weighs, with water, around 15 pounds per square foot. Still, Rochas said the system absorbed 80 percent to 90 percent of all precipitation and had no trouble sustaining the plants that are product, or rather produce, of the roof. "As an architect, you design the structure and its shape, but also this time, its program and its use," Rochas explained. "The architect becomes a gardener, the gardener a planner." Indeed, the entire roof, but for a patch of grass intended for lounging by residents, is planted with various fruits, vegetables, and other edibles for Blue Velvet. Working 90-day crop cycles, the team grows all manner of tomatoes, herbs, greens, berries, wheat grass, even some monster cabbage. "It's a true, organic experiment, seeing what will grow and succeed," Rochas said. "And you can't get more local." Plus, it makes a decent slide.