Posts tagged with "Tom Wiscombe":

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Los Angeles is at a crossroads—don’t let it become New York

Makin’ my way downtown, I zip along on my Lime® scooter through the ersatz Japanese village of Little Tokyo, past taxis, buses, and Prii, to a bustling, small-scale warehouse district on the fringe of Los Angeles’s central core. The whirlwind of scales, land uses, languages, and people is dizzying, but I finally land at my destination: Sonoratown, a lively taco spot famous for its soft tortillas, which are made with flour driven up from Sonora, Mexico, in small batches by the owner’s mom. This delirious, quasi-urban experience is one that could only happen in the messy, diverse urban fabric of Los Angeles. You are free to grab whatever pieces of the kaleidoscopic surroundings you can, and the faster you are moving, the more there is to take. Somehow, this frantic energy and free movement seem unaffected or held back by the past. The cultural critic Sean Monahan called LA the capital of the 2010s, describing it as:
...a city whose attributes anticipate collapse: flat and amorphous, rather than vertical and defined; kitsch and pop, rather than avant-garde and tech; individualistic and mass, rather than institutional and elite. You can suggest San Francisco, HQ of disruption, or New York, backdrop for protest movements (#OWS, #BLM). But both places fail to capture the spirit of the age, because they are fighting so hard to change it. They are relics of empire, unsure of themselves after a decade in which success was indistinguishable from failure… Built on celebrity, media, and lifestyle, L.A. doesn’t presume to be building the future, merely inhabiting it. It’s a pick your poison kind of place. [Go wild] at Chateau Marmont. Spend half your paycheck on inscrutable health food at Erewhon. Commute four hours so you can live in a Riverside McMansion. Drive Uber every day, write screenplays every night. Sell out, drop out, suck up, fuck up. There is no right or wrong way to do L.A.
Monahan accurately describes why Los Angeles encapsulates the present, and why it’s the most exciting place in the US right now. However, it is also important to note where the city is moving in the 2020s. With the 2028 Olympics as a finish line, Los Angeles is at a crossroads, on a path to become a different place in the next decade. But with the city already at the forefront of global media culture (The Kardashians, Moon Juice, Goop, etc.), it doesn’t need global architecture to maintain its position as a worldwide force. How it defines itself as a physical place is still up for grabs, and it should learn lessons from other hyper-globalized cities, namely New York. Tomorrow’s Los Angeles is one of layers. Moving on from its days as a bastion of mythological American modernism centered around mobility (cars), individuality (single-family homes), and triumph over nature (lawns), it will add new collectivities on to itself. These layers will arise from the constant flux of the new: Technologies and emerging social patterns meld nicely into the loose, still-codifying culture and its corresponding urban forms. It is the flickering of new, communal, car-free, publicly subsidized lifestyles against the old, car-centric, low-density, low-regulation, “libertarian” bones of the urban landscape that make it such an interesting place for urbanism today. The oft-bandied-about claim that the city is libertarian is also not entirely accurate, as California is a sea of regulation and red tape, continually votes to raise its already high taxes, and both California and Los Angeles are leading on climate action. The city is quietly building public infrastructure at a pace that vastly outpaces New York. New York’s Second Avenue Subway took somewhere between 10 and 100 years to complete three stations, and the next phase will be three stops and will be completed by 2029 at the earliest. Meanwhile Los Angeles is (optimistically) on course to build 28 new lines by 2028. This includes an airport-connection line that will allow a direct link from LAX to the city. Meanwhile, New York’s MTA is in a worsening crisis with crumbling stations and delays only getting worse, and New Jersey’s NJ Transit recently gave up on accounting for the traffic expected to reach the American Dream Mall, instead calling on private industry to complete the line, citing none other than Los Angeles’s electric rail airport connector as an example. That’s right—L.A. is leading the way in public transit. Meanwhile, Uber, a municipal car share and micro-mobility options such as scooters have already altered how people get around (many young people don’t have cars at all) and where they live, partly due to an explosion in transit-oriented development around the new metro lines. It is unclear exactly how successful, affordable, and sustainable this will be, but change is certainly underway. New transit networks both public and private, along with lower parking requirements for new construction will profoundly impact development and housing typologies in the future. But it is no secret that Los Angeles is careening toward a New York–like affordability crisis (if it isn’t there already) that goes hand-in-hand with the urban whitewash of global capital. Homelessness is at record levels and only getting worse. In response, architects are working to develop new housing typologies, from affordable prototypes and accessory dwelling units, to larger, multi-family schemes that continue to evolve with new regulations and design challenges. The L.A. River and the L.A River Greenway in the San Fernando Valley are also emerging sites of urban experimentation and reclamation/rehabilitation of greenspace. Los Angeles has a unique architectural culture and urban fabric, but red flags are emerging. First, Bjarke Ingels Group and Herzog & de Meuron, international firms that are both very popular with the New York development community, have projects downtown. Related Group (of Hudson Yards fame) has moved in and is developing a large Frank Gehry project across from Gehry’s own Disney Concert Hall. It perfectly illustrates the lower design quality of developer-led construction and echoes Related Companies’ other project, Hudson Yards: “The project is anchored by a central plaza wrapped with shopping areas and public art.” The biggest red flag might be the shortlist for the La Brea Tar Pits project. In Miracle Mile’s Museum Row, a neighborhood that already has been marred by architectural globalists—once by KPF and twice by Renzo Piano—the shortlist for the La Brea master plan is New York establishment firms WEISS/MANFREDI and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, along with Danish firm Dorte Mandrup. It is a truly odd and troubling list. All three are talented firms, but their selection signals the wind turning toward a placeless architecture where, in California terms, “there is no there there,” reflecting classic donor-class aesthetics. Don’t even get me started on what director Michael Govan and the LACMA board are doing to push through their new building. Joseph Giovannini said it best:
In a sleight of hand that still has serious consequences for LACMA and Los Angeles, Govan introduced [Peter] Zumthor, the architect who presumably could achieve this world-class building, to his Board of Trustees. There was no competition, no public review or discussion, no transparency, just a shoo-in of the architect who had arrived in Los Angeles in Govan’s back pocket. “It won’t be the seventh Renzo Piano building in the country,” Govan explained to me in an interview. “We’ll have the only Zumthor.” …Had he even made it into a normal architect selection process, the jury might have concluded that he was mismatched and dangerously underequipped for the commission.
Some Angelenos say that local architects should get their due. L.A. has been defined in many ways by outsiders such as Neutra and Schindler, but also by local legends like Thom Mayne and Frank Gehry, as well as a younger generation like Barbara Bestor, Michael Maltzan, and a host of others who can deliver top-notch design. Los Angeles doesn't need the continental, polite, same-as-everywhere architecture that plagues institutions around the world. The architecture scene has always valued experimentation and allowed younger, more avant-garde approaches and diverse practices to gain ground, outside of the institutional weight that plagues places like the East Coast. It is not “provincial”—as some claim—to want to preserve this well-established local flavor while moving forward. In fact, what would be provincial is thinking that it is necessary to look outward for world-class architecture, or that a mythical global culture needs to be imported for the city to become a world-class place. Nothing defines the periphery like the center, and nothing makes one more provincial than defining oneself against New York. Of course, outside architects can come in and add to the culture; it just takes a bit of judgment. For instance, Spanish firm SelgasCano’s bright, breezy, kit-of-parts style seems to fit with L.A.’s pop modernist aesthetic, and Arata Isozaki’s MOCA has also become an iconic part of L.A. architecture. So let L.A. be regional and different. Don’t let it succumb to the pressures of global capital and “global architecture.” Don’t let Boyle Heights—a strong Latino neighborhood under development pressure, with several buildings already being renovated—become Hudson Yards. New York City has been ruined by capital, which was weaponized to take away the grittiness of places like Times Square, a project of Ed Koch and eventually of Rudy Guiliani. Later, technocrat billionaire Michael Bloomberg finished the sanitization of the city with sloppy rezonings of Williamsburg, West Chelsea, and Long Island City most notably, which ushered in the era of bland office towers and mega mall-like sterility. Developers like President Donald Trump and Related Companies, along with their elected enablers like Bloomberg and Guiliani have shared class interests that threaten the small-scale, local and regional urban landscapes where artists, immigrants, and the working class foment culture. How can Los Angeles be a laboratory for resisting the entropic, hegemonic cancer that is global capital, the global donor class, and the donor-class aesthetic? One tactic, and to be fair, something that the Bloomberg administration got right in places like Brooklyn and Staten Island, is downzoning to preserve the character of neighborhoods. This is also tricky and can lead to NIMBYism, which L.A. has certainly had its share of recently. In a similar vein, Thom Mayne provocatively suggested clustering development on the Wilshire corridor in order to protect other areas. The Wilshire area has seen some development, but not at the scale Mayne has suggested. Additionally, serious and innovative criticism is needed. Critics must not fall into 20th-century modes of operating; they have to get out in front of these debacles rather than react to them. There are a host of critics operating in Los Angeles, and no one is better positioned to have an impact than former L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who is now in a unique role as the Chief Design Officer for the City of Los Angeles, a position where he is literally helping craft RFPs (request for proposals). As long as Hawthorne is able to be heard in the government and in the public and can surround himself with good people who will help guide L.A. through this crucial time, there is a real opportunity to have more and more expert opinions in the process that will avoid the disasters that haunt New York. This, along with more equitable and compensated juried design competitions, can help the people who make financial decisions make "better" aesthetic and cultural decisions. Regionalism, when connected to local ecology, provokes more interesting and nuanced design than a totalizing, global aesthetic. In terms of what resistance might look like outside of design review, Los Angeles is already taking on challenges in a unique way. In Boyle Heights, gentrifying art galleries have been pushed out by strong neighborhood coalitions demanding affordable housing and neighborhood services. Los Angeles could also adopt anti-gentrification policies such as rent control or downzoning to prevent the displacement of both residential and retail spaces. Many cities have adopted such plans, while Berlin and other cities have enacted rent freezes and other regulations on the housing market to ensure affordability. Los Angeles in many ways is the logical conclusion of the myth of the American West. Several time zones and thousands of miles in distance from New York and other global cities, it has historically been connected to global culture through mass media, not physical space. This isolation has left it to its own devices as an urban place. This doesn’t need to change as it grows into more of a global force. New forms and ways of living can be cultivated without abandoning what makes it a special place: its resistance to the forces of the outside. In the 2020s, defining a new localism would be quite an amazing achievement.
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Eavesdrop> Tom Tom Club: What's up with Tom Wiscombe's futuristic Los Angeles venue?

Architect Tom Wiscombe and developer Tom Gilmore have been spotted on more than one occasion imbibing at Redbird, the restaurant located in the former rectory of the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles. (Gilmore is the landlord.) Does this mean that the pair’s plans for Old Bank District Museum, a futuristic art venue designed by Wiscombe, is on track for a 2017 opening? Only the bartender knows.
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Architect Tom Wiscombe really lets loose with this space ship of a building in Los Angeles

Last year AN reported that Los Angeles developer Tom Gilmore and LA architect Tom Wiscombe were teaming up to build the Old Bank District Museum in downtown's historic core. The facility, which will showcase Los Angeles–based contemporary artists, will be located inside of—and on top of—the old Farmer's & Merchant's Bank, the Hellman Building, and the Bankhouse Garage at 4th and Main Street. The team has released new renderings of the project, which show in much greater detail how Wiscombe's folded structures will peek over rooftops, punch through floors and walls, and create an entirely new architectural language for its neighborhood. The rooftop sculpture garden (which contains a cafe, a theater, reflecting pools, and multi-level walkways) is where Wiscombe really lets loose, with angular, etched forms that could be confused for spaceships. Enjoy the images below, and we will keep you posted as details emerge.
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Taiwan Reveals Another Star-Filled Shortlist

Yet another port in Taiwan is set to become an architectural icon. In 2012 Neil M. Denari Architects won the competition to design the Keelung Harbor Service Project. Before that Reiser Umemoto won a competition to design the Kaohsiung Port Terminal (pictured), which is set to open later this year. Now the Port of Kinmen Passenger Service Center has shortlisted another stellar group of designers. They are: Josep Mias Gifre, Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects, Junya Ishigami + Associates, Tom Wiscombe Architecture, and Miralles Tagliabue EMBT.  A winner is expected to be chosen next month.
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MOCA's "New Sculpturalism" Show Moving Forward

AN just heard from MOCA that their embattled show, A New Sculpturalism, Contemporary Architecture in Southern California, is moving ahead. The date has been pushed back from June 2 to June 16, but it will still take place inside MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, presumably featuring the same roster of both emerging and star architects, minus Frank Gehry, of course. The show had been put on hold for several weeks for reasons that vary according to whom you ask. Curator Christopher Mount had blamed mismanagement at MOCA, while others had blamed apprehension about the show's direction, and Gehry's withdrawal. The following is the statement released by MOCA at 12:43 PST:
MOCA will present its exhibition on contemporary architecture from Southern California, A New Sculpturalism, opening June 16, 2013 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA as part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A.  The museum is excited to bring the architecture community in Los Angeles together in recognition of the world-class architecture that has been and continues to be conceived in the city by some of the most renowned and emerging firms and practitioners working today.
MOCA did not make clear if Mount would still be directing the show, and Mount was understandably unable to comment. Many in the community had been outraged at the possible closure of the show, and a petition to keep it going garnered more than 100 signatures. The show received more than $400,000 in grants and gifts from the Getty Foundation and other sources. It is the only exhibition on contemporary architecture in the Getty initiative, Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in Los Angeles. One of its participants, LA architect Tom Wiscombe, still needs help to get his part of the show done. He's raising funds on USA Projects for his pavilion, called Surface-to-Volume, a sixteen-foot-high inhabitable pavilion that will take its mutated form by having large indentations pushed into its thin exterior skin. The composite monocoque structure will be made of a water-based, fireproof composite with carbon and glass fiber reinforcement called M1, a material used primarily in aerospace engineering. "This is more like building an aircraft wing than a wall," said Wiscombe, who noted that the project's thin, large walls could only be created using such a material. Large seams will be engraved onto its surface, like tattoos. The project,which is already being fabricated by LA firm Barnacle Bros., will be complete in ten days if it reaches its fundraising goal by May 20.
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Dissecting Natural Design at the LA Natural History Museum

On Saturday I moderated one of two AIA/LA-sponsored panels about bio-inspired design at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The first panel looked at the general influence of nature on design, from the Mars Rover to the San Diego Zoo, and ours zeroed in on architecture's envelopes and skins, with insights about breaking away from the static, heavy, and largely-unresponsive architecture of today by architect Tom Wiscombe, Arup engineer Russell Fortmeyer, and evolutionary biologist Shauna Price. Speaking of bio-inspired design, before the panel I got an early look at the new gardens at the Natural History Museum, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates. The gardens, which are scheduled to open in time for the museum's centennial this June, are designed to finally bring the institution's exhibits outside of their built home, with diverse elements that are laid out as a microcosm of LA's ecosystems. That includes plant species that draw all types of animals and insects, jagged rock formations, and even a recreation of the local water system, with a pond that flows into a stream, and eventually becomes an arroyo. The design creatively mixes natural and urban materials like a chain link vine arbor and rebar rose supports. There's even an on-site natural laboratory, so scientists can work in open daylight instead of in a sequestered chamber.We'll be looking at the gardens more closely in the coming weeks when they officially open, along with the glassy new entry to the museum by CO Architects, which is coming this summer.
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ACADIA Design and Fabrication Competition Winners Announced

Three winning designs to be fabricated by Brooklyn-based Flatcut.

This October, winners of the ACADIA (Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture) design and fabrication competition will show off their parametric chops as part of the organization’s annual conference, now in its 30th year. Announced last week, winners were chosen from 15 finalists by a jury that included Tod Williams of TWBTA, Chris Sharples of SHoP Architects, Tom Wiscombe of Emergent, Dror Benshetrit of Studio Dror, and Thomas Christoffersen of BIG. The competition sought designs in three categories—furniture, partitions, and lighting—and entrants were encouraged to propose hybrid material assemblies that minimized waste and maximized material performance. Tomer Ben-Gal, founder of Brooklyn-based fabrication studio and competition co-sponsor Flatcut, served as technical advisor. Flatcut will fabricate the winning designs in its 100,000-square-foot Passaic, New Jersey, machine shop before they are sent to the conference, held at the University of Calgary, where they will be displayed from October 11-16.
  • Fabricator Flatcut
  • Designers Alison MacLachlan, Bryan Gartner, Richard Cotter, Elizabeth Boone, Adam Buente, Kyle Perry, Andrew Saunders
  • Location International
  • Status Design phase
  • Materials Rubber, heavyweight felt, aluminum, silicone, 3form Ecoresin, aircraft suspension cable
  • Process CNC milling, laser cutting, pressure press
Furniture: RECIP Designs in the furniture category had to be produced using two sheets of flat materials, one rigid and one flexible, no larger than 5 feet by 10 feet. Any material that would be available for sourcing by Flatcut was considered valid. The winning design, RECIP, is a modular furniture system by three students at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Environmental Design. The project explores scoring techniques applied to 1/8-inch-thick recycled rubber, which is then folded into self-reinforcing and interlocking toothed panels and laminated to heavyweight felt batting. The team showed judges how the rigid yet flexible system could be folded into chairs, tables, shelving, or spatial dividers, then dismantled and recycled at the end of its life. “I think what attracted us [to RECIP] innately in a contemporary way is the fusion of two different materials and the way they performed together,” said competition judge Tom Wiscombe in his comments. “It involved certain types of techniques, like fusing, melting and different modes of manufacturing rather than using a single known tooling process.” Click here to see a PDF of the project boards. Partition: Hyperlaxity Partition category designs were permitted to use three 5-by-10-foot sheets of material to build their designs. The winner, Hyperlaxity: Parabolic Ligaments, was a collaboration between SOM’s Elizabeth Boone and PROJECTiONE design and fabrication studio founded by Adam Buente and Kyle Perry in 2010. The design uses aluminum components, including hundreds of v-clips, o-rings, i-bars, and triangular plates, joined by hexagonal silicone tendons with slits that allow the material to stretch over the aluminum pieces. Judge Dror Benshetrit said the non-modular form pushed parametric design. “I like how technically the inner rings, together with the other shapes create different opposite hexagon forms,” he said. Click here to see a PDF of the project boards. Lighting: Luminescent Limacon Like the furniture category, designs in the lighting category had to be produced using two sheets of rigid and flexible materials within the machine-able dimensions. Inspired in part by the fanciful linen collars of 17th-century Europe, the winning design is made with folded and nested ruffles of laser-cut 3form Ecoresin held together with a lattice of aircraft suspension cable, which produces tensile and compressive forces to create the light’s structural stability. Designer Andrew Saunders, an assistant professor of architecture Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, derived the pendant’s shape from a Limacon curve. The variables of this equation can be changed to produce different lighting effects based on conditions and performance criteria. “That it is two systems, one of a surface system and one of a kind of vector, is what I think together makes it look so beautiful and elegant,” commented Wiscombe. Click here to see the project boards.