The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously this week to deny Historic Cultural Monument (HCM) status to the Welton Becket-designed Parker Center building in Downtown Los Angeles. The eight-story structure is organized as a long office block, with the two narrow ends of the building wrapped in buff, blank stone and the two broad sides punctuated by continuous lengths of ribbon windows. The street-fronting portions of the building are lifted off the ground on slender piloti, creating an entry portico. The structure was built in 1955 during the post-World War II building boom and reflects classically Modernist building attributes, including the fact that it was built on land cleared for development via eminent domain. That attribute, as well as the building’s problematic history as the headquarters for the Los Angeles Police Department, haunted the building’s HCM nomination. The building sits on land that had once been part of the city’s Little Tokyo neighborhood but was taken over in the 1950s to make more room for the city’s growing Civic Center. The project caused the destruction of a wide swath of the community and displaced at least a thousand residents and many businesses and places of worship. Local residents opposing the HCM nomination argued that this injustice—taking land owned by Japanese-Americans just a decade after many had been interred at various across the west during World War II—overruled any of the architectural or aesthetic value of the structure. At a meeting in early February, the city’s Planning and Land-Use Management (PLUM) committee declined to recommend the structure for HCM-status because of these community concerns. Downtown’s City Councilmember Jose Huizar echoed community concerns at the PLUM meeting, saying, “To call this building a masterpiece specimen of midcentury architecture and to retain its landmark status with the Parker name is to further the revisionist history that dismisses the injustices done to many communities, including Little Tokyo.” Huizar’s testimony made reference to Parker Center’s recent history as one of the central sites implicated in the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Recently, the City of Los Angeles issued a new master plan for the Civic Center area that calls for the demolition of Parker Center in order to make way for a 28-story mixed-use tower. The new plan aims to turn the Civic Center from a sleepy office quarter into a mixed-use residential neighborhood. The 750,000-square-foot office tower slated to replace Parker Center will contain ground floor commercial spaces surrounded by public spaces and greenery.
Posts tagged with "Welton Becket":
Gensler’s proposal the Los Angeles Football Club’s (LAFC) $250 million stadium complex in South L.A. moved one step closer to becoming a reality this week when the L.A. City Council “unanimously approved” the final Environmental Impact Report for the 22,000 seat stadium project. The sports arena is expected to be the most expensive privately-financed soccer stadium in the country. Like many new urban stadium proposals, LAFC’s stadium is also set to feature sidewalk-adjacent restaurants, office space, a conference area, as well as a soccer museum alongside its more traditional sports programming. The new stadium for the as-yet-unnamed franchise will replace the outmoded and unloved L.A. Sports Arena, a 1959 Welton Becket-designed, elliptical transverse steel truss roof-clad spaceship of a building. That structure has been the home for the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball teams as well as University of Southern California’s and University of California, Los Angeles’s college basketball teams in the past. It has also hosted concerts by Pink Floyd, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and the Grateful Dead. The L.A. Sports Arena held its final event in March when Bruce Springsteen performed there to a sold-out concert. Demolition of the L.A. Sports Arena is set to begin in June of this year. The new stadium is expected to open in 2018.
Welton Becket's 1958 Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, once a beacon of midcentury optimism, this weekend shuttered its doors. The bending, intricately ornamented auditorium hosted several Academy Awards in the 1960s, as well as concerts by the likes of Eric Clapton, Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Prince, and Bob Dylan. But the facility recently fell on hard times, as bands gravitated to larger venues (leaving it mostly hosting trade fairs), and as a planned $52 million renovation was recently cancelled when California abolished its Community Redevelopment Agencies. Santa Monica Civic, a working group strategizing the venue's future, told the LA Times that it will take several months to develop a new plan for the landmarked structure, including film screenings, live theater, or even restaurants.
Norma Merrick Sklarek, the first African American woman to become a licensed architect in the country, died on Monday in Los Angeles, The Los Angeles Times reports. Sklarek, a native of Harlem, went to Barnard College before graduating from Columbia's architecture school in 1950. She passed the New York State exam in 1954, becoming the first African American woman to receive her professional architecture license and earning her the nickname "the Rosa Parks of Architecture." She later moved to California where she was turned down for work 19 times before going on to work for SOM, Gruen Associates, Welton Becket, and the Jerde Partnership. Jerde partner Paul Senzaki recalled her ability to provide broad oversight with a personal touch. "While many people can provide administrative guidance, what I recall most was here willingness to spend time with staff and talk with them about their work," Senzanki said in a statement. "In many ways she was an educator/mentor who happened to practice architecture." Sklarek's more notable projects include overseeing staff at Gruen for the construction of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and acting as project director at Welton Becket for LAX Terminal 1. Before joining Jerde in 1989, she co-founded one of the largest all-women architectural firms in the country, Siegel-Sklarek-Diamond. She would go on to become the first African-American woman inducted as a fellow at the AIA. Mabel O. Wilson, an associate professor at Columbia's GSAPP, recalled hearing Sklarek speak Howard University when Wilson was still a student. It was the first time she had seen an architect who was an African American woman. "I wasn’t seeing a reflection of myself in the field, and then there she was," said Wilson. She added that Sklarek's hard work and staying power aligns nicely with the ethos of the profession. "It still takes a lot of tenacity to land where she did and do the work she did at LAX--and that doesn’t matter who you are," she said. The Architect's Newspaper sends our condolences to Sklarek's family, friends, and colleagues.
After attending the recent Alt Build Expo in Santa Monica it became clear to us at AN that the aging Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, a Decorative Modernist structure designed by Welton Becket back in 1958, was in serious need of an update. (Becket, by the way, designed the Capitol Records Building, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and a good deal more of mid-Century Los Angeles.) Well it looks like our wish is coming true: On May 26 the Santa Monica City Council voted to approve a $47 million remodel and seismic retrofit of the auditorium, using Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency funds (the vote to allocate funds was sped up because such monies may soon be frozen once the state budget is passed). No firm has been chosen, but we will keep our eyes peeled on the RFP, which was posted here last month. "They anticipate a design build contract," said Santa Monica spokesperson Carol Lemlein, who noted that perspective teams will be made up of architects, contractors, engineers, and preservation experts.