Yesterday we visited one of our favorite sites in Los Angeles: Watts Towers. The amazing complex, which includes four towers, a gazebo, fountains, and a slew of other jumbled elements, was designed by Simon, or Sam Rodia, a tile factory worker who labored on the project basically without stopping for over thirty years (from 1921-1954).
The structures rise as high as 100 feet and are clad with broken bottles, tiles (over 15,000 of them), sea shells, and pretty much anything else Rodia could get his hands on. Their frame is made from chicken wire, barbed wire, coat hangers, and other makeshift materials.
The feat is all the more amazing considering that Rodia didn’t study any sort of building trade and was illiterate. He usually worked until 1 or 2 in the morning then went back to work in a factory the next day.
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. Read More
Tonight gives Angelenos the chance to check out the classic film The Music Man inside the Los Angeles Theater. With its glass chandeliers, Corinthian columns, and intricate Baroque details, the Los Angeles is one of the most ornate movie palaces you’ll ever visit. It’s the second week of Last Remaining Seats, the LA Conservancy’s popular series that opens up Broadway’s once great (and now mostly dormant) theaters again. That includes the Orpheum, the Million Dollar Theater, and more. This year is Last Remaining Seats’ 25th Anniversary. Other engagements include King Kong at the Los Angeles and Sunset Boulevard at the Palace. Find tickets here. More pix of theaters after the jump. Read More
Seattle architecture firm Miller Hull, a past winner of the AIA national Firm Award, may be best-known for their work in the Pacific Northwest, but they’ve also been active in San Diego for the last seven years. Now the firm is finally opening an office in the city, giving them a physical presence and simplifying things for their architects and for clients.
Is there a better place to see contemporary homes than Venice? This weekend’s Venice Art Walk and Auctions is offering a tour of one of this architecture hub’s most impressive blocks: Appleton Way, where several ambitious residences have sprouted up in the last five years. The tour includes gems like the Walnut Residence by Modal Design; Our House, by du Architects; the Yin-Yang House by Brooks + Scarpa; Ortiz Mexia’s Ortiz & Wheeler Residence; Sylvia Aroth & Jeff Cook’s Sylvia’s Duplex; and Thomas Carson’s Carson/Bettauer Residence. Read More
While at the AIA convention we ducked out for a few hours to explore New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, the area most devastated by Hurricane Katrina. While much of New Orleans has recovered pretty impressively, the Lower Ninth is still in horrible condition. Countless houses have been abandoned—boarded up and rotting—and many still have rescue workers’ markings on them from the flood six years ago. Then right around the corner is Brad Pitt’s Make It Right houses, 75 of which have been completed. In case you haven’t read any design magazines lately, they’re contemporary, and sustainable, takes on local architecture from the likes of some of architecture’s biggest stars. Read More
While our recent feature on New Orleans highlights some of the more high-profile architectural and development projects in the city, yesterday we were introduced to the other half of the rebuilding equation: the New Orleans Master Plan, which is being developed by Boston firm Goody Clancy and New Orleans-based Manning Architects.
At an afternoon panel, Goody Clancy principal David Dixon and Manning principal W. Raymond Manning shared their experiences creating a document that sets a new course for the city, from land use and transportation planning to environmental protection. “I haven’t had a single boring day here,” said Dixon, who dove head first into the city’s labyrinth of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and even racial divisions to create the gargantuan still-evolving document.
Yesterday we attended a sobering panel at the AIA convention entitled The Construction Outlook: Implications for Architecture Firms. Presented by the AIA’s Chief Economist Kermit Baker and McGraw-Hill Construction’s Vice President of Economic Affairs Robert Murray, the panel crystallized the problems that continue to plague the architecture profession. In short, while the downturn has ended, the upturn, which is indeed inching along, is coming along VERY slowly, or as Murray put it, we’re facing “an extended bottom.” Projected 2011 growth for U.S. construction starts is 1%, according to McGraw-Hill Construction. The high points are multi-family housing, which are projected to see a 22% gain, Manufacturing building, which could see a 24% gain, and commercial building, which is set to see an 11% jump. Other high points include urban infill, adaptive reuse, renovations, and sustainable design. Perhaps the biggest loser in the coming year will be public work, which is seeing cuts across the board due to debt issues. The AIA’s Billing Index has edged just barely into slightly positive territory after three years of steady declines, said Baker. Read More
Just when you thought architecture juggernaut Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG couldn’t win YET another commission in YET another country… the firm announced yesterday that it had beat out competitors including Zaha Hadid to lead the construction of a new cultural center in Albania’s capital, Tirana. The complex will consist of a mosque, an Islamic Centre, and a Museum of Religious Harmony.
The design team is made up of BIG, Martha Schwartz Landscape, Buro Happold, Speirs & Major lighting, Lutzenberger & Lutzenberger, and Global Cultural Asset Management. A triangular site plan is divided into the three main components, all carved away to form a central plaza oriented toward Mecca. images after the jump
As we’ve noted, architecture giant Gensler is moving from Santa Monica to Downtown LA (a move that has seen its share of controversy lately thanks to the firm’s city-provided subsidy). With the help of three talented students from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s Professional Studio program, the firm has put together a video about their new ‘hood. It documents Downtown’s dramatic growth and change over the years, and offers predictions and suggestions for its future. Read More