The Trust For Public Land today announced that it successfully wrapped up its down to the wire save of Hollywood’s Cahuenga Peak, the 138-acre swath of land behind the Hollywood Sign that had once been slated for development (one of many pleas included red letters over the sign reading “Save The Peak”). The final donor: none other than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, who chipped in $900,000 to complete the $12.5 million needed to finalize the purchase. The Trust had missed its original April 14 deadline, but were granted an extension until April 30. Hefner, who had helped raise money back in the 70s to rebuild the sign, back when he was dating a whole other set of playmates, was joined by other LA stars, philanthropists, and companies. These included Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Aileen Getty, Norman Lear, CAA, LucasFilm, Walt Disney Company, CBS, NBC, Sony Pictures, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and many others. Really a historic Hollywood collaboration.
The NY Times this weekend reported on the status of one of our favorite LA structures: LAX’s UFO-like Theme Building. It looks like the ugly scaffolding which has adorned the parabolic edifice for the past couple of years is finally down, and the structural retrofit of the building (originally designed in 1961 by Paul Williams and Pereira & Luckman) is just about finished. The building underwent the procedure after a 1,000-pound chunk fell off one of the upper arches and landed on the roof of a restaurant. In addition to a sparkling new paint job, the Theme is now reinforced with a 1.2 million-pound tuned mass damper that sits on flexible bearings. The $12.3 million project was completed by Gin Wong Associates architects and Tower General Contractors. For those interested in unique LA experiences we recommend checking out the observation deck and the Encounter restaurant.
Ever since Woodstock, music festivals have morphed into celebrations of eclectic hedonism and of course, all types of artistic expression. Indio, California’s Coachella, which starts tomorrow, is no exception. In addition to three days of music, the festival offers dozens of art installations. This year the most prominent, right at the festival’s entrance, is called Ascension, The Crane. It’s just that: a giant white crane made of modular aluminum tubes and a mesh fabric called Textilene. It measures 45-feet-tall with a 150-foot wingspan, and the big bird’s multi-colored LED lighting is powered by two adjacent photovoltaic stations that also serve as benches and canopies. The 35,000 pound crane, which was put together on site (all of its components fit into a single shipping container), was designed by Crimson Collective, a group of socially-oriented designers led by LA visionary Behn Samareh. The group works to “bridge the gap between art and architecture,” through interactive installations. Check out a fantastic video detailing the construction here. It should be noted that the crane is a symbol of grace, wisdom and peace. This explains why all origami seems to be crane-based, including, apparently, gargantuan origami. Read More
A couple of months ago we introduced you to the W Hotel in Hollywood, a collaboration of some of the leading design talent in LA. One of those firms, Sussman Prejza, just sent us a video that shows off their all-important fiery red and multi-colored “W” signs, seen throughout the building. In addition to the behemoth 35-foot-tall W on top of the hotel, the firm designed a slew of animated signs, which sparkle thanks to LED’s, red and/or crystalline filters, and faceted, laser-cut acrylic surfaces. The signs vary from 2.5 to 5.5 feet tall and are programmed with their own dedicated control computer, 10 network switches, 61 power supplies and over 24,000 LEDs. And you thought all that Hollywood sparkle was simple, didn’t you?
Even though we already knew who had won ahead of time, we couldn’t help getting excited about AIA/LA’s ARCH IS__ awards, crowning “two exceptional young architects” at SCI-Arc on Monday night. The winners: Oyler Wu Collaborative and Tom Wiscombe/ Emergent. Both are pushing the envelope in terms of design, materials, engineering, and program, and are even starting to (slowly) build things. Read More
Ok, we promise this is our last link to AN contributor Alissa Walker’s Fast Company posts for a while. But this one is definitely worth it. The other day she focused on a subject we’ve been pondering for a long time: how despite their design expertise, most architects’ sites aren’t very good. Many, she points out, overuse gimmicks and make finding information and projects way too difficult. Sites for Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, she says, are all completely Flash-reliant (a no-no in the new i-Phone, i-Pad world) and “use label-less maps, wordless grids, sketches and other graphic devices with rollovers as navigation, with no easy way to locate or share projects.” One site that we at AN find particularly confusing is that of Lorcan O’Herlihy (one of our favorite architects, by the way), which puts projects into a grid that resembles the Periodic Table of the elements. Sure, it looks great, but.. Well, you get the idea.
Here’s another bad sign for the shaky real estate industry: The California Real Estate Journal, CA’s only statewide commercial real estate publication, is folding. The last issue of the weekly will be on April 5. We received confirmation from the CREJ this morning, but have not yet been able to speak in depth to anyone there. More word as we get it.. For what it’s worth, the pub has received 20 regional and national awards for excellence in journalism. Ah, excellence in journalism. What a quaint phrase..
The New York Times reports on a company called Calera, which says it can capture carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power plants and inject it into concrete. The company is pretty secretive about the process, but says that it combines carbon dioxide with seawater or groundwater brine, leaving calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, which are used in making cement. Many are skeptical that they can do this on a large scale, though, and others wonder about new environmental problems, like the creation of harmful acids. But if their claim is legit it could be a major boon to environmentalists and to the construction industry. This could be construction’s version of the Bloom box, which is essentially a little power plant in a box. What other inventions will transform our industry? Any ideas? Please chime in..
Our good friend Alissa Walker reports on Good’s blog about a trip this past Saturday led by BLDG BLOG author Geoff Manaugh to California City, a giant unbuilt city in the Mojave Desert, about 2 hours from LA. The trip was part of Obscura Day, described by its founders, Atlas Obscura, as “a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your home town. California City is about 80,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1958 by developer Nat Mendelsohn, who hoped to eventually make it the third largest city in California. Unfortunately that never happened. He only managed to corral about 10,000 people. The rest is just a desert carved with an empty grid of dirt streets. Walker points out that the streets, with names like Oldsmobile Drive, still show up on maps. More of the 70 strange places visited on Obscura Day included a visit to Berkeley’s spooky Bone Room, a tour of the Integatron sound chamber in Joshua Tree, and a visit to Baltimore’s Museum of Dentistry. Read More
Our friends at Curbed LA reported that Downtown LA’s legendary funicular Angel’s Flight finally re-opened yesterday after a 9 year hiatus (it closed in 2001 after an accident killed a tourist). The Victorian-era Flight, known as the “world’s shortest railway,” at 315 feet, was built in 1901 and has seen several iterations, the latest of which is being operated by Angels Flight Railway. It received its LA Public Utilities Commission safety approval earlier this month, so we consider it safe enough for our intrepid transit expert Alissa Walker to try it out. Stay tuned for her upcoming essay on the ride. To help you wait it out, check out a couple of our favorite photo compilations, here and here, of the Flight when it was first built. Especially fun to look at the now-defunct Victorians of Bunker Hill, the ornate masonry buildings, the city trolleys, and the great Victorian outfits.
Last night, thanks to our friends at deLab, we were lucky to check out one of the coolest paper structures ever assembled, called Fat Fringe. Hung from the ceiling of the new Fix Gallery in LA’s Pico Union, the die-cut canopy was put together by a team of loyal contributors who sliced, punched, and folded the structure (made up of 800 inter-connected origami-like components). The project was organized by LA gallery and arts incubator Materials and Applications, and was developed by designers Lisa Little and Emily White of the firm Layer. The wavy collection of white paper seems to morph into hundreds of fluttering shapes and it’s especially fun to see how light tries to make its way through, glowing, reflecting, and creating beams of light and mesmerizing shadows in the process. Layer will create another ambitious installation (this time made of more durable materials than paper ) for M+A’s outdoor courtyard this summer. Check out more pictures of Fat Fringe via deLab’s Marissa Gluck below: Read More
Finally, the roundup we’ve all been waiting for… Las Vegas Weekly just shared its five favorite Vegas nightclub bathrooms. Yes, the toilet has always been a particularly rich muse for design in Sin City, and let us tell you these ones don’t disappoint. The Vanity Nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, for instance, has flat screens over the urinals, faux reptile-skin walls, and giant blinking eye graphics. Another favorite is the loo at Déja Vu Erotic Ultra Lounge, where unisex (yes unisex) restrooms, hidden behind a waterfall, have LED lights that change color inside stalls with glass doors that fog up when locked. The ladies stall at the Mix Lounge at the Hotel at Mandalay Bay offers floor-to-ceiling windows that look out on the glittering Vegas Strip. Who knew you could have so much fun in a Vegas Bathroom? Well, scratch that. A lot of people do..