Upending The Bad News

West
Thursday, August 6, 2009
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(From right to left) panelists Denise Bickerstaff, Cecilia Estolano, Rob Jernigan, Jerry Neuman, Dan Rosenfeld (obscured), and Larry Scarpa. Co-moderator Jennifer Caterino.

On Tuesday night AN, Gensler and the California Real Estate Journal (CREJ) hosted our panel discussion, Upending The Downturn at the Poliform showroom in Beverly Hills. Participants did their best to keep the tone positive, and suggested tips for surviving, and even excelling, during the recession and beyond. Most hinted that we’re almost out of the woods. Potential bright spots for architects and builders included affordable housing, government work (including slowly-moving stimulus-related projects), sustainable projects (including work in LA’s new Clean Tech corridor), health care, and design/build . Some even suggested that small projects are getting financing, and that larger ones should by the end of the year. The recession, one panelist pointed out, will be announced officially over in September. What?? And more good news: co-moderator Jennifer Caterino of the CREJ, noted that according to the Commerce Department US Construction spending rose .3 percent in June. What’s next? Constant sunshine? Oh yeah, it’s LA. There is constant sunshine.

Neutra Strathmore Apartments Threatened

West
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
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Proposed Grandmarc Westwood project

Proposed Grandmarc Westwood project

AN contributor Michael Webb not only writes about Modernism, but he lives it: for the last 31 years he has resided in one of the units in Richard Neutra’s Strathmore Apartments in Westwood. According to Webb, developer Landventures is proposing to build a five-story block directly across the street from the Neutra apartments, which would block light and views, aggravate the noise and congestion on a heavily trafficked street, and “degrade an architectural masterpiece.” He and other residents are encouraging people to attend tommorow night’s hearing of the Westwood Community Design Review Board (7pm in the community room A of the Westside Pavilion at Pico and Westwood) to oppose the project. To see what the apartments mean to Webb, check out this essay he wrote about his unit a few years ago: Read More

Taking Aim at the Downturn

West
Friday, July 31, 2009
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OK, it’s time to start doing something about this economic debacle. Next Tuesday, August 4, in Los Angeles, AN, The California Real Estate Journal, and Gensler will be co-hosting a panel to devise ways for SoCal firms to cope with the downturn. Topics will include finding architectural projects, exploiting creative measures like design-build, shaking loose financing, and securing public money and jobs, among other things. The panel will include Larry Scarpa of Pugh+Scarpa; Rob Jernigan of Gensler; Dan Rosenfeld of development firm Urban Partners (and Deputy for Economic Development to LA Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas); Cecilia Estolano, CEO of the LA Community Redevelopment Agency; Denise Bickerstaff of real estate consulting firm Keyser Marston Associates; and Jerry Neuman of real estate law firm Allen Matkins Leck. The event will take place at 6 pm at Poliform, 8818 Beverly Blvd. Networking, of course, to follow. Don’t miss this chance to pull yourself up by your bootstraps!

See The Chops For Yourself

West
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
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Finally, the (budget) sun sets on the California State Capitol in Sacremento. (Courtesy terragalleria.com)

California has finally solved its budget impasse, but it wasn’t pretty. Many programs have been cut, including several that affect architects. To see a summarized version of the gruesome details, go here. Among the cuts, 100 state parks will now be closed and $1.7 billion in statewide redevelopment funds will be shifted to schools. Yikes.  That’s not to mention $52.1 million cut from AIDS programs, $50 million cut from the Department of Health Care Services, and $50 million in services for young children.

AIA LA Presidential Awards: Be Like Mike

West
Monday, July 27, 2009
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Gold Medal winner Michael Rotondi (being interviewed at his new Madame Tussauds building in Hollywood by ANs Michael Webb)

Gold Medal winner Michael Rotondi (being interviewed at his new Madame Tussaud's building in Hollywood by AN's Michael Webb)

It’s not exactly Hollywood style to give away the winners to an awards show three months before it’s held. But that didn’t stop the AIA/Los Angeles from announcing the winners of its Presidential Awards today. The event itself, which will also include the winners of the local Honor Awards (still a secret for now) will be held on October 21 at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater. The big winners were Michael Rotondi, who will take home the Gold Medal, and Daly Genik, who will be given the Firm Award.  Others included AN Advisory Board member and KCRW host Frances Anderton. Here’s the complete list of Presidential winners: Read More

Hot Wax

West
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
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Visitors pose with (wax) Marilyn Monroe

Today Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and Justin Timberlake came out for the opening of Michael Rotondi’s new Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Hollywood, right next to Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Ok, it was their wax likenesses, but the way they mingled with the waxy Hollywood crowd, it was often hard to tell the difference. The building, originally designed on spec, has an impressive folded zinc facade that wraps around an irregular courtyard; another needed public space in a place with so few of them (one of the best ones is right next door in front of the Chinese Theater). Our next issue will feature a full critique of the building, so make sure to check it out. Here are some teaser pix to get you interested. None of the celebrities are real. Or are they? Read More

Woo-ing Cal-Poly

West
Friday, July 17, 2009
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Former LA City Councilman and current LA City Planning Commissioner Michael Woo has been named dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design. Since joining the commission in 2005, Woo has been involved in a number of its most high-profile initiatives. He helped launch a moratorium on new billboards and opened a review of the health effects of polluted air in residential developments near freeways. He also helped draft the city’s “Do Real Planning” principles, adopted in 2006, which call for more affordable housing and jobs near mass transit, improving the city’s aesthetics, reducing visual blight, and improving walkability. He served on the LA City Council from 1985 to 1993 before leaving to run for mayor (he lost). Cal Poly’s College of Environmental Design combines the school’s departments of architecture, art, landscape architecture, and urban and regional urban planning. Woo’s appointment begins on July 30.

LA City Planning Smackdown

West
Thursday, July 16, 2009
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Only two weeks into his term, new LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has raised eyebrows after sending a sharply worded letter to the LA City Planning Commission over its approval of 40,000 square feet of billboards and outdoor signs on the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Last year, LA city council agreed to sell signage rights for the Convention Center to AEG, the owner of Staples Center and LA Live). Trutanich had opposed the move, and in his letter said that by “acting in haste,” the commission “undermined and jeopardized” the work of his office. Their decision to ignore his request, Trutanich also wrote, amounted to “an unfathomable lack of courtesy,” especially at a time when the city is trying to reduce sign numbers. He also added, “I will not hesitate to act in the future if it appears that you are aiding and abetting unlawful conduct despite my contrary advice.” In response LA Planning Commissioner Sean Burton told city council yesterday that he found Trutanich’s language “disturbing and frankly a little bit frightening.” He also said that Trutanich’s statement was “inappropriate” and “sounded like a threat.”  This is getting good…

California: From Bad To Worse

West
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
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Just when it looked like things might be getting better, the California construction outlook for the year, it appears, has gone from bad to worse. According to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2009 California Construction Outlook: Mid-Summer Update, the state’s budget crisis has had a nasty effect on our industry, “reducing state tax revenues and worsening the state’s construction declines.” The report says that construction starts for the state are expected to drop 22% in 2009 to $36.5 billion. Here are some of the sobering figures in the report: Read More

Whither BP?

West
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
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When BP opened their eco-friendly Helios House gas station on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, it was touted as the future of such facilities, and a coup for a brand whose image was all about conservation. The station, designed by Office dA and Johnston Mark Lee, featured a metal-clad, geometric design, low-flow toilets, solar panels and a floor made of recycled glass, among other features. (it didn’t, however, offer alternative fuels..) But it appears that BP may not have had such high regard for their endeavor. A recent drive-by revealed that the station, still unchanged, was no longer a BP but an Arco. Yes, Arco, the Wal Mart of gas. One of the helpful guides at the station explained that BP actually owns Arco, and that the change of label was “an internal business decision,” whatever that means. Looks like green marketing just took one on the chin.

L. Ron Hubbard Would Be Proud

West
Monday, July 13, 2009
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Yesterday while brunching in Hollywood we happened upon the biggest sign we’ve ever seen. Of course this being LA, it belongs to none other than the Church of Scientology. On July 3 their big blue building at the corner of Franklin and L.Ron Hubbard Way (yes that’s the name of the street) was officially fitted with a brand new sign that’s 84 feet long, 16 feet tall, and weighs 5.2 tons. It’s about three times the size of the former, well-known sign on the site. What’s more the marker, which reads “SCIENTOLOGY” in big white letters,  is fitted with LED lights so the letters glow at night (unlike the famous Hollywood sign nearby, by the way). Read More

Suburban Dreams

National
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Little boxes on the hillside..

Little boxes on the hillside..

In the wake of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, global warming, rising energy costs, and constant gridlock, you’d think the model of Suburbia isn’t faring to well. Well, you’re not alone.   Dwell and Inhabitat are sponsoring a competition called Reburbia, dedicated to re-envisioning the suburbs. They’re asking entrants to design “future-proof” spaces, from small scale retrofits to large-scale restorations, to replace current types and systems like McMansions, cul-de sacs, big box stores, strip malls and car-centric communities. Ideas, they suggest, could come in the form of bicycle transportation hubs, energy generating freeway paving systems, and new housing prototypes (including a “McMansion farm rehab”, whatever that is). Enter here. And hurry, because entries are due on August 1! Winners will be announced on August 19 (Grand prize: $1,000).

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