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).

Heritage On Hold… Again

West
Thursday, July 9, 2009
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Preservation groups hope a revised ordinance will prevent the destruction of historic icons like the Ambassador Hotel

For the second time LA’s City Planning Commission has put off a vote on proposed changes to LA’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance. Among other things, the changes would grant the LA Cultural Heritage Commission the authority to bar demolition of designated monuments—rather than just delay them, as is now the case. The last delay came on June 11. This time the sticking point was an attempt to limit changes to the interiors of landmarked houses, which made some houseowners very unhappy. The next vote will come at a planning meeting in September, so stay tuned..again.

Fire On The Mountain

West
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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It’s not every day that a scary fire burns within a few miles of a major cultural institution. Well in LA it sort of is, but that’s beside the point. A recent drive on the 405 Freeway revealed to us what all the news reports are saying: There is a biggish blaze burning just one hill over from the Getty Center on LA’s west side. The smoke is thick and brown, and on first look bulged out at the top, not unlike a mushroom cloud. Yikes. Helicopters are running regular passes over the thing, which is spreading in thin lines along the mountains facing the Getty, moving southward down the Sepulveda Pass. But fortunately it appears that firefighters have it under control (in California terms a 10-acre fire is only a mini conflagration), despite a forced evacuation of the Getty and nearby Mount St. Mary’s College. Stay tuned… We hope we don’t have to see if all that marble and granite will hold up to a good ol’ California disaster. And for now, the biggest concern of drivers on the 405 is the threat of imminent traffic. Now that’s scary.

Still Waiting

West
Monday, July 6, 2009
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Back on April 19 LA County Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe told the Los Angeles Times that she was investigating the January 16 firing of former LA County Planning Chief Bruce McClendon. McClendon  told the Times that he was probably fired for protecting his staff from the efforts of County Supervisors’ aides to influence zoning and development decisions in the county. Watanabe  told the Times that the results of that investigation would be released “in the coming weeks.” Well it’s now been almost three months and the results of that investigation are apparently still not available. So what’s the wait? A call to Watanabe’s office referred us to her web site, where we found no documents relating to the investigation. So until then, we’re just left to wonder what’s going on…

FOGA Cut by How Much?

West
Thursday, July 2, 2009
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A model of Gehry's new offices in El Segundo

We knew that Gehry Partners had trimmed its staff recently due to the recession. But according to a story in Architectural Record, the cuts are much worse than we thought. Tony Illia writes that the company has reduced its staff from 250 a year ago to 112 now. That’s more than a 50 percent chop! Many of the cuts are due to the losses of projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the delay of projects like Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Still the firm is still set to move into roomier new digs in El Segundo (pictured above)  later this year. Should be.. spacious. Still the story says the firm is working on new projects like a Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi,  the Beekman tower in Lower Manhattan, and the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington.

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