Maybe it’s because AN moved our West Coast offices here? Or maybe (more likely) there’s finally a critical mass of talent, clients, and opportunity? Either way, it seems like Downtown Los Angeles is becoming the place for architecture and engineering firms these days.
Recent moves there include Gensler, SOM, SAA, LeanArch, SDA, Freeland Buck, Nous, MADA, and Ahbe Landscape Architects, to name a few. Now these firms are being joined by two engineering giants: Arup and Buro Happold.
In a case being watched closely by architects, German designer Gerhard Becker last week pleaded no contest to a charge of involuntary manslaughter for his “disregard for public safety and building codes” in the construction of a Hollywood Hills mansion whose ceiling collapsed in a 2011 fire, killing one fireman.
Los Angeles has for years been working to change its fire code to allow for skyscrapers without boring flat tops. It looks like there’s been a breakthrough. LA Councilman Jose Huizar recently announced that his office and the LA Fire Department have issued “Policy No. 10,” a step to reform the department’s decades-old policy calling for flat rooflines for helicopter rescue.
Architect Elena Manferdini Completes the Colorful, Laser-Cut “Nembi” Installation in South Los Angeles
Until recently, talented Los Angeles–based architect Elena Manferdini had practiced all over the world, but barely in her own city. That has definitely changed. Earlier this year she worked on two shops in Venice, and her latest project is an art installation at the entry way of the Hubert H. Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center in South Los Angeles. The colorful project is part of the LA County Art Commission’s Civic Art project, a one percent program for county facilities.
Our friends at On the Road, a yearlong series of LA-centric architecture, art, and design programs taking place throughout the city, are at it again. Last weekend they took their talents to the residential realm, encouraging a series of designers to respond to eight single-family houses on the city’s west side through postcards placed inside the homes’ mailboxes.
Bad news for biking enthusiasts in Los Angeles. According to LA Downtown News, Bike Nation’s deal with the city of Los Angeles to create a Bike Share program is now basically dead. The plan, originally slated to open this April, called for an eventual 125 stations in Downtown and 400 (containing 4,000 bikes) across Los Angeles.
For those of you who didn’t get to the Solar Decathlon this year, never fear. AN was at the event, which for the first time was held on the west coast, at the Orange County Great Park. Impressive teams combined edgy design and futuristic sustainability, with, of course, an amazing work ethic. (What were you doing in college? We bet you didn’t design and build a hi-tech house and build it in nine days on a former airplane runway.)
Team Austria took home the top prize, but every home in the competition—from sleek metallic forms to heavy wood cabins—produced more energy than it used, and implemented handfuls of emerging technologies that you’ll hopefully see in most homes in the next decade. AN took a visit to see the 19 homes in person. Take a look for yourself, and make sure to check out the next decathlon in two years.
Amidst all the excitement over the Los Angeles Aqueduct’s 100th anniversary, we should point out that not every engineering marvel related to William Mulholland’s masterpiece was completed. As displayed in the recently-closed show, Never Built Los Angeles, co-curated by this author and Greg Goldin, city officials and architect George A. Howard had planned a 220-foot-tall memorial to the aqueduct, located in the center of Exposition Park’s Rose Garden. Consisting of a fluted, classical column with a fresco-clad base, the memorial would be topped by a statue of “Miss Los Angeles,” who would continuously pour water into a moat below. Genius. Unfortunately World War I put a stop to the plan, and a modest fountain and lily pond, built in 1921, now stand on the spot.
Architecture and Engineering giant AECOM has taken a big step to bolster its architecture offerings with the appointment of Ross Wimer, former partner and design director at SOM Chicago, as the leader of its architecture practice in the Americas. Wimer was known for fighting for design at SOM, and he plans to do the same thing at AECOM, where architecture can be overshadowed by much larger, and more profitable work.
The architecture business seems to be—slowly—rounding back into form in Southern California. One indicator? A bunch of Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) for major public projects. One of the most significant is the $70 million renovation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, whose management was taken over by the University of Southern California (USC) this summer. The iconic Parkinson & Parkinson–designed building will undergo long-delayed updates throughout, including improved sight lines, seating, concessions, audio/visual, lighting, restrooms, and much more. The stadium’s last major upgrade came in 1993. The shortlist for the project for now includes Populous, NBBJ, DLR, HNTB, Gensler, and 360 Architecture.
Los Angeles–based artist Cliff Garten has just completed his latest commission: Ribbons, a series of landscapes and sculptures in the courtyard of the Beaux-Arts 50 United Nations Plaza in San Francisco. The symmetrical design riffs on the existing structure’s classical uniformity by inserting a sculptural collage of paving, seating, fountains, and plantings into the building’s 20,000 square foot courtyard.