This October, for the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon—a biennial competition encouraging schools from around the country to create affordable, solar powered, Net Zero houses—will be held outside of Washington D.C. The new location, in the Orange County Great Park in Irvine, California, gives SCI-Arc and Caltech a distinct home field advantage. The team of 16 SCI-Arc and 20 Caltech students is creating a fascinating structure, called DALE, which stands for Dynamic Augmented Living Environment (their last entry was called CHIP.. get it?) that could only be possible in the moderate Southern California climate.
The perforated aluminum skin would replace the previously proposed glass facade. (Courtesy TJPA)
It looks like Pelli Clarke Pelli’s Transbay Transit Center, which stretches about three blocks through the city’s Rincon Hill neighborhood, might go ahead with its first major piece of value engineering. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the architects have suggested that the building’s undulating glass skin become perforated aluminum. The move would meet federal safety guidelines and chop $17 million from the estimated $1.59 billion budget for the center’s first phase. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board will be asked to approve the change at its March 25 meeting. The structure is not expected to be complete before 2017.
On Saturday I moderated one of two AIA/LA-sponsored panels about bio-inspired design at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum. The first panel looked at the general influence of nature on design, from the Mars Rover to the San Diego Zoo, and ours zeroed in on architecture’s envelopes and skins, with insights about breaking away from the static, heavy, and largely-unresponsive architecture of today by architect Tom Wiscombe, Arup engineer Russell Fortmeyer, and evolutionary biologist Shauna Price. Speaking of bio-inspired design, before the panel I got an early look at the new gardens at the Natural History Museum, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates.
Now we’re really confused. Amidst reports that LA’s MOCA might be taken over by LACMA or USC, now we hear via the New York Times that the struggling institution might now join forces with the National Gallery in Washington D.C. According to John Wilmerding, the chairman of the Gallery’s board of trustees, MOCA is “close to working out a five-year agreement…to collaborate on programming, research and exhibitions.” The deal wouldn’t include fundraising assistance, but would obviously bolster MOCA’s ability to raise money with the National Gallery’s high profile assistance on programming, exhibitions, research, curation, and staffing. Oh, and guess who approached the National Gallery, according to the story: MOCA board chair Eli Broad, who has made it clear he doesn’t want to be swallowed by LACMA. Stay tuned as this saga plays out.
In recent weeks we’ve seen a number of important developments in Downtown Los Angeles, like the groundbreaking of the Arquitectonica-designed apartments on Grand Avenue, and the topping out of The Broad next door. The red-hot area continues to make headlines, from the advancement of its upcoming streetcar to the murkiness of its proposed football stadium.
As confirmed on its blog yesterday, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has made a proposal to acquire the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (MOCA). “Our chief desire is to see MOCA’s program continue and to serve the many artists and other Angelenos, for whom MOCA means so much,” said LACMA director Michael Govan in an online letter. Reportedly LACMA would preserve MOCA’s two buildings, located on Grand Avenue and in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles. According to the LA Times, the offer was made back on February 24. As part of the arrangement, LACMA would raise $100 million for the combined museums as a condition for completing the deal, according to their story.
Another suitor for struggling MOCA is the University of Southern California (USC), which has been reported to have been in talks to merge with MOCA as well. That arrangement has a model in UCLA, which is partnered with the Hammer Museum in Westwood. Either way, it looks like something has to be done about financially-troubled MOCA: “If not us, who?” Mr. Govan said in an interview with the New York Times yesterday.
Alas. One of LA’s greatest weird treasures, the Bahooka Family Restaurant, is set to close on March 10. The gem, which opened its Rosemead location in 1976, is perhaps the most ornate example of Tiki architecture in the city. Not only is it full of every Polynesian tchotchke imaginable—Easter Island heads, hula dancers, blowfish, diving bells—but most of its walls are covered with fish tanks, creating the feeling of being inside Sponge Bob’s home. The restaurant’s owners have said they’re simply ready to retire, which we certainly understand, but we must admit we’re a little sad.
Last week we reported on Gensler’s planned triangular Nvidia headquarters in Santa Clara, the latest addition to the architectural arms race that is Silicon Valley. (We’re seeing zoomy new headquarters for Apple, Samsung, HP, Nvidia, etc, etc.) Now there’s yet another. Google’s new project adjacent to its “Googleplex” in Mountain View, has unveiled their new designs by NBBJ. The new campus, which is being called Bay View, is comprised of nine crimped, predominantly-four-story buildings. Each building will be connected by a bridge; a connectivity that has become a staple of NBBJ’s office work around the world, including its new headquarters for Samsung nearby. The competition to out-campus the competition seems to be heating up. Who’s next?
Silicon Valley definitely has the architecture bug. We’ve recently seen remarkable new designs put forth by Foster + Partners for Apple and NBBJ for Samsung. Now Gensler has released ambitious new designs for tech company Nvidia, located in Santa Clara. The 24-acre complex’s two 500,000-square-foot buildings are each shaped like triangles, a configuration that Gensler principal Hao Ko explains facilitates collaboration by allowing connections to each side of the building to be the shortest. (The triangle, he adds, is also “the fundamental primitive that defines all shapes in the digital realm.”) Undulating roofs will be made up of smaller triangle pieces, breaking down the overall mass and allowing for ample skylighting, in the in-between spaces. Construction is set to begin this summer, with completion in 2015. Apple’s circle now has geometric competition. Who’s next?
Another weekend, another Modernism Week. One of our favorites: a look inside the Palm Springs Art Museum’s future Architecture and Design Center, located inside E. Stewart Williams’ sleek Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan (1960). The International Style building is being renovated by Marmol Radziner, who also worked on Richard Neutra’s nearby Kaufmann House. The museum has already raised more than $4 million to buy and renovate the building, and is now just $1 million shy of what’s needed to get work underway. The organizers hope to break ground in the next few months and open the center by fall 2014. But for now, its interior is still lots of quirky fun, including a chance to walk inside the old bank vaults, check out the old drive through teller, and explore the old kitchens and mechanical systems.