Frank Gehry and Related Companies’ left-for-dead Grand Avenue project in Downtown LA (now known as “The Grand”) may be getting a new lease on life, reports the LA Times. The $3 billion, mixed-use development, which includes condos, hotels, shops and a 12-acre park (Grand Park, which is opening this summer), was supposed to begin construction in 2007, yet no shovel has touched earth, at least not for a building. But now Related is reportedly rethinking the project’s “luxury aspirations,” toning down some of the most expensive elements and lowering rates on condos to get things moving. “We still believe we can create some of the highest values downtown….But do I think we have to be a little bit less ambitious? Yes, I would agree with that,” Related president Bill Witte told the Times. He would not comment on whether Gehry’s wavy towers would remain, but Witte did say that the project’s “dimensions, scope and scale” could be adjusted. Meanwhile Grand Park’s web site doesn’t provide a definitive completion date, so stay tuned for more on its opening.
Ball-Nogues Studio: Yevrus 1, Negative Impression
960 East 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA
June 1–July 8
On display at the SCI-Arc Gallery is Los Angeles–based architecture practice Ball-Nogues Studio’s Yevrus 1, Negative Impression, which attempts to call into question the current fashionability of abstracted and digital forms. Through an assemblage of non-architectural objects represented very literally, the project represents a new type of site survey. The objects selected to be part of the structure were picked from the Los Angeles suburban landscape (a pool, above) and become the elements of an installation. The architects used digital scanning technology to make biodegradable paper-pulp castings of 1973 Volkswagen Beetles and speedboats for a lookout tower in the gallery. Yevrus (“survey” spelled backwards) is a new technique pioneered by the firm that rethinks the site survey by utilizing it not as a tool for construction and engineering, but as a methodology of deriving form, creating structures, and realizing meaning.
“I see nothing in space as promising as the view from a Ferris wheel,” E.B. White once remarked. After the dismantling of the Seattle Center Fun Forest and Ferris wheel—closed in January 2011 to make way for the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum—Seattle will finally get its Ferris wheel back. The nearly-completed privately-funded wheel at Pier 57, with 8 supportive legs and 21 spokes, will weigh 280,330 pounds. Built by Chance Morgan Rides Manufacturing Inc. and funded by developer Hal Griffith, the 42 six-person gondolas will bring riders 175 feet into the air, with views of the Olympic Mountains to the west, Mount Rainier to the south, and the Cascade Mountains and the city to the east. Open year-round, the cars will be enclosed, heated, and air-conditioned, so no need to worry about the Seattle drizzle.
With its perforated dome, the twelve-year-old San Carlos (CA) Library, designed by Swatt Miers Architects, turned out to be one of the best places to view the solar eclipse a few weeks ago. The design—which projected thousands of little crescent moons over the main lobby entrance—was inspired by architect George Miers’ wife. “We wanted to bring in light, but a traditional skylight over that type of space would overpower it. Luckily, my wife had this old colander. I built the model with the colander in it,” said Miers. The architect developed a random pattern for the ceiling and fabricated it with Los Angeles-based Ceilings Plus.
One of Jane Jacobs’ most valuable contributions to the understanding of cities was her faith in the wisdom of the urban dweller. She argued that the physical city—and any approach to city planning—could not be separated from the wisdom of each individual inhabitant, “People who know well such animated city streets will know how it is. I am afraid people who do not will always have it a little wrong in their heads, like the old prints of rhinoceroses made from travelers’ descriptions of rhinoceroses.” The complication arising from Jacobs’ argument is simple though difficult to solve; how can we plan a city when planning is one part abstraction and abstraction removes us from Jacobs’ precious “real life” mentality?
A step towards solving this contradiction is sfbetterstreets.org, a website launched last week by the City of San Francisco. Developed by the San Francisco Planning Department in conjunction with other city agencies, the website is part of the city’s larger, “Better Streets” initiative. The legislative concept, described in San Francisco’s Better Streets Plan, is to create streets “designed and built to strike a balance between all users regardless of physical abilities or mode of travel… maximizing features for the comfort, usability, and aesthetics of people walking.”
This editor’s recent piece on the divide between architectural education and architectural practice has spurred a lot of discussion, prompting both high praise for addressing a worsening problem and charges of, ahem, “neoconservatism.” If it’s a debate that interests you, please join us next Tuesday, May 29 at Gensler’s new headquarters for the panel discussion, “A Teaching Moment.” Panelists include UCLA’s Neil Denari, Michael Maltzan, USC’s Alice Kimm, Woodbury’s Barbara Bestor, SCI-Arc’s John Enright, and Gensler’s Li Wen. At the panel we will discuss not only the schism between practice and education, but also new approaches toward technology, urbanism, and more. See you there!
Trust us, you don’t want to miss this weekend’s Venice Art Walk & Auctions (May 19-20), which in addition to showing off the area’s wealth of art studios and galleries, will introduce you to some of its finest new architecture. That’s impressive because everybody knows that Venice has more architects per square foot than pretty much anywhere else.
The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center’s first annual spring festival, LA Bloom wrapped up on May 5, but late visitors to the Little Tokyo site in Downtown LA can still enjoy a piece of the festivities. LA Bloom’s centerpiece ecoartspace installation will remain up for a few extra weeks. Using over five million pebbles, JACCC Artistic Director Hirokazu Kosaka and landscape architect Calvin Abe of AHBE created a large zen garden that, during the festival (along with thousands of feet of colorful thread) created a serene background for Kosaka’s evocative Mare Nubium performances.
“It isn’t something that can be experienced through description. It would be like explaining what it’s like to be present watching the original moon landing,” said Abe, for whom the space created a “profound existential experience.”
Los Angeles firm Layer (you may remember some of their past work) are showcasing their talents once again with an upcoming exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA). Opening June 3, the show, entitled Layer: A Loose Horizon is designed as a low-relief, web-like sculptural installation that begins outside the museum’s second floor window and continues into the interior of the building, across the lobby.
The series of overhead shapes “explores the threshold between perception and logic,” and creates “a physically engrossing and intellectually stimulating spatial construction,” according to the PMCA.