We are just back from three sunny, margarita-and-architecture-filled days in Palm Springs. This small desert city was barely a mirage until the arrival of Liberace, Frank Sinatra (you can rent his house for $1,900 a night), and air-conditioning helped make it a popular resort in the 1950s. But the clear warm desert air (and wealthy patrons) seemed to lend itself to visionary modern architecture. Read More
Not all TODs (transit oriented developments) were created equal. So ULI Los Angeles has launched a series of TOD Technical Assistance Panels to re-strategize under-performing transportation centers. The first of these workshops – led by volunteer urban-design professionals – presented its findings on February 19 at LA’s Slauson Avenue Blue Line station. The station suffers from poor security; poor pedestrian connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood (including an above-grade platform separated from street life); and poor insulation from noxious industrial uses. Panel recommendations focused on getting people to the station and adding retail. This included a security kiosk, improved lighting, and more visible crosswalks and sidewalks. Read More
We learn via email today that California firm WWCOT has been taken over by midwest mega-firm DLR Group. WWCOT’s offices in LA, Modesto, Palm Springs, Riverside, and Shanghai will be known as DLR Group WWCOT. The merger, says 500-person DLR, will give the firm a needed presence in California and Asia, and improve its education, healthcare, and senior community design. Like most businesses, architecture’s biggest firms are interested in the takeover, which gives them more geographic reach, more talent, and more clients. This move follows behemoth firm AECOM’s purchase last October of Ellerbe Becket, and in 2007 RMJM’s purchase of Hillier, and Arcadis’ purchase of RTKL. According to a 2009 survey by business management consultant ZweigWhite, Seventy-one percent of architecture, engineering, and environmental consulting firms plan to conduct a merger or acquisition in the next five years. Sounds high, but maybe there will be one giant firm running all of architecture the next time we check?
Famed California modernist William Krisel is getting his day in the sun tomorrow. A documentary about his life and career, called William Krisel, Architect, is premiering as part of Palm Springs Modernism week at the Camelot Theater. The 86 minute film, directed by Jake Gorst, tracks, as the above preview suggests, a 60-year career in which Krisel built over 40,000 housing units and countless other buildings. And read our next issue for a Q+A with the designer, in which he talks about his latest ventures, his career, and his very favorite topic: the ailing state of the architecture profession.
Burdened by more than $3 million in debt, the Pasadena Playhouse closed its doors on Sunday. The nonprofit company intends to “explore viable options of financial reorganization, including bankruptcy, to determine a responsible solution for its ongoing operations,” according to a statement. While the theater’s fate is resolved, the Mission-style building itself, designed by Elmer Grey (who also designed much of CalTech’s campus) in 1925, will be protected, since it’s a California state landmark and owned by the city of Pasadena. But the situation doesn’t bode well for the two-phase project that Frank Gehry had agreed to undertake for the playhouse pro bono. That work included a renovation of its balcony performance space, the Carrie Hamilton Theater, and the creation of a new 300-400 seat theater across the street. Read More
It all seems so hush-hush, which is surprising in Hollywood, but the Hollywood Sign has apparently been in trouble for some time. Chicago-based Fox River Financial Resources has been trying to sell large parcels on the hill just next to its “H” for luxury homes. The company bought the land from the estate of Howard Hughes in 2002. Luckily the Trust For Public Land has secured an option to buy the 138-acres on Cahuenga Peak for about $12 million, hoping to maintain views of and around the sign, and to preserve local recreation and habitats. The Trust has already raised about $6 million from sources like the Tiffany & Co Foundation and from Hollywood celebrities like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Virginia Madsen, and Aisha Tyler. Now all that’s left is for the group to raise another $6 million more by April 14 to complete the deal. To donate, go here.
Despite the frustration of having to drive everywhere, often sitting through interminable traffic, at least Angelinos can boast some of the prettiest parking structures in the country. One of the latest to the game is Pugh + Scarpa’s dressed up garages for the redeveloped Santa Monica Place mall, garages that were originally designed by the same man behind the now demolished mall, Frank Gehry himself. Not content to simply dress up some old garages with a flashy new facade, the mall has dedicated space on each of the two parking structures for art installations Read More
The Examiner’s George Calys reports that SFMOMA is narrowing down a list of international architects to design its new 100,000 square-foot wing. The shortlisted firms will be asked to submit proposals. Asked who was on the list, museum director Neal Benezra said diplomatically, “Right now, all of them.” Read More
The Architect’s Newspaper is heading to the desert for the annual Palm Springs Modernism Week. This small city of 45,000 residents was, like other wealthy post-World War II communities including Sarasota, Florida, and New Canaan, Connecticut, fertile ground for modernist architectural experimentation. Palm Springs has perhaps the largest per-capita number of what are now called “midcentury” modern houses, shops, and public facilities, as well as landmarks by Richard Neutra, Albert Frey, John Lautner, and others. These will all be on display during Modernism Week from February 12 to 21, as well as house tours, a John Lautner exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum, and an encampment of Airstream trailers. The silver aluminum mobile homes will be huddled around the Ace Hotel and Swim Club—itself a renovated 1965 Howard Johnson’s hotel. It should be a great week!
Just when we thought budget cuts couldn’t get any deeper in LA, the City Council has put forward a motion to eliminate the Department of Cultural Affairs’ only regular revenue stream, the 1% allocation from the city’s Transient Occupancy Tax. The tax now funds a large portion of the department’s operations and programs. Local non-profit Arts For LA is hoping to block this move by organizing testimony against it at the LA city council meeting this Wednesday. They’re also calling on all concerned to reach out to their local council people. Here’s a link to find yours. So go ahead. Save the day.
Bay Area architect Joseph Bellomo was putting the finishing touches on one of his side projects, a modular studio for a client in Hawaii, when he heard about the earthquake. Because of the nature of the structure, which had been designed specifically for a tropical climate, he couldn’t help but think that it might be a good option for those made homeless by the devastation. Read More
Now that downtown LA has tossed its hat into the ring to compete for Eli Broad’s new contemporary art museum, we’ve finally reached Broad saturation. Broad has gotten the cities of Santa Monica, Culver City, and Beverly Hills to also compete for the museum, assuring that he gets the sweetest of sweetheart deals. Meanwhile, he basically controls most of the major public architecture and art in the city. There’s now the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Miracle Mile, the Broad Art Center at UCLA, as well as MOCA (bailed out and greatly influenced by Broad), the LA High School For the Performing Arts (largely funded by Broad), Disney Hall (pushed and funded by Broad), and the Grand Avenue Project (also largely supported by Broad). Phew. It’s great to have a guiding hand and all, but GEEZ! Ok, we promise not to mention the name Broad again. Until at least tomorrow…