Gagosian Explosion

West
Thursday, March 4, 2010
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Gagosian Gallery is apparently trying to take over the world, with locations in New York, London, Rome, La Jolla, Hong Kong, and another coming to Paris. Its latest project is Richard Meier & Partners’ expansion of its Beverly Hills gallery which Meier originally designed in 1995. The new space adds 5,000 square feet to what was a 6,600 square foot building. We were able to step inside the project, which opened today on Beverly Hills’ swank Camden Drive, and we weren’t disappointed. The extension combines Meier’s signature pristine white walls and abundant natural light (long acid-etched skylights on both sides of the space are semi-opaque, but still reveal the color of the sky) combined with the grittiness of a wonderful existing barreled vaulted wood truss roof, which was discovered when the firm removed the ceiling from the building’s former tenants, Umberto’s Hair Salon. A huge translucent glass and aluminum sliding door at the street also lets in glowing light, and provides an easy entry for oversized works.

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OMD in Joshua Tree

West
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
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Jennifer Siegal’s Prefab Showhouse has been sitting on Venice’s Abbott Kinney Blvd since 2006, giving clients a preview of what they can get if they invest in a work by her firm, OMD (Office of Mobile Design). Well it’s no longer there. It was recently transported via semi and (once in the desert) robotic tank (yes, robotic tank) to Joshua Tree, where it has found its place as an off-the-grid guest residence for  film producer Chris Hanley. The 720 square-foot steel frame structure, with a high sloping ceiling and a steel support chassis, uses solar panels for electricity and also has tankless water heaters, radiant heat ceiling panels, and translucent polycarbonate glazing. It’s not too far from one of our favorite desert houses, Taalmankoch’s iT House, in what is becoming a precious little off-the-grid architecture community. Oh, and if you go, make sure to check out one of our favorite bars in the world, Pioneertown’s Pappy and Harriet’s. Read More

Positively Palm Springs

West
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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John Lautner’s 1968 Elrod House in Palm Springs. (Courtesy Palm Springs Art Museum)

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

Healing the Struggling TODs

West
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
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Poor walkability and skimpy parking inhibit use of the Slauson Blue Line station in Los Angeles (Photo © Nick Rother)

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

WWCOT to DLR: Merger Mania

West
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
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WWCOT's Indio Teen Center

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?

Krisel Premier Tomorrow

West
Saturday, February 13, 2010
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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.

Another Gehry Ghost

West
Thursday, February 11, 2010
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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

Hollywood Sign Secretly Saved

West
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
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There's more to the sign than just those letters.

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.

Spruce Up a Parking Lot

West
Monday, February 8, 2010
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The Santa Monica City Council recently approved an installation by Ball Nogues for a renovated parking garage.

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

SFMOMA Searches for a Wingman

West
Friday, February 5, 2010
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SFMOMA reflects on its future. Photo by David Paul Ohmer/Flickr

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

Palm Springs Modern

West
Friday, February 5, 2010
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Airstreams converge on Palm Springs next week.

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!

Save LA Cultural Affairs. Really.

West
Monday, February 1, 2010
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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.

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