Former LA City Councilman and current LA City Planning Commissioner Michael Woo has been named dean of Cal Poly Pomona’s College of Environmental Design. Since joining the commission in 2005, Woo has been involved in a number of its most high-profile initiatives. He helped launch a moratorium on new billboards and opened a review of the health effects of polluted air in residential developments near freeways. He also helped draft the city’s “Do Real Planning” principles, adopted in 2006, which call for more affordable housing and jobs near mass transit, improving the city’s aesthetics, reducing visual blight, and improving walkability. He served on the LA City Council from 1985 to 1993 before leaving to run for mayor (he lost). Cal Poly’s College of Environmental Design combines the school’s departments of architecture, art, landscape architecture, and urban and regional urban planning. Woo’s appointment begins on July 30.
As you may have learned by now, renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman died Wednesday night at age 98. (You can read our obituary here.) We encourage you to share memories, thoughts, and impressions of one of the most influential figures to ever engage with the built environment. Just leave a comment below. To start things off, we’ve posted the trailer to the forthcoming documentary about the great photographer, Visual Acoustics, by Eric Bricker. It was moving to watch even before this sad news, but now it really puts into perspective–almost as well as his own photos–the sheer genius that was Julius Shulman. You can watch it after the jump. Read More
Only two weeks into his term, new LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has raised eyebrows after sending a sharply worded letter to the LA City Planning Commission over its approval of 40,000 square feet of billboards and outdoor signs on the Los Angeles Convention Center. (Last year, LA city council agreed to sell signage rights for the Convention Center to AEG, the owner of Staples Center and LA Live). Trutanich had opposed the move, and in his letter said that by “acting in haste,” the commission “undermined and jeopardized” the work of his office. Their decision to ignore his request, Trutanich also wrote, amounted to “an unfathomable lack of courtesy,” especially at a time when the city is trying to reduce sign numbers. He also added, “I will not hesitate to act in the future if it appears that you are aiding and abetting unlawful conduct despite my contrary advice.” In response LA Planning Commissioner Sean Burton told city council yesterday that he found Trutanich’s language “disturbing and frankly a little bit frightening.” He also said that Trutanich’s statement was “inappropriate” and “sounded like a threat.” This is getting good…
Frank Gehry sat down with Tom Pritzker earlier this month at the Aspen Ideas Festival, of which a video was just posted on the Internet, and re-posted above for your viewing pleasure. How we found out about this was through the all-things-Ratner-Gehry-and-Times-related Atlantic Yards Report. Never one not to parse everything related to the above three–and our hats off to him for doing so–Norman Oder discovered the one contentious conversation of the otherwise lovely affair, when Gehry called no less eminent urban thinker Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces “a pompous man” for daring to question (admittedly repeatedly and somewhat annoyingly) Gehry’s placemaking skills. Yowza.
When BP opened their eco-friendly Helios House gas station on Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, it was touted as the future of such facilities, and a coup for a brand whose image was all about conservation. The station, designed by Office dA and Johnston Mark Lee, featured a metal-clad, geometric design, low-flow toilets, solar panels and a floor made of recycled glass, among other features. (it didn’t, however, offer alternative fuels..) But it appears that BP may not have had such high regard for their endeavor. A recent drive-by revealed that the station, still unchanged, was no longer a BP but an Arco. Yes, Arco, the Wal Mart of gas. One of the helpful guides at the station explained that BP actually owns Arco, and that the change of label was “an internal business decision,” whatever that means. Looks like green marketing just took one on the chin.
Yesterday while brunching in Hollywood we happened upon the biggest sign we’ve ever seen. Of course this being LA, it belongs to none other than the Church of Scientology. On July 3 their big blue building at the corner of Franklin and L.Ron Hubbard Way (yes that’s the name of the street) was officially fitted with a brand new sign that’s 84 feet long, 16 feet tall, and weighs 5.2 tons. It’s about three times the size of the former, well-known sign on the site. What’s more the marker, which reads “SCIENTOLOGY” in big white letters, is fitted with LED lights so the letters glow at night (unlike the famous Hollywood sign nearby, by the way). Read More
Just weeks from completion, a shiny new auditorium by L.A.’s Hodgetts + Fung looks to put the little town of Menlo Park, CA on the architecture map. The $28 million project is at a public institution of learning–Menlo-Atherton High–and the 500-seat venue was designed with top-notch acoustics and a stage that can accommodate a full symphony orchestra, in the hopes of also hosting performances by professional touring groups. Painted in Kynar metallic paint (copper was too expensive), the exterior gleams. But the real treat is inside: the acoustical scrim around the stage is laser-cut with a pattern based on the historic oaks outside. Read More
For the second time LA’s City Planning Commission has put off a vote on proposed changes to LA’s Cultural Heritage Ordinance. Among other things, the changes would grant the LA Cultural Heritage Commission the authority to bar demolition of designated monuments—rather than just delay them, as is now the case. The last delay came on June 11. This time the sticking point was an attempt to limit changes to the interiors of landmarked houses, which made some houseowners very unhappy. The next vote will come at a planning meeting in September, so stay tuned..again.
It’s not every day that a scary fire burns within a few miles of a major cultural institution. Well in LA it sort of is, but that’s beside the point. A recent drive on the 405 Freeway revealed to us what all the news reports are saying: There is a biggish blaze burning just one hill over from the Getty Center on LA’s west side. The smoke is thick and brown, and on first look bulged out at the top, not unlike a mushroom cloud. Yikes. Helicopters are running regular passes over the thing, which is spreading in thin lines along the mountains facing the Getty, moving southward down the Sepulveda Pass. But fortunately it appears that firefighters have it under control (in California terms a 10-acre fire is only a mini conflagration), despite a forced evacuation of the Getty and nearby Mount St. Mary’s College. Stay tuned… We hope we don’t have to see if all that marble and granite will hold up to a good ol’ California disaster. And for now, the biggest concern of drivers on the 405 is the threat of imminent traffic. Now that’s scary.
Back on April 19 LA County Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe told the Los Angeles Times that she was investigating the January 16 firing of former LA County Planning Chief Bruce McClendon. McClendon told the Times that he was probably fired for protecting his staff from the efforts of County Supervisors’ aides to influence zoning and development decisions in the county. Watanabe told the Times that the results of that investigation would be released “in the coming weeks.” Well it’s now been almost three months and the results of that investigation are apparently still not available. So what’s the wait? A call to Watanabe’s office referred us to her web site, where we found no documents relating to the investigation. So until then, we’re just left to wonder what’s going on…
We knew that Gehry Partners had trimmed its staff recently due to the recession. But according to a story in Architectural Record, the cuts are much worse than we thought. Tony Illia writes that the company has reduced its staff from 250 a year ago to 112 now. That’s more than a 50 percent chop! Many of the cuts are due to the losses of projects like Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn, and the delay of projects like Grand Avenue in Los Angeles. Still the firm is still set to move into roomier new digs in El Segundo (pictured above) later this year. Should be.. spacious. Still the story says the firm is working on new projects like a Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, the Beekman tower in Lower Manhattan, and the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington.