Some people say Los Angeles is run by the entertainment business, but starting this Thursday the city will belong to artists and architects. Well downtown will at least. As part of the first-ever Skyline Festival (February 13-22), local designers will be mounting ten installations within a 10-block radius in the city center. The event is sponsored by LA-based LERATA, which stands for Laboratory for Experimentation and Research in Art, Technology, and Architecture.
Speaking of zombies, two of Downtown LA’s most long-stalled projects appear to be rising from the dead. The mixed-use project revolving around Julia Morgan’s beautiful Herald Examiner Building on Broadway is apparently finally getting underway, now developed by Forest City, and no longer designed by Morphosis. The designer has yet to be revealed.
Maybe it’s because AN moved our West Coast offices here? Or maybe (more likely) there’s finally a critical mass of talent, clients, and opportunity? Either way, it seems like Downtown Los Angeles is becoming the place for architecture and engineering firms these days.
Recent moves there include Gensler, SOM, SAA, LeanArch, SDA, Freeland Buck, Nous, MADA, and Ahbe Landscape Architects, to name a few. Now these firms are being joined by two engineering giants: Arup and Buro Happold.
In recent years several proposals have been floated for freeway cap parks in Los Angeles with barely any traction. Until now. On Friday LA City Council voted to have various city departments (including planning and engineering) partner with nonprofit Friends of Park 101 to raise funds for a park that would bridge the 101 Freeway, connecting Downtown’s Civic Center with Olvera Street and Union Station. Possible grants could come from local, state, and federal sources. It’s still a long way from happening, but this is a big deal. Friends of the Hollywood Central Park have created a function on their web site where users can design their own cap park, but if Park 101 gets some of these funds we could be building a park downtown for real.
Last week Los Angeles councilman, Jose Huizar, announced the formation of a 21-member task force to help re-imagine Pershing Square, the beleaguered central park in the middle of downtown. The group includes local residents, design and architecture experts, business people, and government officials. Huizar said he hoped they could bring “a wide-range of ideas and perspectives to the discussion.” They’ll also have to develop an agenda and a timeline, and figure out how to fund the project.
Writer Anne Taylor Fleming recently interviewed Frank Gehry for Los Angeles Magazine, getting a glimpse into what the architect thinks about Los Angeles and the meaning of his work there. Gehry tells Fleming about some of the missed planning and architectural opportunities that continue to challenge the city, including the push to make a bona fide downtown, which he believes stems from clinging to old ideas about what a city should be.
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.
Once considered downtown LA’s central park, the problematic 4.5-acre Pershing Square may soon be slated for a few welcome changes. Councilman José Huizar of District 14 recently told LA Downtown News that sports and entertainment company Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) has committed $700,000 seed funding to re-think the 164-year-old park. The money is part of a community improvement package AEG had agreed to in order to create a football stadium in Los Angeles.
The Grand, the multi-million-dollar, mixed use project on top of LA’s Bunker Hill, is finally… slowly… moving forward with an Arquitectonica-designed residential tower, which just broke ground. But it appears that Frank Gehry’s days on the project may be numbered. After a recent call with Related, we got no assurances that the starchitect was still part of the project. A report in the Downtown News got similarly uncommitted answers.
Just across the street from the Grand we hear that The Broad (what’s with all the THEs?)—Eli Broad’s multi-million-dollar art museum—is getting ready to add an upscale market to its rear, just above the parking lot. If it’s even close to as successful as Chelsea Market in New York, Downtown LA could have yet another hit on its hands. Meanwhile, decking is being laid for a new park to The Broad’s south, but still no renderings of the park have been unveiled. Let’s make this public, Mr. Broad. We can’t wait to see your plans, which could single-handedly make or break Grand Avenue.