Here is an article with the architect
Changing the Skyline
Architect David Martin of AC Martin Partners with a model of the proposed $1 billion replacement for the Wilshire Grand hotel. Photo by Gary Leonard.
Architect David Martin Talks About Designing Downtown’s First New Office Tower in Nearly Two Decades
by Anna Scott
Published: Friday, May 8, 2009 4:34 PM PDT
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - David Martin, a principal at the Downtown-based architecture firm his grandfather founded in 1906, has his work cut out for him. Specifically, Martin, of AC Martin Partners, is designing Downtown’s first new commercial high rise in 17 years.
The $1 billion hotel/residential/office complex to replace the aging Wilshire Grand hotel at Seventh and Figueroa streets was announced last month by Wilshire Grand owner Korean Air and developer Jim Thomas. The project is slated to include a 40-story hotel and residential tower, a 60-story office building and ground-floor retail space. They will be designed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification standards and, despite the economic downturn, Thomas expects to break ground by 2011.
Martin spoke with Los Angeles Downtown News about the project, sustainable design and the challenges ahead.
Los Angeles Downtown News: Downtown’s last new office tower, Two California Plaza, opened in 1992. How has the design process changed since then?
David Martin: The basic physical dimensions, modules and numbers haven’t really changed much. What has changed tremendously is the thinking of how we build buildings. The buildings that we built 20 years ago were in a different world.
Obviously, the whole idea of sustainability is a big thing. How do we organize these buildings so they consume much, much less energy? Once we get the basics down, we look at how to tune the shape and form of the building to be much more energy-efficient.
Q: What are some of the environmentally friendly features planned for the project?
A: We oriented the long part of the buildings, especially the office building, to more of a true north-south orientation and that makes a tremendous difference in the energy demands. We’ve done sun studies, so we know where on the building façade we can put photovoltaics [to capture solar energy]. We proposed 60 lineal feet of open-able windows. We’re also looking at the synergy between the hotel and office buildings. For example, the air-conditioning for the office building on a real hot day might generate a lot of heat… and the hotel needs heat for the water systems, as the biggest user of energy in a hotel is hot water.
Q: How does the attention to being “green” affect the look of the towers?
A: On the south elevation, we’ll have overhangs to protect the sun from beaming on the glass, and on top of them we’ll use photovoltaics. From below, it will look like a series of overhangs.
In some of the renderings, the model looks all glass, and that’s not the intent. It would be glass and terra cotta, a material that is extremely durable. It’s baked earth, clay.
Q: How will this project connect to the neighborhood?
A: The first thing that is interesting about the site is that it practically sits on a subway stop. We created the open space at the bottom to not only be connected to that, but also to be on the south side of the building, so it’s not always in the shade. And learning what we’ve learned over the years about how we organize retail and restaurants, the whole ground level should be about gathering and city life. We’re trying to avoid being too monumental at the base of the building. Sidewalks, street trees, land use around the plaza, where the sun shines, places to sit down and access to the subway are all part of our thinking.
Q: What visual impact do you want these towers to have?
A: I think not since City Hall has there been such a building. One of the excitements of cities is the skyline. That’s particularly true of Los Angeles, and the way the buildings are not uniform, but varied. This is a building that actually comes to a point instead of being squared at the top; it gives a more organic view to the skyline. It’s a more organic form than geometric.
Q: What is the biggest challenge with this project?
A: The biggest challenge, I think everyone would say, will be to have the building meet the marketplace. We’re assuming that out of the recession will come a period of growth, and I think there’s a lot of reason for optimism. One reason is the whole stature of Downtown — L.A. Live seems to be adding a lot of drama to the situation. But the biggest challenge will be to have those two ideas come together: a building for the future and a healthy market for that building.
Contact Anna Scott at email@example.com