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Old Posted Jun 12, 2007, 4:16 AM
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LOS ANGELES | Grand Ave | FT | 38 + 16 FLOORS

These are the most recent renders of Phase 1 (of 3). Gehry designed them and they will be across the street from Disney Hall. The first 4 picture will show the scope of the whole project, along with all three phases plus the park, and then the other two will show phase one. Following it is an article from today, June 11th, 2007

All Phases and Park






Phase 1





A Definite Frank Gehry Imprint

The new proposal for Grand Avenue’s first phase has the architect’s trademark loose forms. But will infighting drive him off the project?

By Christopher Hawthorne, Times Staff Writer

Since Frank Gehry was hired nearly two years ago to design a massive mixed-use project along Grand Avenue, he has clashed repeatedly and sometimes bitterly with the developer, New York's Related Cos. Barring some sudden rapprochement, it now seems unlikely that Gehry will return for the planned second and third phases of the project. But the plan, which the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider this morning, has turned a significant corner in recent weeks. The latest version suggests it will rise not only as an effective complement to Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street but also as a dramatic architectural presence in its own right.

After bottoming out late last year, when models showed a pair of plain, rectangular office towers largely sealed off from the streets around them, the design has grown richer, more colorful and more reflective of Los Angeles and contemporary culture. The new design includes a pair of L-shaped towers playing energetically against each other — and against the rest of the downtown skyline — and framing a dense, multi-level retail plaza dotted with oak trees and other lush landscaping.

Some of the improvement is the natural result of the design gaining detail as it moves from concept toward groundbreaking this fall. But far more than previous versions, this one displays the loose, exuberant forms for which Gehry is known — and which, presumably, he was brought on to provide. Still, Gehry appears to be loosening his ties to the development. Reversing an earlier demand that his firm fully control the design of the first phase, he has agreed to let Dallas-based HKS Architects produce the final working drawings that will guide construction. His handpicked landscape architect, Laurie Olin, has left the project.

The architectural progress of the first phase, now budgeted at roughly $900 million, is a reminder that some of Gehry's best buildings, including the long-delayed Disney Hall, have been the result not just of sustained give-and-take between architect and client but also of substantial uncertainty. Far from a creative genius producing idiosyncratic forms in isolation, as he is sometimes portrayed, Gehry is an architect who thrives on drama and even brinksmanship. This project, from the beginning, has had no shortage of those elements; where they have been lacking, Gehry has sometimes worked to create them.

Although the budget for the first phase remains tight, it has loosened enough in recent months to allow the architect and his chief collaborator on the project, Craig Webb, a bit of creative wiggle room. The architects have given the taller, 48-story tower, which will contain a Mandarin Oriental Hotel along with a health club and high-end condominiums, more personality than it has shown since the earliest renderings. It is now cloaked in an undulating façade of mirrored glass that at several points pulls away dramatically from a boxy structural shell underneath.


The taller tower draws some inspiration from the
two mirrored glass skyscrapers at nearby Califor-
nia Plaza. (Gehry Partners, LLP)

In shaping the tower, Gehry and Webb say they are reaching back in part to the skyscraper designs of Kevin Roche, particularly Roche's U.N. Plaza, finished in 1975 on the east side of Manhattan. But the inspiration is also local. The tower design represents an architectural bridge between Disney Hall and the two mirrored-glass skyscrapers that make up Arthur Erickson's nearby California Plaza. This sense of local connection — an idiosyncratic spin on the idea of architectural context — is precisely what's missing in other Related projects, such as the Time Warner Center in Manhattan. For Gehry, the most effective kind of contextualism is surprising and energetic rather than dutiful — riffing on nearby buildings instead of copying them. That's the approach he's taken here, and it will make the tower — if built in its present form — the most compelling vertical form on the downtown skyline.

The guidelines of the Community Redevelopment Agency, however, include a recommendation against using any kind of reflective glass, which can cause glare. (Gehry ran into problems with glare at Disney Hall.) Yet strange as it might sound, given the banal reputation of the material, losing the mirrored glass would be a significant setback at this stage architecturally. At the same time, the architects have made the smaller, 24-story tower, which will hold a mixture of market-rate and subsidized apartments, more distinct in its own right, adding fixed window boxes to its facades along 1st and Olive streets. The boxes, which Gehry has used in European projects, would help give some character and life to the outside of the tower.

Perhaps the most surprising new element in new models is the decorative pattern that Gehry has added to the tower facades overlooking the plaza — the inside faces of each L. The pattern would take the lush landscaping growing out of the retail pavilions and, as a visual motif, extend it vertically into the sky. It could connect the project not only to the history of murals downtown but also to the nascent revival of ornament in the architecture and design worlds. The pattern, a floral design blown up to skyscraper scale, is something of a placeholder and needs refinement.

The idea of pulling the landscaping up into the air is topped off, literally, in the current design by live oak trees on the roofs of both towers. Though Gehry says he isn't aware of the reference, the gesture recalls the medieval Guinigi Tower, in the Italian town of Lucca, which is also crowned by spreading oak trees. With Olin having left the project, the job of refining those and other landscape elements has fallen to Nancy Goslee Power, who runs a landscape firm in Santa Monica and collaborated a decade ago with Gehry on the renovation of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. Related officials insist Power's job will be to flesh out, not recast, Olin's scheme.

At the plaza level, meanwhile, the design has made significant progress. Behind the free-standing retail pavilions along Grand rises a dense multi-level collection of shops and terraces. This effectively creates a kind of urban hillside: a third architectural presence with enough height and size to compete with the towers on either side. At sidewalk level along 1st, 2nd and Olive streets, the models now show a loosely stacked collection of geometric forms. Large, brightly colored concrete panels (where other Related projects might use impressive-looking stone) alternate with expanses of glass and punched-through openings for pedestrians or cars. The retail pavilions themselves, topped with colored-glass sunshades, suggest a dense interplay between closed-off and open-air spaces, between informality and refinement.

It's still not clear which retailers will fill those pavilions. Related has been hoping that an Apple computer store will occupy the most important retail corner, at Grand Avenue and 1st Street. But Related and Gehry say Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive, is interested in putting the same kind of sleek cube on that corner that he has used for other high-profile Apple stores. Since Gehry hates that idea, Apple may wind up in another downtown development.

The overall design has yet to solve some of its most stubborn problems. It is not as open in the direction of Broadway — and, in general, to the south and east — as it should be. The façade along Olive Street is still getting the back-of-house treatment. On top of that, the diverse mixture of forms, materials and colors that Gehry is using here as a means of disguising the project's bulk remains something of a gamble. In general, Gehry's most successful recent designs have used a limited, monochromatic material palette — steel panels for Disney Hall, titanium for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain — to temper their energetic forms.

And with the details of the commercial block still consuming so much of Related's energy, planning for the project's 16-acre park, which will run downhill from the Music Center to City Hall, continues to lag. A team headed by Mark Rios, who has quietly taken the lead on the park, is expected to unveil a preliminary design this fall.

There are those in this city who lament that we've pinned too many of our collective hopes on the Grand Avenue development. Certainly it would be a mistake to expect that when it's built it will feel anything like the beating heart of Los Angeles, or, to borrow Eli Broad's phrase, like our Champs-Élysées. But the project has proven to be a fascinating measuring stick for the emerging public-private partnership model of urban development. It has provided a remarkable late-career test for the 78-year-old Gehry, who understands that it will help shape his legacy — particularly as an architect so closely associated with Los Angeles — but who has grown accustomed to generous budgets and deferential clients.

And it would be a mistake to reject outright the idea that a commercial plaza thick with pricey shops can tell us something meaningful about the future of shared space in this city. Los Angeles is familiar with the notion of playing out public life in the private realm: Look at Universal CityWalk, or the Grove. In that sense, compared with those retail projects or the aloof California Plaza, the Grand Avenue project represents at least a tentative step by commercial forces back in the direction of substantial engagement with cities and city-making. Gehry and Related deserve credit for gamely challenging the notion that high-end retail spaces have to embrace either an old-fashioned or a numbingly sleek form of urbanism.

The most important question going forward is how Related officials will judge the architecture of the first phase. They may view it as an encouraging sign of what real architecture can bring to a development, in buzz and urban character as well as in sales. But it's also possible that they'll see their tumultuous experience with Gehry primarily as a cautionary tale — a bullet dodged — and move forward convinced that the risks they have taken so far aren't worth repeating.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2007, 4:26 AM
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I want to see what the New Yorkers will say considering they have 2 large scale Gehry projects in the works (Beekman Tower and Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn).

I said in the LA Rundown thread that this tower is so ugly it's beautiful. You surely can't deny it's presense.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2007, 1:27 PM
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SOOOOO COOOL. Reminds me of the Hudson Yards project in Manhattan, and watch this one get started first too. That phase one looks awesome (yum, Frank Gehry), and the whole plan looks very promising. It's exciting. L.A. is going to be such a different and amazing mega-metropolis in 20 years or so.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2007, 5:13 PM
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I like this one a lot. Hope it is built as rendered above.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2007, 9:20 PM
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It's like road-kill. You can't stop but stare.

From the rendering, looks like the scrap yard of old buildings and/or some of the abandoned buildings of Sao Paulo with Fred Flintstone homes at the base.

At least it's not a boring square box. It's growing on me but still it's sooooo odd.
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Old Posted Jun 12, 2007, 9:37 PM
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Well, it does seem like a lot of people will be actively around the building. This is not a structure you walk away from, it is curiosity in highrise form.
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Old Posted Jun 13, 2007, 1:15 PM
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for mr. gehry, this is like bush conservative. flat surfaces? limiting his bedazzling to a few classy undulating facades? a grandma's sunday best floral pattern painted loudly on the inner walls? chalk me up for "yes, i like it"
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Old Posted Jun 13, 2007, 6:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3madjack View Post
It's like road-kill. You can't stop but stare.
That's the truth. It's going to be sensory overload with the Disney Center and this gumbo of a building. The building alone will make people consider taking the steep hike up Bunker Hill.

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Old Posted Jun 13, 2007, 11:31 PM
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I was thinking the opposite. This fits in with the Disney concert hall and is a very interesting design. Even though I don't really like too much of Gehry's designs it is a lot more unique than the standard balconied condo towers sprouting up all over San Diego and Miami. And I hope this will help spur more development in downtown and keep away from further sprawl.
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Old Posted Jun 14, 2007, 1:27 PM
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VA_Gentleman, I think the age of suburban sprawl may be coming to close already in Southern California!
I like the design of the Grand Avenue Project Phase 1. Its enviro-friendly!

But isn't the WHOLE project approved, not just phase 1?
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Old Posted Jun 14, 2007, 4:56 PM
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The project scope, use, EIR and preliminary budgets are approved, not the designs. The designs for phases II and III don't exist yet in final form.
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Old Posted Jun 15, 2007, 3:37 PM
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Thanks Colemonkee; you see I 'm just curious, because according to our site's resources as well as Emporis', SEVERAL high rises are being planned for the other Parcels included in the project.
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Old Posted Jun 16, 2007, 4:23 AM
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I said in the LA Rundown thread that this tower is so ugly it's beautiful. You surely can't deny it's presense.
Ugly? Look at that brownish tower in the picture. Now that's ugly.

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Old Posted Jun 16, 2007, 4:54 AM
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^ Are you talking about the Wells Fargo Center? I've always liked it. It's actually a red granite. It's not architecturally ground-breaking by any means, but it's subtly reminiscent of IM Pei's polygonal red granite tower at 6500 Wilshire, and it plays very well against the bright blue of California Plaza.
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Old Posted Jun 16, 2007, 5:04 AM
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I agree with Colemonkey, always liked the two Wells Fargo complex (2) towers, with the red granite. Not the best in downtown LA (Gas Company is probably my fave), but they work well on Bunker Hill with the silver glass across the street in California Plaza. There is a lot worse to be found in LA.
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Old Posted Jun 16, 2007, 6:28 AM
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Wells Fargo has always been one of my favorites also. I think it has and will continue to age gracefully.

Does anyone think the last batch of renderings make the project appear to be turning its back to the park, civic center, and the historic core? Unless you are visiting the music center or working in one of the adjacent office towers, one seems to be viewing very unattractive facades.

Why does the "iconic" tower have to be L shaped? Previous massing models had the signature curving facades on all four sides. What was wrong with that?

Can I have Cal Plaza III now and wait 5-10 years for Grand Avenue?
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Old Posted Jun 16, 2007, 9:51 PM
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^ ^ ^

As far as we anybody knows, 3 California Plaza is still dead, unless some developer revives it.
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Old Posted Jun 17, 2007, 7:02 AM
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I agree with Colemonkey, always liked the two Wells Fargo complex (2) towers, with the red granite. Not the best in downtown LA (Gas Company is probably my fave), but they work well on Bunker Hill with the silver glass across the street in California Plaza. There is a lot worse to be found in LA.
Wells Fargo Plaza are awesome for the sole reason that they change shape.

Together they are two broad triangular buildings:


Other times, they are just boxes:


And the other, they can appear competely flat:
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Old Posted Jun 20, 2007, 5:46 PM
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This was in the newspaper today. I read the article on it. It says that it was approved 4-1 and construction should begin in October.
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Old Posted Nov 28, 2007, 8:33 PM
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Angelenic.com is has the latest scoop on the upcoming ground-breaking dates for these towers:

grand avenue project work begins december 3
by rico on November 27, 2007

After years of planning, delays and complicated teamwork from numerous architects, developers, construction companies, local governments and the resident community, site abatement work on Phase I of the Frank Gehry-designed Grand Avenue Project is confirmed to begin Monday, December 3.

The angelenic team was contacted by Related Companies’ Najla Kayyem, VP of Marketing and Public Relations, with the latest information on the $2 billion development, the largest in Downtown and possibly the city.

If you’re anticipating demolition of the tinker-toy parking structure at 1st and Grand to begin early next week, you’ll have to wait just a little longer. Demolition activity — as well as the accompanying star-studded groundbreaking ceremony —will coincide with the official February 7th ground-breaking date.

According to Ms. Kayyem, no “noticeable” work will occur on the Phase I parcel during the two-month abatement period, although cars will not be allowed to park in the structure. Abatement activities generally include soil sampling and demolition engineering. Actual details are still being worked out with the construction team but will be made available shortly.

The company will be debuting a new website for the development, which is being rebranded as “The Grand.” Though just a placeholder site at the moment, the finished product will go live in mid-December.

Funding for the civic park is in place and final plans are still being determined. The date for a public design review will be set in early December.
The park is an integral component of Related’s development, as the Grand Avenue Project’s Phase I certificate of occupancy will not be granted until the new green space is completed.

Project details for Phase I entail 1.3 million square feet of new construction, including a Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Equinox Fitness, mixed-income housing, retail space, 1,400 parking spaces and major streetscape improvements.

Photos of the site’s current tinker-toy parking structure viewable here and here. see http://www.angelenic.com/downtown-ge...er-3/#more-204 for pics.
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