Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Los Angeles Unveils Frank Gehry Partners Plan For Downtown Arts District, Pedestrian-Based Grand Avenue Plaza, And 16-Acre Civic Park

"It isn't easy to create a real downtown district, vibrant and intense, in a city as sprawling and diffuse as Los Angeles, Frank Gehry admits. But that's what he has set out to do with his design for Grand Avenue, unveiled in preliminary form yesterday.

The $750 million project, which includes the first high-rises he has ever designed for his hometown, is the first phase of a $1.8 billion development plan by the Related Companies that will remake Grand Avenue as a pedestrian-based gathering point.

"When we talk about L.A. having a downtown, it's a stretch, because L.A. is so spread out as a city," Mr. Gehry said in a telephone interview. "Our downtown probably is a linear one — Wilshire Boulevard or Sunset Boulevard."

He said his goal was "to develop the beginning of a community that has the body language of a community and has the scale of a community."

Constituting a full city block across the street from Mr. Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, which opened in 2003, the three acres to be developed in the first phase include a hotel, residences, retail businesses, restaurants and public amenities. Mr. Gehry's schematic design, still in the planning stages, features two L-shaped towers. The taller one, a 47-story glass building at the corner of Second and Grand, is to house a hotel with about 275 rooms and a condominium with 250 units on the upper floors. The other, rising 25 stories at Olive and First Streets, will have space for 150 lofts and condominiums and 100 affordable apartments....

The towers will feature several terrace levels with greenery designed by the landscape architect Laurie D. Olin, he added....

The design calls for plazas and walkways that would connect the Grand Avenue neighborhood to the city's downtown cultural center, which in addition to Disney Hall includes the Music Center, the Colburn School and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

"We wanted to create an art district that would go from MoCA to Temple Street, with a streetscape that has trees, paving and lighting," Mr. Gehry said....

The architect links his new buildings to a 16-acre civic park that is also to be built as part of the first phase.

Some city experts have questioned the wisdom of trying to generate a downtown in Los Angeles. In a commentary in The Los Angeles Times last year, Joel Kotkin, author of "The City: A Global History" (Modern Library, 2005), wrote that the city "might want to consider whether public resources and private capital could be more effectively channeled into the far-flung neighborhoods of this city where most of us actually live and work."

"These are the places — not this ersatz downtown, Eli Broad's faux Champs-Élysées — that constitute the collective heart of this city and epitomize Los Angeles's unique brand of civic greatness," he added. But Mr. Gehry said planners were striving for a design that would capitalize on Los Angeles's essential identity.

"It's not New York, it's not Paris — it's a different image and we're struggling to find it," Mr. Gehry said. "You don't have a downtown. This is an attempt to find one.""

Robin Pogrebin "Los Angeles With a Downtown? Gehry's Vision" New York Times, April 25, 2006


Two towers anchor the first phase of an extensive development project on Grand Avenue in 'downtown' Los Angeles near the new Walt Disney Concert Hall. [Click on image to enlarge.]

Photo credit: Frank Gehry Partners via nytimes.com


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