Designing L.A.

When the city is populated with as many creatives as LA is, options for cultivating creativity are limitless. Downtown Los Angeles is becoming one of the most vibrant and exciting urban centers in America for design.

Four historical Southern California landmarks are in the process of renovation, each proposed as a design contest. Each project is expected to modernize, provide more jobs, re-stabilize earthquake hazardous buildings, and drive the number of marketable buildings in the city.

“Investing in Los Angeles is an investment in our future: bringing more revenue, visitors and jobs to Los Angeles,” according to Mayor Eric Garcetti.


After being declared as “concrete cancer”, the city proposed the newest design competition—a Los Angeles landmark, demolished to make way for a new icon that will draw attention toward the long-neglected L.A. River. The project, which will create nearly 5,000 jobs, officially broke ground on the new bridge in February 2015, is expected to be completed in late 2018 and opened in 2019.

1. 6th St. Bridge :

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced HNTB Corporation will see its ambitious design become a reality as the firm was announced as the winner among three finalists.

Architect Eric Owen Moss, a member of the panel, explained the reasons for selecting HNTB’s proposal:

“People have said that the tradition of innovative architecture in Los Angeles belonged to a particular generation or a particular period of time…I think that the charge for the committee was that Los Angeles’ tradition of non-tradition in design and architecture was sustained, and I think we’ve done that.”

The mayor proudly noted that while this was an international competition, the community was involved in every step of the way, including community presentations, and that the process should be a model for future public works projects.

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Okay, so maybe you already heard about the design projects taking place at the famous 6th St. bridge and Pershing Square. Oh, no? More on Pershing later… but how about the newest design competition proposed for the park in City Hall’s front yard, off the streets First and Broadway?

2. FAB :

Purchased by the City’s Department of Recreation and Parks from the State in 2013, the park was made a dedicated site for the development of a new park under the City’s “50 Parks Initiative”.

A 2-level underground parking structure on the site was demolished to make way for the park.

Four LA-based design teams have been shortlisted — the landscape group of AECOM (also in the 6th st. bridge competition), a vast engineering and architecture firm that built the police headquarters in downtown; Mia Lehrer + Associates, Landscape Architects whose projects include the LA river revitalization plan, the National History Museum gardens and the landscaping of the NFL stadium site in Inglewood; Brooks + Scarpa Architects, whose portfolio includes artful residences and multifamily projects; Eric Owen Moss, former director of SCI-Arc who transformed the Hayden Tract in Culver City with highly idiosyncratic remodels of warehouses.

It should be interesting to see this project flourish, with influences from serpentine style pavilions, such as the one at the famous Hyde Park in London.

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Right…so if you didn’t know, Pershing Square, Los Angeles’ oldest park in the heart of DTLA, is being commissioned to be re-envisioned into the city’s new town square.

3. Pershing Square :

The city, along with private partners, began looking at how to redesign Pershing Square into a modern, functional public park earlier last year.

Currently in phase three of competition, after reviewing initial proposals from 10 semi-finalist design teams, the partnership group Pershing Square Renew on Monday, Dec. 21, announced four finalists:  (1) SWA with Morphosis, (2) James Corner Field Operations with Frederick Fisher and Partners, (3) Agence TER with SALT Landscape Architects, and  (4) wHY with Civitas.

The four finalists’ proposals differ in scope and style, but all prioritize breaking up Pershing Square’s fortress-like borders to ease access, and expanding greenery or landscaping to fit multiple purposes, according to Pershing Square Renew.

Teams will have to submit their proposals for review on April 6, 2016. The winner will be announced in May.

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Of course, after all that speculation about an NFL team coming down to Los Angeles (if you’re not into sports, or the news, the Rams have decided to move by the 2016 season), the Convention Center being a primary choice, ultimately didn’t make the final cut to be turned into the potential stadium. Los Angeles has needed to update the LA Convention Center for a long time and for a while it thought this was the solution.

4. LA Convention Center :

But that project fell completely apart and so the city got quietly to work on a different plan. They selected three teams to go on to a design competition: AC Martin Inc. and LMN Architects, Gensler and Lehrer Architects, and HMC Architects and Populous. Below are some of their proposed designs, according the White Papers released by the city.

Each firm has a budget of $350 million or less and must present a vision for both expanding the convention center and modernizing the existing complex.

The LACC is at a historic crossroads. For many years, it has been viewed as an underachieving City asset, or even as a ‘white elephant,’ but now there is a tremendous opportunity to change that perception,” noted Mayor Eric Garcetti.
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