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L.A.’s Best Architecture Is on the Ground

Don’t go gazing at the Los Angeles skyline if you want to see the most exciting new architecture in town. The 9.5-acre Vista Hermosa Park in downtown L.A. was given the grand prize at the 39th annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards.

Vista Hermosa Park

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Don’t go gazing at the Los Angeles skyline if you want to see the most exciting new architecture in town. The 9.5-acre Vista Hermosa Park in downtown L.A. was given the grand prize at the 39th annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards, illustrating how design and sustainability can play well together to help transform a marginalized community. The $15 million project is, incredibly, the first new park built in downtown Los Angeles since 1895, and includes a terraced lawn, watershed features, a playground, and synthetic athletic fields for one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States. Architects at Mia Lehrer + Associates worked closely with the community–which suffers from poverty, vandalism and gang violence–to create a safe, sustainable oasis for its residents.

Although L.A. has long been celebrated as a center for cutting-edge architectural innovation–think of the imposing red-lit Caltrans building by Thom Mayne or Frank Gehry’s crinkled aluminum-foil Disney Hall–the 29 projects recognized at the event prove that LA is a heavy-hitter when it comes to sustainability as well. The awards, which are given by the Los Angeles Business Council, focus not only on sustainability, but social responsibility, civic impact, and the unique collaboration between public and private entities. It’s a winning combination: As a group, these projects make up some of the most exciting architecture in the region. More highlights:

Formosa 1140

Formosa 1140 is an exciting multi-unit housing development designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects for the Habitat Group L.A. The West Hollywood project makes a dramatic nod to density by shifting the space that would have been occupied by a private courtyard into a public park that takes up almost a third of the lot. All eleven units have been sold, even in this housing climate.

Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure

Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure designed by Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners is easily the most gorgeous parking garage ever produced. Besides providing a new gateway to the civic center complex near the beach, the structure uses photovoltaic panels to generate enough energy to power the garage. Another bonus: With the technicolor details, you’ll never forget where you parked.

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The Green Dot Schools might be best known for founder Steve Barr’s hostile takeover of several LAUSD schools, but a focus on revamping crumbling infrastructure with cutting-edge architecture have made Green Dot schools landmarks in their communities. Working with John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects, the E. 27th Street Charter High Schools renovated two manufacturing warehouses located in South Los Angeles to bring natural light and improved air quality to the educational experience.

United Oil Company Rapid 3

United Oil Company Rapid 3 filling station takes the iconic Googie architecture of L.A.’s gas stations and blows it up to theatrical proportions. Kanner Architects wanted to nod to the optimistic, midcentury style but give it an unmistakably futuristic twist, customizing everything from the convenience store fixtures to the gas-price signage. The Baldwin Hills location is also quite appropriate, as the station faces north over the oil fields where rigs pump black gold out of Los Angeles hills.

Pasadena Bike Transit Center

Pasadena Bike Transit Center is a concept by Peter Tolkin Architecture that plays upon the iconic Metro stations in Paris to direct attention to biking alternatives for commuters. Located near Metro stations in Pasadena, and eventually throughout L.A., the centers will be fabricated using the same steel tubing as bikeframes and will glow softly at night.

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About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato

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