Moby has left "tall, expensive" New York for "delirious" LA. He talks about his passion for LA architecture and the photo blog he's writing about it. But LA's own mini-Manhattan is seeing some changes. Hear about the rise, fall and reinvention of the former Arco Plaza, with Orly Shuber, Don Spivack, Richard Hammond, Rob Jernigan, Steven Drucker and Sylvia Lavin.
FROM THIS EPISODE
Chances are, you know Moby best for his electronic dance music, often featured here on KCRW. But it turns out the eclectic-minded musician has another life, as an architecture buff who recently moved to LA and now writes a blog about buildings here he loves. The blog is called, simply, Moby Los Angeles Architecture Blog, and features his photos of local architecture—from commonplace courtyard apartments to iconic houses by Frank Lloyd Wright—as well as his musings on the urban environment. In fact, many of the photos are taken in Moby's Hollywood Hills neighborhood, where he himself owns a very architecturally interesting house. Frances met Moby last week, at A+D Museum’s Celebrate event, and asked him whether he had a secret architecture background.
Moby posted this photo of a friend's house to illustrate the often misleading facades of LA homes. "when seen from the outside with its black metal door it kind of looks like a crystal meth dispensary with shrubbery," he writes.
Moby continues: "but then you walk in the front door and you see gigant-o (that’s a technical term in architecture circles) windows looking dramatically out over the hills and mountains and griffith observatory and downtown."
For all of LA's sprawl and suburbia, there is a part of our city that has tried hard to be a mini-Manhattan: LA’s corporate downtown. One of its icons, the former Arco Plaza, has endured ups and downs of various design and development schemes to make it more attractive to urban workers. Arco Plaza was completed in 1972, designed by the LA firm AC Martin. For a New York minute it was the tallest twin tower in the world, until the completion the following year of New York’s World Trade Center. In the decades following its completion, the towers saw the boom and bust of downtown's real estate market. A few weeks ago, the complex, which is now named Paul Hastings Tower and City National Tower, mounted a modern dance performance by Heidi Duckler which used the empty 51st floor as the backdrop for office workers who hurtled through hallways and rolled around office desks. Dancer and filmmaker Orly Shuber describes the unique space and its dramatic views of downtown.
A dance performance had office workers leaping through the corporate setting
Photo by Vivian Babuts
Recently, City National Plaza has benefitted from a renewed interest in LA's urban core. Don Spivack, a former deputy chief of operations for CRA/LA describes the changes that came to downtown in the last few decades. Tom Ricci, of Thomas Properties, recounts how their company poured millions into upgrades of the buildings, and looked for a unique mix of tenants who would bring vitality to the large urban plaza. Restaurants like Drago Centro and Chaya moved in, and two new creative tenants, Gensler and Shlemmer+Algaze+Associates. Gensler's design director Richard Hammond discusses their choice to move the firm from Santa Monica to downtown, and Gensler's managing principal for the LA office, Rob Jernigan, describes the transformation of their new offices, which look more like an energetic tech company than an architecture firm. And Shlemmer+Algaze+Associates's Steven Drucker talks about their new headquarters, an exciting ground-floor space off the lobby.
Bright colors, natural light, and materials that appear to float in space at Gensler's headquarters
Gensler's offices in City National Plaza have an energy that's more like a tech or advertising firm
The interiors of SAA's office off the lobby of the north tower, City National Tower
SAA's offices look out onto the pedestrian plaza between the two towers
But the space is not without its critics. Some have charged that Gensler was issued federal Housing and Urban Development grants that should have been directed towards social programs, not a headquarters for a corporation. UCLA professor Sylvia Lavin, who is working on a show about art and architectural practice in the 1970s, discusses the role of creative firms as corporate citizens within the urban environment. Both buildings are open for tours, contact us at dna[at]kcrw[dot]com for details.
City National Tower and Paul Hastings Tower in downtown LA
Orly Shuber, Filmmaker and photographer
Don Spivack, Former Deputy Chief of Operations for Community Redevelopment Agency
Richard Hammond, Design Director at Gensler
Rob Jernigan, Managing Principal of Gensler's Los Angeles Office
Steven Drucker, Design Principal at Shlemmer+Algaze+Associates
Sylvia Lavin, Professor at UCLA's School of Architecture and Urban Design