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Photo: Culver Studios in Culver City, the new home of Amazon Studios.

Remembering John Portman, architect of Bonaventure Hotel 8 MIN, 43 SEC


The Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, designed by John Portman and completed in 1976. Photo by Jim Winstead/Flickr.

John Portman, the architect and developer of gleaming hotels and office buildings that defined the future back in the 1960s and 70s, died this past Friday at age 93.

Angelenos will best know him as the architect of the iconic Westin Bonaventure Hotel, completed in 1976.

The hotel was part of the wholesale redevelopment of Bunker Hill, and its design -- four cylinders of shiny brown glass and flying see-through elevators -- was in the spirit of the car-based planning of the area with elevated pedways and entrances via underground parking structures.

Initially heralded for helping revitalize downtowns, Portman’s buildings came to be criticized by a new generation of planners for their lack of connection to the streets around them. But the futurism of the Bonaventure Hotel made it a constant source of inspiration for movie-makers.

DnA talks to the LA Conservancy’s Cindy Olnick, who grew up in Georgia and recalls the thrill of his Peachtree Center district.

Ken Bernstein, manager of the City of LA’s Office of Historic Resources and Principal City Planner, reflects on the Bonaventure’s impact on his appreciation of Los Angeles architecture.

Craig Hodgetts, architect and keen student of futurism, talks about how Portman channeled the popular science and culture of the time -- and why he had to become a developer to create his visionary buildings.

Cindy Olnick, L.A. Conservancy
Ken Bernstein, Los Angeles Department of City Planning
Craig Hodgetts, Hodgetts + Fung / UCLA (@HodgettsandFung)

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Colin Marshall's video essay about the Bonaventure Hotel in movies and TV

Culver City, the "Heart of Screenland," comes alive again 9 MIN, 16 SEC

An architectural rendering of Ivy Station Complex, at the intersections of Venice, Washington and National Boulevards just adjacent to the Metro Expo Line. Image courtesy KFA.

When developer Harry Culver founded Culver City back in 1917, he advertised it as the “Heart of Screenland.” 

A century later, the new generation of film and TV studios is streaming in.

Amazon Studios, the retail giant’s film and TV production arm, is moving its headquarters from Santa Monica to Culver Studios, where Gone With the Wind was filmed. HBO will build its new Los Angeles headquarters in town, and Apple is expanding its footprint here too.

The companies are attracted by its central location and easy access afforded by the Expo Line. And the city has a number of major residential and retail developments in the works to further cement its appeal to a new generation of workers.

But how do locals feel -- and will they be able to afford the new Culver City?

KCRW’s Jenny Hamel reports on the big changes coming to a small city.

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Demolition to start soon to build new HBO headquarters in Culver City
Amazon Studios moving to Culver Studios in Culver City

Platform's developers want to reinvent the mall 10 MIN, 8 SEC

Platform in Culver City. Photo by Frances Anderton.

At the intersections of Venice, Washington and National Boulevards just adjacent to the Metro Expo Line is a bite-size mall called Platform that is emblematic of the changes taking place in Culver City.

The four-acre complex of boutiques and fancy eateries, opened in 2016 and developed by David Fishbein and Joseph Miller of Runyon Group, is not anchored by a Macy’s or Nordstroms. It sits on the site of a car dealership that was once owned by Miller’s family. Now it is aimed at train riders as much as drivers.

Boutique stores like Shades of Grey, Rabbit Ladders, Aesop and Tom Dixon are there; along with Sweetgreen, Loqui, Blue Bottle and a Soulcycle. The mix is kept dynamic with pop-ups and street fairs. And people are encouraged to hang out in outdoor seating areas amidst luscious greenery by design firm Elysian Landscapes.

As online delivery services suck the life from malls and main street retail, Fishbein and Miller say brick and mortar can still work -- if you do it differently, with carefully selected one-off stores and experiences that make it worth getting off the couch.

Platform is the start of a bigger complex. Runyon Group has started construction on a much larger building just west of Platform. They were creative consultants and leasing agents at the new ROW DTLA, on the site of the onetime L.A. Terminal Market.

DnA talks to David Fishbein and Joseph Miller about what drew the pair to development, why they believe they can make main street retail work, and how Platform reflects a changing Culver City.

Joseph Miller, Runyon Group
David Fishbein, Runyon Group

Meet the minds behind Platform, L.A.'s hottest urban development
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Platform shopping development in Culver City loads up with Aesop, Blue Bottle, Kilter and more

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