From the desk of Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director of Government & Public Affairs
My Thoughts on Times Mirror Square
Point of clarification: The following observation of the Times Mirror Square is purely the opinion of Will Wright and is not meant to represent the point of view or the official position of AIA Los Angeles.
Today is Thursday, September 20, 2018. While I am currently attending the 5th annual POWERFUL: Women Leading Design conference on the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, across Grand Park on the 10th floor of Los Angeles City Hall, the Cultural Heritage Commission is voting on a recommendation to City Council to “consider and declare’ historical cultural monument status for Times Mirror Square. As you know, Times Mirror Square is the pre-eminent complex of integrated buildings between First and Second Streets and Broadway and Springs Streets in Downtown LA.
It’s comprised of the following structures:
(Along Spring Street between First and Second)
1.) Los Angeles Times Building (1935) – Gordon B. Kaufmann, architect
2.) Mirror Building (1948) – Rowland H. Crawford, architect
(Along Broadway between First and Second)
3.) The new corporate headquarters (1973) – William L. Pereira & Associates
4.) A parking garage
5.) A former printing plant
The Canadian-based real estate company Onni Group bought the property in 2016. Although Onni Group wants to preserve, restore and repurpose the two historical buildings along Spring Street, they also have a proposal to demolish the 1973 annex along Broadway (designed by William L. Pereira Architects) and replace that section of the block with two new towers and a wide mid-block pedestrian paseo connecting First and Second Streets. I’m not here to talk too much about the proposed design (yet), which has been led by AC Martin. I’m certain that that proposed design will continue to evolve in a positive and performative direction.
Instead, I want to emphasize the need to celebrate the past, embrace the possibilities of the future and to enjoy greater clash & harmony in their interaction.
As observed on SCPR’s Take Two by Ken Bernstein, the Principal City Planner and Manager at L.A.’s Office of Historic Resources, the Times Mirror Square complex exemplifies the narrative of Los Angeles as a place and its origination and evolution led by the influence of the Chandler Family, The Los Angeles Times and the prominence of architects Kaufmann, Crawford and Pereira.
Yes, it deserves the status of an Historical Cultural Monument. To me, that much is certain. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we can not continue telling the story of Los Angeles on this same block with new, additional structures. I think that City Council should recognize that, even if it eventually votes to grant it HCM status, the entire block does not need to be preserved unchanged in amber. That instead, with the opportunity to add new structures to this block (especially under the design leadership AC Martin and other firms that understand the intricacies of the civic center neighborhood), that the Times Mirror Square can continue serving as a landmark that tells the story of Los Angeles; it’s past, present and future ongoing.
Although Pereira and his firm helped define the look of mid-20th Century America, it’s important to note that some of his other projects may serve better at preserving the importance of that legacy and contribution.
Pepperdine University (Malibu), Transamerica Pyramid (San Francisco), AT&T Center (Los Angeles), Pacific Life Building (Newport Beach). And my personal favorite:
611 Place (Los Angeles).
In fact, I’d love to see someone convert 611 Place into a residential tower and fully restore its prominence along Sixth Street and Grand Avenue in Downtown LA.
Not to mention the projects Pereira & Luckman created: notably the LAX “Theme Building” along with architects Paul Williams and Welton Becket and the CBS Television City (Los Angeles).
Sidenote: I love that painting of Pereira’s LACMA on fire (The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1965–68, Ed Ruscha).
Another sidetone: It’s important to note that Pereira’s firm eventually became Johnson & Fain, which was founded in 1989 by architects Scott Johnson, FAIA and William H. Fain, Jr., FAIA adding to the narrative that defines Los Angeles as a place.
So in the context of that legacy, and with the optimal (and ever evolving) utilization of the vital corner of 1st and Broadway in mind, is it more important to keep this corner “as is” or to add to it?
In fact, I think William Pereira would take pride in the fact that his 1973 annex served as a launchpad for a future design that will continue to add to the story of Los Angeles as it moves forward.
Like a turtle shell (or the universe itself), the past continues to expand and the future is an iterative reflexology well-informed by the framework provided by cultural legacy, and the more flexible and malleable the better. Trees grow, branches break. Mountains calve granite boulders. To thrive, everything needs the chance to molt.
For instance, while I’m eating my lunch here on the 5th floor of the Dorothy Chandler, I’m watching the construction team work on the plaza renovation at the Music Center (Rios Clementi Hale Studios). In the near distance, out the window I can see the former MWD Headquarters, which was renovated into the Elysian apartment building not too many years ago. It’s an excellent example of a William Pereira building upgraded with new design features by David Gray Architects.
AC Martin’s LADWP headquarters building is having a conversation with AC Martin’s Los Angeles City Hall (as well as AC Martin’s renovation of the Hall of Records) and they’re reminding us to have faith in our architecture community’s ability to find the balance between designing for tomorrow’s needs while preserving the strength and legacy of our past achievements.
The civic center and its immediate vicinity is continuing to evolve and will inevitably emerge as a more complete community. We’ll wait and see what happens with implementation of LA’s Civic Center masterplan, Parker Center and the Civic Center Mall. Too much is currently up in the air. However, what is more certain is the imminent Regional Connector transit line, the future development of FAB Park at First and Broadway (Studio MLA, OMA and Gruen Associates) and the 222 W. 2nd Street proposal for the tower at Second and Broadway (designed by Gensler), which will sit atop the subway portal to the Regional Connector.
Therefore, what I think is vital to the discussion is not should we cast in amber Times Mirror Square as it currently stands, but how do we continue adding to that block in a smart and sensitive way so that the story of Los Angeles can continue to be told and that the new structures added there will have an intelligent conversation with FAB Park, 222 W. 2nd Street building, SOM’s Federal Courthouse and AECOM’s LAPD Headquarters.
FAB Park, by the way, will be built on the site of the former third LA Times Headquarters, which was torn down in 1938.
So yes, let’s encourage City Council to bestow HCM status on Times Mirror Square — but at the same time, let’s give City Council the courage and the depth of perspective that even with HCM status, it is still possible to delicately remove the Pereira addition and add new function and viability to the site with much-needed housing. Also, by adding the pedestrian courtyard on the westside of the Times and Mirror Buildings, you will be able to restore the grace and beauty of that side of the buildings, which currently are cut-off from the discourse of the rest of the civic center. By elevating the mass into the sky, we can open up more of the ground plane along First, Broadway and Second Street and energize this part of Times Mirror Square with more open space and public access.
In addition, by removing the Pereira annex, we will be able to restore the ability to resurrect the sixth floor outdoor courtyards on the wide shoulders of the Kaufman building, which will have beautiful view shed of FAB park, Grand Park and the rest of the ever-evolving Civic Center.
Update: as of 1pm on September 20, the Cultural Heritage Commission voted to recommend HCM status approval. City Council’s Planning and Land-Use Management committee will next host a public hearing to consider landmark status before sending their recommendation along to the full City Council to consider.
And now….what to do with the County of Los Angeles Hall of Administration and the Stanley Mosk Courthouse. Perhaps we can add a few thousand units of housing on top of that pair of buildings? Or, if not more housing, then at least a giant bmx track and skate park?
From AIA California Council:
The annual AIACC Advocacy Survey is now open through September 26.
In order to successfully propose positive changes to state law, the AIACC annually surveys its Membership for suggested changes to state law and for other issues affecting architects and government relations.
This survey helps AIACC prioritize the governmental advocacy agenda for 2019. The results will be reviewed by the AIACC Advocacy Advisory Committee (AAC) and as part of the AAC’s October addenda there will be a discussion regarding the establishment of short and long-term advocacy goals which will be recommended to the AIACC Board of Directors.
Thank you for your time to complete this important survey. Your participation makes it possible for the AIACC to advance an advocacy agenda that benefits architects.
For more information from AIACC, please click here.
From AIA National:
WASHINGTON – Sept. 12, 2018 – The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is speaking out in strong opposition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed “Affordable Clean Energy Rule (E.P.A. RIN 2060-AT67),” which establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions at their power plants.
In comments filed on Sept. 6 to EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, AIA’s 2018 President Carl Elefante, FAIA, and EVP & Chief Executive Officer Robert Ivy, FAIA, stated the following:
“The American Institute of Architects (AIA) is firmly and unequivocally opposed to the EPA proposed ‘Affordable Clean Energy’ rule. We believe that, if enacted, the proposed, ‘Emission Guidelines for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Existing Electric Utility Generating Units,’ will be detrimental to the health of all Americans and will greatly undermine the fight against global warming.
“For 160 years, the AIA has worked to advance the quality of life of all Americans and protect the public’s health, safety and welfare. The AIA’s 90,000 members work every day to advance our nation’s built environment through design. From designing the next generation of energy-saving buildings to promoting equitable and livable neighborhoods and making our communities healthier and safer, architects play a central role in influencing and improving public health through their work.
“This obligation to safeguard public health is most apparent in our efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions caused by building energy use. This Administration’s proposal to roll back the Clean Power Plan is moving the United States in the opposite direction of the protection afforded under the plan. It will directly impede the ability of our members to meet their professional obligations.
“AIA also challenges the EPA’s assertion that this proposed rule would create ‘more jobs’. A 2017 report from the U.S. Department of Energy shows that clean energy jobs far surpass those in the fossil fuel industry. In sum, the study states that, ‘nearly 1 million Americans are working near- or full-time in the energy efficiency, solar, wind and alternative vehicles sector. This is almost five times the current employment in the fossil fuel electric industry, which includes coal, gas and oil workers.’
“The EPA proposed rule is a not-so-thinly veiled attempt to overturn the Clean Power Plan. The rulemaking process set forth in the Clean Air Act guarantees that decisions affecting regulated parties and the public health and welfare will be made based upon a careful consideration of law, evidence and comments from the public. The agency’s commitment to full participation from all stakeholders affected by Clean Air Act rules has contributed to the Act’s remarkable success over almost 50 years of saving lives, protecting the nation’s natural resources, and contributing to a robust economy.
“Please note AIA’s strong opposition to this proposed rule.”
Visit AIA’s website for more information on its efforts to combat climate change.
For more information from AIA National, please contact:
Will Wright, Hon. AIA|LA
Director, Government & Public Affairs
American Institute of Architects- Los Angeles Chapter
3780 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 701
Los Angeles, CA 90010
(o) (213) 639-0764