Grand Park marks its first birthday today, and the reasons to celebrate keep rolling in. The American Planning Association last week named it one of the Great Places in America for 2013. The annual award recognizes “authentic places [that] have been shaped by forward-thinking planning that showcases diverse architectural styles, promotes community involvement and accessibility, and fosters economic opportunity.”
The award affirms what Los Angeles residents and visitors have already discovered over the past 12 months: a spectacular public park that is creating a nucleus for a city long accused of lacking one. Attendance at Grand Park has far exceeded anyone’s highest expectations for its first year, says Tony Paradowski, Senior Associate and a lead designer on Grand Park for over six years.
The overwhelming response, says Paradowski, is due in large part to the tireless work of the people at the Music Center, who have been responsible for the park’s seamless operation and the innovative programming that has drawn people downtown from all over Southern California. Jurors and government workers decompress at the park’s free lunchtime yoga sessions. The weekly farmer’s market fills the air with the scent of local produce and fresh flowers. Sunday concerts have people dancing in the aisles. And kids of all ages never miss a chance to splash around in the restored fountain.
The park hosts its own birthday party tonight with food trucks and a free concert on the Performance Lawn. Sprinkles is commemorating the anniversary with special Grand Park cupcakes, available through Oct. 11 at their FIGat7th location.
RCHS and Johnson Fain Selected to Renovate Crystal Cathedral
Our office, along with Johnson Fain, has been selected to renovate the former Crystal Cathedral and transform the 34-acre campus into the home of the Christ Cathedral and Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
“The Crystal Cathedral is an established international landmark and is much lauded for its architectural inspiration and iconic stature…Johnson Fain and Rios Clementi Hale Studios have the experience and ability to respect the building’s original design inspiration while creating a fitting and functional home for Orange County’s 1.3 million Catholics,” Bishop Kevin W. Vann said at the 8th annual Orange County Catholic Prayer Breakfast last Wednesday.
Osmar, Maria, and Cat reflect on their summer at RCHS
Osmar, Maria, and Cat share reflections on their summer internship at RCHS! They each left a tremendous impact on our office, and we are so thankful they spent the time that they did with us.
“I am currently a first year student at the USC School of Architecture, and my 11-week summer internship at Rios Clementi Hale Studios could not have been a better head start for my career choice. As a recent high school graduate, I eagerly anticipated the many wonders an architect’s career held, and my expectations were far exceeded while at RCHS.
My first week, I began by working in the model building phase of the Columbia Square project. Immediately, the many trade secrets and dexterous approaches of Ryan Vasquez, the model shop manager, began to unfold. Throughout the model building process, I learned how to interpret project designs on paper and apply them to a physical model. I gained a comprehensive understanding of the design and creative process of projects. And, even more, I automatically began to learn the quotidian life of a true architect.
The routine Monday morning meetings led to great insight of the firm’s current projects and ever interesting “lessons learned.” The weekly design reviews became the ultimate learning experience and was a sneak peek to future models to be built. As a supplement to model making, I dedicated several hours to precedent research of certain projects. Slowly, I began to appreciate the different phases of a project to a greater extent. But even better, the cherry to my sundae summer was the site visits. At site visits, I not only learned the many physical and non-physical components of the architectural constructions but also visualized and understood completely the models I had helped build. The delicate and precious models of the shop became alive and present to me at construction sites.
My summer marvels did not cease quite yet, however. I faced the unexpected aspect of landscaping and learned how to accurately interpret it amidst the partnering architectural components. As my learning horizon widened, each day I gained a greater sense of inclusion to the RCHS family. Above all, I learned more than the finesse of model making or the proficiency of a design process, I experienced the entirety of a design culture, one that propones more than quality results but quality making of those results. Thank you RCHS for a splendid summer!” – Osmar Molina
“One of the biggest highlights of my summer with Rios Clement Hale Studios was definitely the people at the company! Everybody was welcoming, interesting and enthusiastic. I never felt like a lowly intern, but always as part of the team. During our site visits, everyone took time to thoroughly explain the projects and answer our questions. During my ten weeks with the company, I greatly appreciated the level of responsibility entrusted upon me. As interns, were free to explore and develop crazy proposals and pursue interesting research avenues for our weekly team meetings. Another fun and important event was the weekly Design Review which is open for all to attend. Each Friday afternoon, a selected project is presented for critique and engaging discussion. Our project was presented during two of the reviews and I was quite inspired about pursuing a career in the design field. It’s been a few weeks since I have finished my internship with Rios Clementi Hale, and school is around the corner, but I must admit that as much as I look forward to school, I was quite sad for the internship to end!” – Maria Sviridova
“I finished my internship with RCHS about a month ago, and now I’m back up at Berkeley starting up my final year of grad school. Although I love being back at school, I’m definitely missing the office and people at RCHS!
For me, the best part of the summer was definitely working on the Stormproof competition with my fellow intern, Maria. The competition challenge was about ‘stormproofing’ cities and communities, and we chose to focus our efforts on the debris basins of Los Angeles. Designed by the Army Corps of Engineers to “catch” the debris flows of LA’s notorious landslides, our research revealed that the collective system of concrete debris basins – amounting to 900 wasted acres of public space — were shockingly inefficient, aging, and wasteful.
Every week Maria and I strategized with an interdisciplinary team of designers to create a new landscape infrastructure that would protect LA in storm events, but also act as a valuable and accessible public space to the community at large. Parting from traditional idea of infrastructure that weakens and breaks as it ages, our new landscape infrastructure uses the energy and material created by storm events to its advantage, strengthening and evolving as a space over time. Hopefully, this helps to re-frame the community’s discussion about disaster protection and public space in Los Angeles.” - Cat Reibel
Fridays at 5 + Machineous
Our second Fridays at 5 event was a total thematic detour from our first one with Studio Mumbai. Last month was all about craftsmen in the Indian countryside…this week we heard stories about a man and his robots. Our guests were Andreas Froech and Denis Grunfeld from Machineous. Machineous is a custom fabrication and R&D company that specializes in projects that use robotic machining equipment for part making.
Over beer and empanadas, Andreas showed us work their studio has created over the last 4 years while musing about the intersections of art + architecture + fabrication. When their office opened in 2008, he was able to take advantage of automotive industry fire sales to purchase a few robotic arms. He adapted them for CNC-type operation, and began fabricating some very surprising objects including towers of plastic, wood crystal tables, twisted brick facades, and spaces carved with chain saws attached to robot arms. The robotic arms help with all the repetitive grunt work, but all final assembly and finishing is done by hand.
Field Visit #5: Playa Vista Community Center
For our final field visit, we toured the Playa Vista Community Center construction site, which is a very busy place these days! This community center will be the second one for the neighborhood, and is the first building to break ground as part of Playa Vista’s Phase II development. The new 25,000 square foot, two-story building will provide a private fitness center and pool deck for residents, as well as other facilities including classrooms, a large meeting room, and a demonstration kitchen. There will also be a new public ½ acre park directly adjacent to the center.
Currently, the main steel structure is being erected, with significant progress gained each day. The building’s foundation is composed of a combination of grade beams and piles; a total of 88 piles, reaching 50 feet +/- into the ground. The grade beams are additionally used to support the remaining columns, and provide support for the floor slabs.
The impressive structural framing will also support a green roof that meanders through the building’s floor plan. The green roof will be visible in various places throughout the center, creating the feeling of an indoor/outdoor environment. Furthering the indoor/outdoor experience, the building is designed to take advantage of western prevailing breezes, which means it will need almost no cooling or heating.
A+D ARkidECTURE WORKSHOP: PlaySpace
A+D Museum invited our office to host a one day design-build workshop for kids aged 7-12 as part of their ARkidECTURE event series. Workshops in this series allow kids to explore creative disciplines through a hands-on project created by hosting firms. We had the opportunity to teach kids what it means to be a multi-disciplinary design studio. We started by giving everyone a tour of our office and presented five projects including our building at 639 N. Larchmont, Grand Park, the Center for Early Education, Caltech Childcare Center, and the Playa Vista Community Center. We discussed how architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, graphic design, product design, and urban design tools can come together to tell a story (and create the spaces) in these projects.
We then presented the kids with our design problem: design a PlaySpace that tells a story about the intended activities for the space. The kids were asked to select two actions, such as jumping or twirling. Next, they chose a site condition in which these actions were to take place, such as a snowy day or a sunny day. Finally, they were asked to select at least three design features that they felt would best tell the story of their PlaySpace. These design features included typical urban design, landscape architecture, architecture, interior design, graphic design and product design tools. Everyone was provided with modeling materials, inspirational images of the actions, site condition examples, and design features. RCHS and A+D staff worked with the kids, providing design feedback and model-making advice. After an intensive 1.5-hour model-making session, the kids presented their work to the group.
As they left, participants received a set of postcards showing images of the RCHS projects that were presented in the tour, as well as a colorful snack set gift from notNeutral. See more photos of the day on our Facebook page!
Field Visit #4 Caltech Child-Care Center
We went out to Pasadena on a hot day to visit Caltech’s new child-care center and met with Mike Tramutola (Landscape) and Tom Myers (Architect) who are working through the construction phase with Matt Construction. They walked us around. The main entrance of the nursery and day care center is immediately visible and will be welcoming to young children and parents entering the building. As one walks into the expansive entrance you are oriented toward the interior courtyard’s landscape and the walls begin to frame an abstract view of sky. The entrance ceilings are going to be painted a pale blue that matches the color of the sky, making the space feel accessible, airy, and much like an extension of the outdoor environment.
This is a Design Build construction project. One of the unexpected “field coordinated design” moments between GC & Architect, occurs at the front desk. Originally intended to align with the ceiling soffit, during the speedy course of construction the desk had to be re-oriented to avoid conduit lines. However, its new angled position opened up other possibilities: a more direct relationship to the entrance, providing a more welcoming experience for those coming into the building.
The outdoor area incorporates learning into design; kids can play in an expansive courtyard space that mimics the surrounding area’s ecosystem and water cycle. Runoff from the new “butterfly” rooflines is diverted into a landscape designed arroyo, or seasonal creek, that weaves a playful and interactive path through the outdoor courtyard, simultaneously separating and uniting the buildings of the three age groups.
Field Visit #3: Hillside Residence
This week we visited the construction site of a hillside home in Los Angeles. The home will be perched atop a very steep slope, granting it magnificent views of Los Angeles below, but also presenting the designer with a great engineering and grading challenge. The site itself is large, but a very small portion is flat – requiring shoring piles to reinforce the home’s terraced design down the hillside. The steep slope is further reinforced with strategic plantings that provide both erosion control and an intimate garden space.
We love how the hillside structural concrete needed to build on the slope is gracefully integrated into the home’s structure and floor plan – the appearance of support piles is minimized by nesting within the structure. The house appears to almost float on the hillside. We also love how the home’s design takes advantage of the site’s vertical space, allowing almost every room to experience sweeping views of the canyon below.
Fridays at 5 + Studio Mumbai
Our first official Visiting Designer + Happy Hour
Thanks to a fortunate alignment of travel plans, we were able to invite Sam Barclay from Studio Mumbai to visit our office last Friday. Over beers and chips – we watched videos of the workshop & studio located a few hours out of Mumbai in the Indian countryside. With the sounds of birds, saws and hammering from the videos filling the background, Sam talked about centuries old building traditions passed along from generation to generation of carpenters, framers and masons.
Led by Bijoy Jain, the office of over 200 people is a design “village” comprised of both architects and craftsmen. We compared building economies between the East and West and marveled over the skills of craftsmen being incorporated from the early design stages. We watched a mason in a courtyard chisel out a scaled building model out of a block of stone. We watched brick being fabricated for a house and then again in miniature scale for a presentation model. We talked about overcoming communication barriers with hand sketches. We laughed about snakes in the studio and full scale mock-ups being used for sleeping accommodations. Overall, it was an evening of stories with beautiful, raw and poetic lessons from the global practice of Architecture.
Field Visit #2: Santa Monica Residence
This week we visited a beautiful home currently under construction in Santa Monica. What impressed us the most about the design is how the home will welcome sweeping views of the adjacent Country Club and Santa Monica Mountains, while maintaining an air of intimate privacy and seclusion.
The overall design concept for the project is a modern take on a barn. The diagonal placement of the home on the site maximizes the opportunity for views across the adjacent canyon, throughout the tall volumes of the home. A Brise-soleil is being installed which will help with sun shading and create privacy from the motorcourt, without sacrificing views to the property.
The landscape design features an expansive lawn extending from the back of the home, to the cliff edge side of the property, appearing like a continuation of the lawns of the Country Club beyond. Your view is directed into nearby canyons and the Santa Monica Mountains. Old growth specimen trees have been preserved for framing the views and maintaining privacy between neighboring properties.