When I walked into the meeting room of the monthly meeting of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Planning and Land Use Committee, I noticed the renderings of our first presentation on the opposite wall; yet another glass covered high rise condo in South Park.
But this one looked a little different than the standard glass box. So I immediately assumed it was some hack architect ripping off some 'real' architect. But as I got closer, I soon realized - I was looking a real architecture. Seriously real architecture.
And when I asked who was the architect, the presenters smiled and said - Daniel Libeskind; one of the top ten architects working today. The reason for their smile was that they had somehow managed to keep word of this project from leaking to press despite it having been before the staff at the CRA and the LA City Planning Department for... months.
So we were all... stunned.... that this project - at 1340 S. Figueroa, south of Pico - could have been lying around City Hall for months and yet none of the people from the CRA, the Planing Department or the Planning Department's Design Studio - whom many of us speak to or see on an almost daily basis - ever bothered to mention to us they were reviewing this project. And yes we mean you Emily and Simon and Patricia and both David's!
As for the project, it is a 43 story condo building with a 7 story podium for parking (the first two floors also have two restaurants - both Asian and both already leased despite the project being 3 -4 years from completion - plus a high end health spa) and two stories are below grade for more parking and mechanicals.
The best part is the presenters confirmed it was fully financed with Korean money and when I asked if the financing was in-house - I was told yes. And that is the reason why they had kept the project so quiet. Since they already have financing, they didn't want to announce it until were about to pull the permits since they can start construction - and intend to - the second they have a permit. They said they did not want their development lumped together with all the 'paper projects' out there today.
As for the architecture, it is a very buildable design with most of the flourishes at the bottom were it meets the ground with a very cool jagged edge - and extensive public space that is still being designed - and at the upper half of the tower which will be the part most visible from a distance. The parking podium's function will be hidden behind a metal scrim and there will be a light show art component to enliven that part of the facade at night. And since the podium makes the residential tower taller than the convention center - the tower will have unobstructed views to the west and it's upper profile will be visible from much of LA to the west.
To the east of the tower, two lots on Flower that are part of the project provide another entry for both cars and pedestrians plus some well landscaped surface parking - and this also gives that side of the building some view protection.
Other pieces of information given out was there will be no hotel component and that if this project goes well, the same team wants to develop a second project in Los Angeles.
Lastly, this will be the first project by Libeskind in LA despite the fact he lived in our fair city for about... five minutes... back in 1989 when he as still pretty much a 'paper architect'. He was moving here to take up a position at the Getty as a resident scholar. Unfortunately for LA, before his furniture could even arrive via a slow boat from Milan, he was lured back to Berlin to fight to get his Jewish Museum finally built there (ten long years later!) - and that was the building that... finally... made his career.