Inside Frank Gehry’s latest Los Angeles mega-project

As the biggest project in Los Angeles neared completion, Frank Gehry was offered an apartment with sweeping sky views in the 45-story Grand LA complex he designed on Bunker Hill in Downtown. Instead, he chose one of the project’s lowest-priced apartments – one overlooking his famous Walt Disney Concert Hall across the street.

The lower angle of view will show the architect how his two creations complement each other.

“Disney has the setting now,” he said on the balcony overlooking the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s home. “For me, now it all fits. Disney Hall doesn’t look like an exception.”

Frank Gehry gives a tour of the $1 billion mixed-use complex, Grand Description: The $1 billion Grand Mixed Complex designed by architect Frank Gehry is about to open for with Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. The project has taken almost a decade to build and is still not fully completed – its shops and restaurants won’t be occupied for another year. But its 436 luxury apartments and hotels are just days away from opening, a landmark event in the Bunker Hill redevelopment that has been going on since the 1950s.

Grand’s existence may come as a surprise to those who are far from downtown during the pandemic and have yet to return to their offices or Bunker Hill’s arts and entertainment venues like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theater and Broad Museum.

Work on the Grand begins in late 2018. The project will hit a major milestone in July with the opening of the 28-story Conrad Los Angeles hotel and apartment tower. The Grand’s shopping and dining expansion that will include outdoor decks overlooking the Disney Concert Hall won’t be made available until next year.

Gehry, 93, who was born in Canada, is known worldwide for what Architectural Digest calls wonderfully whimsical designs, such as the Olympic Fish Gallery in Barcelona, ​​Spain and the one called the Binoculars Building in LA’s Venice neighborhood Other versatile creations include the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain and the commercial building “Dancing House” in the Czech Republic.

Grand is one of his largest local commissions, and its commercial size is a source of pride.

“Most developers don’t think of an architect who can do it,” he said, pointing to Disney Hall, “as an architect who can do this. They raise you pigeon like an art boy. ”

Glass and steel by Conrad Los Angeles, part of the Grand LA project in downtown Los Angeles.

Glass and steel by Conrad Los Angeles, a 28-story hotel tower with 305 rooms, part of the Grand LA project in downtown Los Angeles.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Related Cos. – the New York developer behind large-scale projects including Hudson Yards in New York and the Century apartment high-rise in Century City – was able to build the Grand after years of efforts to arrange financing for the project while working on a long design process with Gehry.

He suggested multiple versions of Grand, including some that Related liked, which Gehry later rejected.

Related’s development lead Rick Vogel smiles as he recalls reaching an agreement on design elements with Gehry, only to learn that the architect threw those plans in the trash a few days ago. then and start in a new direction.

“There is something in our industry called creative tension,” says Vogel, “that is positive.”

Los Angeles City Hall seen from Airlight, a bar on the 10th floor of the Conrad Los Angeles hotel.

Los Angeles City Hall seen from Airlight, a bar on the 10th floor of Conrad Los Angeles.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

A woven nylon tapestry by Korean artist Mimi Jung.

A woven nylon rug on plywood by Korean artist Mimi Jung of Los Angeles, at the Conrad Los Angeles reception.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Gehry and his team were able to manage costs by coming up with a plan for an unusually asymmetrical structure using common components proposed by Related such as standard curtain walls, aluminum frames and concrete. prefabricated, Vogel said.

The partnership started as “an arranged marriage,” Gehry said, after Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad told the head of Related Cos. That he should “talk to Frank” after Related received a contract in 2004 to create the grand Grand Avenue project that now includes Grand Park, the Broad Museum and the Emerson and Grand apartment buildings. Broad was a key figure in the Bunker Hill transition.

Architect Frank Gehry touches a stone wall by artist Ben Medansky.

Architect Frank Gehry runs his hand along a stonework wall with variations of white/unglazed enamel, by artist Ben Medansky, inside Conrad Los Angeles.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

“For the longest time, I didn’t know we made it,” Gehry said while working on Grand with Related. “They didn’t know about my delivery system, and they were really skeptical. It took a long time for them to realize that we knew how to deliver a building and that we had the skills to do it.

“Once that starts to become obvious to people, the relationship becomes really great.”

Adhering to Gehry’s vision is not always easy. Vogel marveled at how difficult and costly it was to create an open-air staircase the architect had dreamed of connecting the residential tower to the hotel. It was covered with undulating metal sheets and was difficult to complete as planned.

“There are no straight lines,” he said of the metal plates. “It’s like wearing a suit.”

With their creative stresses of working on Grand seemingly in the past, Vogel and Gehry both said they’ve agreed to collaborate again on an unspecified project.

Architect Frank Gehry and related executive Rick Vogel tour Grand LA.

Architect Frank Gehry, left, and Rick Vogel, executive vice president at Related, the developer of Grand LA, tour the site. The project will include shops, restaurants, apartments and a hotel.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Grand Lounge bar and theater with custom billiards table and 85" television

The Grand Lounge bar and theater features a custom pool table and 85-inch TV, for residents of Grand by Gehry, a residential area of ​​the Grand LA development designed by Frank Gehry.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Residents will live in an apartment tower dubbed the Grand of Gehry, which has 436 units and is managed by Related. The composition includes 234 market price apartments, 89 below market price apartments for low-income tenants and 113 luxury apartments on the upper floors. Gehry’s non-linear design adds extra angles inside the units.

Monthly market rents start at $2,750 for a studio. Related doesn’t disclose rents for the high-end apartments, but they should easily surpass $9,500 for a three-bedroom apartment at market rates.

Amenities include a lobby with 24-hour concierge and Gehry-designed artwork. A coworking space where residents working from home can engage in their work in individual teams has been expanded during the pandemic. There is a barbecue and dining area, swimming pool and gym.

The 305-room adjoining hotel, Conrad Los Angeles, is an upmarket arm of the Hilton hotel chain. Rates start at over $500 a night. The interior designs are by Tara Bernerd & Partners of London, inspired by Gehry’s architecture as well as the architecture and culture of the city centre.

Spanish chef Jose Andres will be the most prominent figure in Grand’s cuisine, having agreed to open three restaurants and a bar. His upscale steakhouse Bazaar Meat will be featured in Grand’s upcoming retail section. Immediately, Andres and his ThinkFoodGroup have two other restaurants ready to open July 6 in Conrad, an open-air restaurant with “Asian and Latin inspired menus” and a restaurant dedicated to Dedicated to classic Spanish flavors with Californian ingredients.

The hotel’s restaurants and bars are on the arrivals lobby floor, technically on the 10th floor but about four floors up on Grand Avenue. Grand fills a neighborhood, and the number of floors begins on Olive Street, just below Grand Avenue. Building the complex into the slopes of Bunker Hill was one of the challenges Gehry and Related faced.

While much of the Grand will be geared toward what Gehry calls “fancy people,” the plans call for making its public spaces welcoming to casual visitors. Once completed, there will be a landscaped public square with ample seating and free events such as concerts. Food will be sold at a variety of prices, including “a $10 lunch,” Vogel said. “It has something for everyone.”

The Grand represents the culmination of decades of efforts to redevelop Bunker Hill, an old residential area from the city’s early years that was razed in the 1960s to make way for “urban renewal”, a popular concept at the time aimed at redoing city blocks from scratch where mostly the poor were displaced.

Architect Frank Gehry in the bar's outdoor seating area, part of the Grand LA project.

Architect Frank Gehry in the bar’s outdoor seating area, Sed, part of the Conrad Los Angeles, a luxury hotel in the Hilton chain, part of the Grand LA project. It is located directly across from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which Gehry also designed.

(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

First among the new developments was the performing arts complex The Music Center, followed in later years by office skyscrapers, several apartment buildings, and cultural sites such as the Art Museum. Los Angeles Contemporary Art, Colburn School of Music, and Church of Our Lady of the Angels. Disney Hall opened in 2003, 12 years later as the Broad Museum.

Landlord Christopher Rising, whose Rising Realty Partners company owns two office buildings there, said the Grand was the “final piece of the puzzle” for Bunker Hill. The final piece, he said, will be Angels Landing, a $1.6 billion hotel-retail-retail complex that will spring up next to Bunker Hill’s historic Angels Flight rail line in time. the 2028 Olympics.

The vision that Bunker Hill could be a cultural destination where office workers mix with residents and tourists “is finally nearing completion,” Rising said.

Gehry also noted a sense of climax and spoke repeatedly about the founder of the Broad museum, Eli Broad, with whom the two fought and collaborated for decades.

“He and I struggled,” says Gehry, but Broad backed him up as a designer for Disney Hall and the Grand. “He brought me here.”

The architect said he recently cried while watching a movie about Broad, who passed away last year. The city should name the part of Grand Avenue after Broad, Gehry said.

“Even though he’s not here, he’s watching us,” Gehry said. “You have to pay tribute to him.” Inside Frank Gehry’s latest Los Angeles mega-project

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