At the Los Angeles Business Council’s 2014 Mayoral Housing, Transportation & Jobs Summit, Mayor Eric Garcetti challenged the City to build 100,000 new housing units and outlined new strategies to achieve this ambitious goal in an effort to address both population expansion and the increasing housing shortage. With LA County’s population already totaling over 10M people (1/3 of the entire state), the Mayor’s call-to-action is all the more significant as projections estimate an increase of about 634,000 new residents by 2021.
L.A.’s story is one of successive waves of growth spread out over its distinctively vast, open landscape. As we look to the next wave of urban development, it’s clear that significant growth in transportation infrastructure, evolving mobility plans, live/work balance and sustainability are all factors reshaping the ways in which we will inhabit this City.
This month, KFA spotlights three campus projects currently in design that provide their own uniquely integrated solutions to the Mayor’s request for additional housing. These new developments are reimagining density by offering occupants more than just housing. By taking advantage of urban centers or creating their own, these pedestrian-friendly sites paint an emerging portrait of L.A.
LGBT Center: Urban Mosaic Campus
Welcoming a remarkable 45,000 client visits per month, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is building a new campus in Hollywood that will provide housing and supportive services to the especially vulnerable LGBT community. The Center is partnering with Thomas Safran & Associates to provide 140 housing units for seniors and young adults and 100 beds for homeless youth, creating the first ground up LGBT center in the country. This unique project, centered on providing a holistic approach to homelessness with a combination of housing and support services, explore a concept of community that extends beyond a geographical definition and endeavors to become a prototype for other cause-driven organizations throughout the U.S.
Designed by Leong Leong Architecture with KFA as executive architect, The LGBT Center will weave together multiple sites over a city block into a comprehensive campus that will serve as a focal point for the LGBT Center’s efforts in Los Angeles, and a model for centers throughout the country. Expanding upon the existing arts and cultural Village at Ed Gould Plaza, the new development will include multiple educational and multi-generational transitional and permanent housing programs along with healthcare, family services, and administrative spaces and neighborhood retail.
MGA Campus: Creating a There there?
Call it the influence of the Millennials, or their parents, the baby boomers, the last decade has seen an increasing demand for work life balance. Some have even redefined this as ‘work-life integration’ – insisting on flexible programs and culture in the workplace. Coupled with this are the congruent trends by renters for environmental sustainability, increased transit options, and a focus on a localized, walk-able lifestyle. Many developers have picked up on this trend by offering amenity-rich living; and spaces such as dog runs, gyms and roof decks have become a staple for new projects.
When faced with a 24 acre underutilized site of a former LA Times printing plant, the owner of MGA Entertainment looked to the future development potential in the Valley, creating a vision for the MGA Campus by doing away with acres of surface parking and imagining in its place an interwoven campus where the new MGA headquarters and 660 residential units would share over 290,000 SF of open space. Designed with a variety of spaces throughout the site that promote wellness, community and gathering, the pedestrian experience and on-site amenities are anticipated to attract and keep innovative industry talent, while offering a unique and vibrant place to draw local residents.
Bringing higher density to the right location in the Valley, the MGA campus will create a thriving community where acres of surface parking once reined king.
Glendale – Adding to an already thriving urban site
201 Lexington follows a more traditional urban infill approach to development – but on a much bigger scale. Like the MGA Campus project, 201 Lexington promotes a “live-where-you-work” philosophy, acknowledging that shorter commutes are associated with a higher degree of happiness. However, instead of creating a destination, the project uses the City as its amenity, taking advantage of an already flourishing neighborhood and proximity to major employment centers.
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Glendale’s Orange-Central district, Century West Partner’s 201 Lexington development embeds itself into the already existing commercial fabric of the neighborhood, adding 494 units and over 8,000 SF of retail to the area, and offering its residents a pedestrian’s dream-a plethora of retail and dining experiences, all within walking distance.
Monday, August 31 2015
Reimaging LA: How campus projects are re-shaping Los Angeles
A Discussion with Stephen Burn, Project Manager, Los Angeles LGBT Center
The Los Angeles LGBT Center is designing a new 183,700 SF campus to better meet the growing demand and need for the Center’s services. The campus will include 140 units of new housing for seniors and young adults, 100 beds for homeless youth, a new senior center, retail space, a new homeless youth center, and a new administrative headquarters. Campuses like the newly designed LGBT are helping to meet current housing demands, as well as becoming another model for developing future residential campuses. The new LGBT Center will be playing its part in reimaging LA as one of the new landmarks in the City. Stephen Burn, Project Manager, Los Angeles LGBT Center, discusses how campus projects are transformational and influential to the City as whole, as well as being impactful to their local neighborhoods.
How does the McCadden Campus project play a part in reshaping/reimagining L.A.?
The Los Angeles LGBT Center has grown from an organization meeting in coffee shops and living rooms to a multi-million dollar operation employing more than 500 people. Our new Campus will open to coincide with 50 years of service to the city and its LGBT residents.
The development will become the site of our new headquarters but also a home, crucially an affordable home, to low-income seniors and youth. In addition, emergency overnight beds for the homeless will be offered along with a diverse range of services for clients in need of legal, financial, educational, health, social and cultural services.
The Center is the world’s largest LGBT services organization and the McCadden Campus will become a beacon to visitors from around the world hoping to replicate the work being done in LA in their own communities.
In the last five decades, the rights of LGBT people have changed dramatically. The new Campus will reflect that change by being open and accessible to all. It will sit proudly on Santa Monica Boulevard, providing a safe space for clients and a welcome to local residents and visitors irrespective of their sexual orientation. As LA adapts to reflect its diverse communities, so too will the Center as it proudly sets about building a Campus that confidently champions the pride and identity of donors, staff, clients, residents and visitors.
How do you see your project influencing or transforming Los Angeles into the future? Do you consider McCadden Campus to be a model for other similar campus developments (not necessarily by the LGBT Center but by others as well)? How so?
The range of on-site services and the diversity of our clients provides a unique model for other LGBT organizations to mirror and follow. We’re seeking to pool resources and benefit from economies of scale that will help guarantee support and services for decades to come. By combining property we already own, on the western side of the street, with the newly acquired land on the eastern side of McCadden, we’ll create a Campus that will be a world’s first for our community.
The organization’s current HQ on Schrader Boulevard will continue to operate but do so as a four-story Federally Qualified Health Center. A mile away from McCadden, the Schrader Building offers primary care, mental health services, a pharmacy and a sexual health clinic to all clients including those who will be based at McCadden. It is situated close to a 100 unit affordable housing block for LGBT seniors, which we oversee. In addition, the Center also operates an HIV AIDS drop in clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and Mi Centro, a services center in East LA aimed at the Hispanic community.
While the organization’s footprint spreads throughout the city, the new Campus will become the focal point for much of our activities. However, while centralizing some services it remains important to have locations throughout LA providing services to clients in their own neighborhoods.
Why was it especially important for the McCadden Campus to be situated in this particular location?
Staff at the Center, like kids with their noses against the glass of a candy store, looked longingly across the street at an under-utilized state-owned property. We own and operate a property called The Village on the west side of McCadden and for five years tried to persuade the state to sell us land they owned directly opposite. Eventually, several years and $12.7m after first showing an interest, the land changed hands.
Hollywood attracts people from all over the country and, indeed, around the world. Over the years, it’s become home to many of our most vulnerable clients who all too often find that their dreams don’t work out and they’re in need of help and support.
The new Campus is situated in an area known to and used by many of our clients. Providing in place services to those clients is an essential part of what we do. So, being able to acquire land in a location directly opposite a property we already own and in an area we know has great demand for our services, seems like the right thing to do.
How has your development been received by the local/regional community?
On the whole, the local community is supportive of what we’re proposing to do and elsewhere in the City the backing has been substantial. In the immediate vicinity, some residents are concerned that providing 100 beds for homeless youth and increased services for clients might attract more problem behavior to the area. Our current youth center, situated on Highland Avenue and backing on to McCadden, provides services to clients who, some residents allege, are responsible for an increase in sex worker activity in the area.
While recognizing the need to provide a safe place and supportive services for vulnerable clients, the local community is working with us to ensure the new Campus will feature a design and operate in ways that don’t become a magnet for the areas sex workers or homeless population not receiving services at the Center.
On a broader level, the community support for the project has been phenomenal. The LGBT community is reaching deep into its pockets to help with our Capital Campaign. After initial successes, the target figure for that campaign has been upped from $25m to $30m and we’re well on our way to hitting that number.
Why this project? Why now?
Three words – need, need and need. At the Center, we currently handle 42,000 client visits a month. Demand for our services continues to increase as we better equip ourselves to respond to what it is a client requires.
Our existing affordable housing development for seniors, Triangle Square, may have 100 residents but there are thousands of people on a waiting list to get a place. Our health centers and clinics are bursting at the seams, and clearing out those locations of admin and other staff will enable an expansion of health care services to clients currently at the end of sometimes lengthy waiting lists.
In what ways will the McCadden Campus project integrate the larger community to provide visibility for the LGBT Center?
The Campus will welcome all visitors including those who don’t readily identify as members of the LGBT community. The buildings will be designed to be porous and open at a street level with courtyards, terraces and a plaza providing attractive spaces to mix or shelter from the sun.
At the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and McCadden, we’re hoping to provide a retail outlet that will appeal to clients and non-clients of the Center. The current plan is to open a coffee shop combined with a bike shop, enabling customers to have their bikes serviced or purchase cycling gear while relaxing with a beverage or snack.
Additionally, we’re creating an area we’re calling a Flex Space at the heart of the Campus. In here, there’ll be visual representations of the LGBT community’s history and heritage. This will become a visible reminder that the Center was built on the shoulders of many who went before.
What are the Center’s plans for encouraging multigenerational interaction between the youth, seniors, and other members of the LGBT community?
The Center has a mentoring scheme now where youth and seniors work together on a number of initiatives. The new Campus will allow us to do this on a larger scale. Shared activities include life and social skills, computer classes, arts projects and mentoring programs.
In what ways would you like to see McCadden Campus flourish? And the surrounding community?
The Campus will flourish only if our clients flourish. It is essential that the building becomes an iconic project because of the way it works with clients. What we don’t want is a complex that looks fabulous in an architecture magazine but is a nightmare to work in.
If we can provide somewhere in which our clients feel safe and respected and which staff are proud to work at then we will be on our way to succeeding.
Helping the general area become a place where anyone can walk in comfort, at any time, without the threat of intimidation or violence hanging in the air, would also count has us having helped the local area to flourish.
Friday, July 24 2015
40 Years: KFA In A Day – Anniversary Video
Tuesday, June 30 2015
An Interview with Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality
KFA principal John Arnold, AIA spoke to LA developer Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality (the Ace Hotel and SoHo House) about trends in design and adaptive reuse, and the future of Downtown LA.
What do you see trending in Downtown LA?
Condos are definitely coming back. People really want to own a piece of Downtown. Millenials, for lack of a better term, want to have everything in their lives be walkable, and Downtown offers this. I think that living car-free in Los Angeles is happening now, and will only get easier in the future. Downtown is going to be it for a long time. LA’s land costs are still significantly cheaper than places like New York, and this is attracting a lot of American and foreign capital to Downtown.
Are there any other areas that are competing with Downtown to be THE walkable urban center of LA County?
I don’t think so. Downtown LA has the infrastructure in place – amenities, grocery stores, restaurants and especially transportation – that gives it an edge over other places like Glendale and Pasadena. Downtown has an ease of connectivity that is less prevalent in other parts of the City. Also, the City is trending pro-growth and making development easier and smoother – LADBS, the Planning Department, and the Mayor have been really stepping up lately to make the process better and quicker. Santa Monica will always have its appeal, especially with the Expo Line opening, but the opportunities for growth are so limited there.
What do you see happening Downtown in the next 10 years?
I see the Convention Center expanding, which will spur more hospitality and retail growth in South Park and south of the historic core all the way to the I-10. I think the industrial areas between the Arts District and the I-10 will continue to be developed as the land there becomes more valuable for residential, creative office, and retail uses, with industrial uses moving south towards Vernon. The one-story warehouses that give the Arts District its character will continue to be turned into galleries, retail, and food and beverage venues. The connection between Downtown and the Arts District will become stronger through Skid Row, which will have a mix of development there that will include housing and services for the less fortunate.
What are some of the more exciting current developments Downtown?
The possible extension of the Red Line into the Arts District would have a huge impact. I think the new Sixth Street bridge is also a big positive, and could help extend opportunities further eastward into Boyle Heights, which I think could become LA’s Williamsburg. There is a lot of real estate activity east of Chinatown towards the river, and extending towards Lincoln Heights. I’m hoping that Downtown will have bike sharing soon like other big cities already have.
Do you see development extending west of the 110?
Yes, towards MacArthur Park especially, and the areas closest to the Convention Center in Pico Union.
What’s happening with city planning policies to preserve the industrial lands by the river and in the Arts District?
I think there is a split at City Hall about that. There are some council members and planners who see that the land closest to Downtown is more valuable for residential, creative office, hospitality, and retail than it is for low-rise industrial, and the potential there for tax revenue. There are some politicians that are still fighting to keep the land industrial, but I think the writing is in on the wall for greater density and non-industrial development.
What’s the future of adaptive reuse?
I think within the next 10 years all the big adaptive reuse opportunities in Downtown will be gone. There will only be small ones remaining for boutique development as the current owners gradually give them up for rehabilitation.
Vertical. Downtown will keep going up and up.
Is Type III construction on its way out in Downtown?
I think so. I think once high-rise construction starts penciling out as land costs go up, mid-rise construction will start to become less attractive to developers.
What are your favorite places Downtown?
I know I’m biased, but I think the Ace Hotel is fantastic and has already had a huge impact on the area south of 9th St. As you know, I love Bar Ama [in the Old Bank District], as well as Bestia [in the Arts District]. I’ll give Bottega Louie a special shout out for being a big catalyst on 7th St. I think the Last Remaining Bookstore is an awesome, unique space Downtown – it’s such a cool place.
Do you think LA has a signature design aesthetic that isn’t handed down from New York?
Yes, and it will only become more distinct. There are the typical ideas in LA about light, the great weather, and indoor-outdoor living that drive design more than they do in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. LA is more open, lighter, and friendlier, which is a departure from the darker, more inward-looking design aesthetic of New York. Roof top venues exist in the other cities, but they are at their best in LA. Developers and hospitality operators know that design is competitive and that they aren’t the only cool kids on the block. Everyone is looking for the next big idea beyond what has already been done in New York or down the street. This competition will inevitably lead to fresh design, and a lot of it will be tailored to take advantage of Downtown’s unique assets, including its historic nature. I do see design in LA becoming more formal and sophisticated. LA’s food culture will also continue to advance and be distinctive from other cities.
Speaking of fresh ideas, do you have any development secrets to share?
I’m not going to tell too many secrets, but we are working with our partners on some hospitality concepts that will be truly unique to the market, and driven by Southern California culture. That’s all I have to say.
Tuesday, June 30 2015
ARO 2.0: Hospitality
In 1999, the City of Los Angeles passed the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance providing flexibility within some portions of the planning and building codes that had made it prohibitively expensive to rehabilitate older historic buildings. KFA designed the first projects to take advantage of the ordinance in the Old Bank District, transforming the San Fernando, Hellman and Continental from dated office buildings into residential lofts. The population of DTLA increased five-fold over the next several years, and with over 40 development and rehabilitation projects, KFA has been a central player in the Downtown revival. It wasn’t until the great recession of the late 2000’s that enthusiasm for development downtown waned.
In 2011, Greenfield Partners and Ace Hotels saw a great opportunity in rehabilitating the abandoned United Artists Theater Building and former Texaco offices, commissioned by Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin and built in 1927, into a boutique destination. Naysayers doubted the viability of a hotel south of the historic core, but since the Ace Hotel Link opened in January of 2014, its rooms, bars and restaurants have been packed, and it is credited with starting the boom that is currently happening south of 9th Street.
Identified by many as having an extreme shortage in hotel rooms, the City is now witnessing the development of previously overlooked DTLA historic buildings into hotels using some of the provisions allowed by the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance. Of KFA’s 1000+ designed boutique guest rooms in Los Angeles, over 75% of them take advantage of the ARO. Buildings that may be less viable as apartments have become opportunities for hotel developers, with accommodations ranging from luxury hotel rooms to sleeping rooms in a private club to hostel style bunk rooms.
Development of existing buildings in Downtown Los Angeles offers locations within walking distance to hundreds of entertainment, convention, and restaurant venues, faster approval timelines through LADBS, and design opportunities for a unique, daring, and innovative product that challenges the hotel norms. KFA is excited to again be on the forefront of this second wave of adaptive reuse in DTLA.
Sydell Group is transforming the Commercial Exchange building at 8th and Olive into Freehand LA, a 226 key hotel that caters to the young international traveler with a range of room types from standard king rooms to rooms that accommodate up to 8 bunks.
The Giannini Building also being developed by Sydell Group, is a long vacant centerpiece of the 7th street corridor that will become NoMad, a luxury hotel with a different design experience in each guest room.
On the outskirts of the Arts District, a 1920s warehouse will become the latest SoHo House, an artist-focused haven with a range of ground floor retail and members-only club amenities.
The development of these ARO projects and others to be announced in 2015 and 2016 represent a solution to the hospitality shortage in Los Angeles that is creative, innovative, and perfectly Angeleno.
Monday, June 08 2015
Dwell Conference 2015 – THE RISE: Building Downtown Los Angeles
Immanuel Church in Long Beach turned into affordable housing.
COURTESY SAFRAN & ASSOCIATES
Beyond the political rhetoric and the well-intentioned workshops calling for more affordable housing persist the difficult challenges of actually trying to get it built. Earnest as its advocates may be, the shortage aggravated by an overheated private market is getting worse, particularly in Los Angeles, according to the latest academic studies.
But in the housing rank and file there are murmurs of hope that present the promise of rare paradigms. Such is the case history of the adaptive reuse of Immanuel Church into 25-units of rental housing for seniors in a leafy section of Long Beach, California.
The recently dedicated project lends a new residential life to a nondescript church originally built in 1923, damaged in an earthquake in 1933, and given a poor alteration in the 1950s. Resisting pressure to sell the all-but-abandoned church, leaders saw its potential as a focal point in the surrounding historic district of 1920s bungalows for much needed senior citizen housing and a social services center. “We had a dream, for the church building and the community,” said its stalwart former minister, Dr. Jane Galloway.
The concept also appealed to Thomas Safran, whose eponymous development company, Thomas Safran & Associates, has pursued affordable housing projects for nearly 40 years.
The rehabilitation has taken 10 years to process from concept to approvals to construction, with a projected cost of only $12 million. Persevering in partnership with Safran has been Killefer Flammang Architects. “The reuse has been a challenge,” said Wade Killefer. Nevertheless, the firm hung tough, fashioning a design that saved the sanctuary for community uses while ringing the three-story space with a variety of one-bedroom apartments.
What delayed the project for several years was a parking requirement of just 13 cars, which was eventually satisfied by the purchase of an adjoining historic house, which was then relocated to a nearby vacant lot. “To keep these projects moving you have to be flexible,” said Safran.
Sam Hall Kaplan
Monday, April 27 2015
Spring at KFA: New Projects, New People
For New People and New Projects/Spring has blossomed at KFA and we welcome with pleasure 9 additional staff who are helping to hatch several new and re-energized projects. Moving forward in Santa Monica is Pico Eleven, a 32-unit 4-story apartment building developed by Pico Eleven LLP, and the only housing project to be approved by the City in 2014.Also coming up in Santa Monica will be 100 units at the Denny’s site at Lincoln and Colorado. Developed by NMS, the project’s residents will enjoy 13,000 SF of neighborhood serving retail, a roof top pool and a 4 block walk to the Expo Line station.
In Playa Vista, Brookfield Residential will break ground in June on the 75-unit Seabluff Condominiums. The 92-unit Roy @ Overland in West LA is Anejo Development’s latest project, and amenities include a roof top garden, ground floor cafes and close proximity to the Expo Line. Glendale will add 489 units at 201 West Lexington, a Century West development, comprised of 4 buildings organized around a 40’ wide landscaped public paseo.
Monday, April 27 2015
Meet the KFrosh: KFA’s 2014 – 2015 Freshman Class
Our office is bustling with new faces and we are excited about opportunities to collaborate as we grow. We interviewed our newest freshman class and asked them to give us a brief introduction:
Ashkan Afshari is an architect with diverse experience including educational, hospitality, residential, and mixed-use projects. His goal is to combine sustainability, culture, and aesthetics in all his designs. Ashkan’s passion is to explore nature either on the ground by foot or in the sky via glider.
Dulce De La Paz earned a BA in Architecture from UNLV and then moved to L.A. to attend the M. Arch. Program at USC. While working on her graduate degree, Dulce began to appreciate L.A.’s beauty and culture diversity, which attracted her to stay and explore the City further. She enjoys little pockets of nature found in urban settings that create a beautiful mixture of textures and colors. As a new KFA team member, she looks forward to working on projects that improve L.A.’s landscape.
James Hwangbo received his Bachelor of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology. As a versatile designer, James creates opportunities from constraints and reveals the extraordinary in the ordinary. During his free time, James enjoys spending time with friends and family, as well as reading books.
Natalie Park is of Korean descent, born in Brazil, and raised in the U.S. She earned her Bachelor of Architecture from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Natalie loves nature, but enjoys living in an urban city. Traveling and climbing are a big part of her life. It keeps her honest and humbled, while constantly challenging herself. Her philosophy is to work hard, play even harder. A quote that she holds dear: “Happiness only real when shared.” – Christopher McCandless
Emmanuel Sandoval is a native Angeleno whose passion for all things L.A. continues to intensify as he pursues his commitment to inspire and create a socially sustainable city through art and architecture. Being a world traveler, foodie, art enthusiast, and a local tourist are a few things he enjoys away from the office.
Min Shuai came to the U.S. to pursue a second degree in architecture from USC about twenty years ago. Being very detail oriented, she loves the technical side of architecture, particularly putting buildings together. Currently, she is in the process of completing the construction of her own dream house in Monterey Park.
Jeffrey Tseng grew up in the Bay Area and came down to UCLA for his undergraduate in Civil Engineering. While studying structures, he developed a love for well-designed buildings and environments and pursued this passion further at Cal Poly Pomona’s M. Arch program. When away from the office, he likes to ride his bike around L.A., sketch sceneries, and struggle with his golf swing.
Yining Wang is originally from Hangzhou, China. She received her undergraduate architecture degree from Zhejiang University during which she studied in Madrid, Spain on a six-month student exchange program. Soon after graduating, Yining moved to L.A. to attend UCLA’s M. Arch program. When she is not designing buildings, she enjoys dining at nice restaurants as well as L.A.’s warm weather. One of her favorite activities is going wine tasting in Napa Valley.
Chad Yussman is KFA’s new marketing director and is excited to be a part of such a special firm with so many talented individuals. Originally from Louisville, KY, he earned his BSBA in International Business from Wash U in St. Louis and received an MBA in Marketing from LMU. Chad’s marketing journey has taken him from international film and art festivals in England and Los Angeles to high-end video production in Hollywood. He is a performing bassoonist, an avid Louisville Cardinals fan, and loves playing on the beach with his kids.
Thursday, April 16 2015
Restoration Drama: The Challenges and Rewards of Historic Renovation – Form Magazine
The complexities of reimagining older buildings into new spaces become even more layered with designated historic structures. Architects must coordinate not just with clients, consultants, and artisans, but public agencies empowered to protect a classic building’s character. Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA) has performed this role in multiple Los Angeles historic and cultural monuments, including the Ace Hotel (the former United Artists office tower), The Roosevelt and the Pacific Electric Building
The just-completed renovation of the 1923 Taft Building in Hollywood (once occupied by Charlie Chaplin, Will Rogers and Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences) is the latest example: It combined navigating approvals with finding moments of architectural inspiration. KFA Project Manager Tarrah Beebe describes them.
What was the building and the assignment?
The Taft renovation repositioned a beautiful, 12-story, neo-Renaissance landmark into creative space for building owner Clarett West Development. It required a careful integration of modern uses – open floor plans, modern HVAC systems – with a building listed as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
How did you interface with city agencies?
There was a tremendous amount of coordination with the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety and the Office of Historic Preservation to make this project a reality. We were protecting the historic character while upgrading essential fire/life/safety systems, and the entire process involved collaboration among the design team, owner, and city agencies. Frequent meetings ensured that historic building configurations were transformed to accommodate contemporary demands. The central open stair, for example, has a lot of historic fabric. We maintained the beautifully detailed stone and decorative metal, but within the context of fire and life safety requirements. Now, this central stair provides an active transition from floor to floor. It is integral to the experience of the place.
What were some sources of inspiration?
We had the good fortune of discovering the original architectural and structural drawings, and their beauty captures the grandeur of the Taft, telling the building’s story. They were not only a source of inspiration for the renovation design, they were helpful in understanding the original design. It is fascinating to uncover the historic fabric shown in the drawings that had been covered over the years by modern – and in most cases unfortunate – materials.
Along Vine Street, for example, we referenced the historic drawings and cast molds of the existing historic fabric in order to recreate the historic storefronts. We were able to replace lost or damaged terra cotta tile in order to bring the façade back to its original design.
What are some of the other conflicts that need resolution?
Today’s market demand for creative offices makes a building such as the Taft very popular. The materials and craftsmanship are inspiring to this kind of tenant, who is often rejecting a “corporate,” Class A building. The irony is that in the 1920s The Taft was a very formal office environment. Our challenge is to reflect contemporary, creative office culture of open, collaborative spaces and raw materials, while preserving the irreplaceable character created almost a century ago.