One of the projects I’m working on over the summer is the restoration of the Century Plaza Hotel in West Los Angeles with Marmol Radziner Architects (MRA). The hotel, which was designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki and completed in 1966, sits at the center of a large area of urban development called Century City. (Yamasaki also designed the Pruitt-Igoe Public Housing (1954), an infamous project in St. Louis, and the World Trade Center (1976) in New York.)
The iconic building is known for its crescent shape and its use of architectural aluminum. It features aluminum panels between the vertical columns of balconies, on the ends of bays, on the elevator towers, and in the delicate aluminum screen cornice on top of the building. Like Yamasaki’s other work, it integrates structural engineering and material detail unlike any of the other buildings in the New Formalism style.
In 2009 Marmol Radziner, was contracted by Next Century Associates for the preparation of a Historic Structure Report for the Century Plaza Hotel. MRA is a design-build firm made up of about 110 architects and designers, as well as field employees including superintendents, project managers, carpenters, and laborers on jobsites all over the California coast. It has also been the go-to for preservation house calls in Southern California since their restoration of a 1950 Neutra house (Kun House #2) in 1992, and Neutra’s 1946 Kaufmann House in Palm Springs, California.
As an intern, I’m helping to accomplish the impressive goal of renovating the hotel, a truly massive project involving dozens of architects, conservators, and engineers from many firms over the past seven years, and one that will be realized when the project goes into construction this summer. Here at MRA, the in-house team consists of three architects working primarily on the restoration of the door openings, which encompass over 90% of the building’s East and West façade.
I’ve also been working on a Feature Conditions Summary of a small complex of modernist buildings in Palm Springs, California, which will provide detailed descriptions of the buildings and their historic features and materials, alongside treatment recommendations. But historic modern architecture restorations only account for about one-third of the firm’s work, there are also institutional and commercial projects, new houses, non-historic renovations, and my desk is cluttered with drawing sets, redlines, and programming spreadsheets for new development projects in Malibu, West Hollywood and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Along with many site visits and meetings, I’ve enjoyed the daily perks of the California weather and a typically-Californian hard-working but laid back office environment. The firm was recently invited to visit the new residence of one of the partners, an incredibly beautiful house in Mandeville Canyon in West LA, a project several people here in the office worked on. I’m thankful to learn about preservation and architecture from such a unique firm, and for the rest of the summer, I’ll continue to explore the California coast from my home-base in LA, scouting diligently for Lookup Collective posts, and working on a small project documenting buildings and writing for docomomo-ny with Teresa and Mayssa.