March 26, 2017

Photo Essay: The New Wilshire Grand, In Progress

I'm usually rushing to see a building before it closes or gets demolished...

...but this this weekend, I had the rare treat of getting a sneak preview of a landmark-in-the-making before it's completed in May and opens in June.

This is the site of the "new" Wilshire Grand Center in Downtown LA's financial district.

Topped by stainless steel spire, the 1100-foot glass skyscraper is not only the tallest building in LA (beating out the U.S. Bank Tower, though just barely)...

...but also the tallest west of the Mississippi.

Rising up just 73 floors, it hasn't got the most floors of any of its peer towers—but each of its floors are pretty tall.

The $1.2 billion project is slated to become the home of the Intercontinental luxury hotel chain...

...and replaces the former Hotel Statler from 1950 (which later became the Statler Hilton, then the Omni Hotel, then the Wilshire Grand), which was deconstructed in 2012.

In addition to the nearly 900 hotel rooms, the skyscraper will also feature a number of public spaces from which you can take in the view...

...which includes the roofs of flat-topped buildings that were never meant to be seen from above (and are downright dwarfed by this new, pointy behemoth).

In addition to the hotel's "sky lobby" on the 70th floor, there will also be an indoor bar and steakhouse restaurant... well as a heated outdoor bar.

But even inside the skyscraper, you won't be able to avoid the outdoors or natural light—whether you're standing under the swooping skylight...

...or working out in the fitness center, with its 11-foot windows.

An LED curtain will be installed into these window frames to illuminate the tower at night.

The high-speed elevators up to the 70th floor aren't functional yet, but reportedly their ascent will take just 45 seconds.

Even the service elevators were pretty speedy, as they brought us to the hotel's soon-to-be meeting rooms, grand ballroom...

...and other areas that aren't quite ready for their close-up yet.

Appropriately, the architectural design firm behind the project is AC Martin—also responsible for LA's first "skyscraper," our current City Hall.

As I told the woman on our tour who'd asked me if I was an architect, "I'm a historian—and this is history in the making."

The new Wilshire Grand certainly stands out among its neighbors at Figueroa and 7th Streets, and not just because of its height.

Using a mixture of classic design elements like glazed terra-cotta tiles and marble...

...alongside modern and technologically-advanced uses of concrete and steel (including elevators that supposedly can be used during a fire evacuation), it's almost retro-futuristic.

The project is actually owned by Korean Air, which may explain why the shape of the high-rise evokes a very shiny wing of a commercial jet.

Of course, they might've made it too shiny, as they're already getting complaints about its blinding reflections. (Here we go again...)

It can be hard to see what something will become, if you see it just in its early stages of development. But fortunately, the Wilshire Grand is actually almost done—and so far, it's pretty true to its renderings.

I wonder, though, what this building will mean to us in the future. Will it become known as someone's folly—a great expression of hubris that no one could ever see reflected in all those mirrored surfaces?

Or will Downtown LA watch its wide open spaces slowly close in on themselves as the area becomes more and more claustrophobically crowded with monolithic clusters, coming to signify some imminently dystopian metropolis?

I guess only time will tell.

Related Posts:
Downtown LA's Upwards Build into the Open Air
Photo Essay: Transforming the View of LA
Photo Essay: City Hall at Sunset
Photo Essay: The Locked Chapels of Rose Hills
Photo Essay: Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall

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