Friday, August 3, 2018

Photo Essay: Rising to the Top of the West

We already had the tallest building west of the Mississippi here in LA.



And now we've got another one, the Wilshire Grand.


circa 2017

Since I'd taken a tour of its construction site (though it was nearly finished) back in March 2017, I was eager to check out the finished product when it opened a couple months later. But, summer being what it is and rooftop bars being what they are, I couldn't get much past the first floor or the Intercontinental Hotel lobby on the 70th. 


circa 2017

In fact, it was impossible to get up to the top -- Floor 79 -- until a year after the rooftop bar opened, but I kept trying, and I finally made it to take a pretty thorough survey of how everything I'd seen as a work in progress eventually turned out.



I'm not usually much of a fan of new construction—but at first blush, I liked the way the glassy tower looked like the wing of an airplane.


circa 2017

And the weird swoopy skylights fascinated me.



There's certainly no shortage of natural light on many of the lower floors...



...and architectural firm AC Martin—also responsible for L.A.'s first "skyscraper," our current City Hall—deserves kudos for including elements that are actually interesting to look at.


circa 2017

Of course, the biggest difference between 2017 and 2018 is that much of the areas that were mostly finished last year...



...are now spic and span...



...and look shiny and new instead of dusty and fingerprinted.



On the 7th floor, the pool has been filled with both water and people...


circa 2017

...the poolside "No Dive Bar" has shed its scaffolding...



...and now serves Caesar salads and tequila lemonades.


circa 2017

The Pool House finally got its roof...



...though it's still missing a lifeguard.



The contractors, construction workers, and their equipment are gone.



Architects and architectural looky-loos are no longer wandering the halls to inspect the work (except, of course, me).


circa 2017

The shelves of its food market, Dekkadance, are fully stocked.


circa 2017

The public art has been hung from the ceiling and lit.


circa 2017

And, although not at the absolute top, the tall windows of the 70th floor "sky lobby" deliver on the promise of views of LA...


circa 2017

...and the mountains beyond...


circa 2017

...as long as it's not too smoggy.


circa 2017

When I visit a site that's still being built, it can be hard for me to imagine what exactly it will become...


circa 2017

...which makes it absolutely necessary for me to return for the final product...


circa 2017

...and sit in the seats to sip a Japanese whisky drink (of course).


circa 2017

But when I was in the tallest building in the West, it was just as important for me to keep looking out the windows as to take in the ambiance inside. You never know how the view might change.


circa 2017

And that's why I was desperate to get to the top, too, though I'd already been up there while it was still unfinished.


circa 2017

After all, $1.2 billion dollars was spent on building the thing to replace the former Hotel Statler from 1950 (which later became the Statler Hilton, then the Omni Hotel, then the Wilshire Grand).


circa 2017

It had better draw a crowd—and one bigger than just me.



At one point, the opening of the Wilshire Grand was so overhyped that the line just to get into the elevator banks was hours long.


circa 2017

Of course, I'd been spoiled by my first visit, when the roof was empty, save for a few of us in hard hats who had to tiptoe around some construction hazards underfoot.



Fortunately, for this most recent visit, I arrived early enough—just a few minutes after the rooftop bar, Spire 73, opened for business for the day—to have a look around without dodging happy hour revelers, sore-footed tourists, or corporate card-charging CEOs.



And the funny thing is, I didn't feel inclined at all to stay and have a drink or a snack at the so-called "tallest open-air bar in the Western Hemisphere."


circa 2017

Because once I got to the top...



...all I could think of was the way back down.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: The New Wilshire Grand, In Progress
This 1950s Coffee Shop Is Back, Baby! (Or, The Penguin Lives!)