"Will Grand Avenue finally turn around? Most likely not until they make it a two-way, add more trees, bike lanes, and pedestrian amenities. Buildings alone can’t do it, no matter how daring, novel (or expensive) the architecture." -- Guy Horton, The Indicator, "Ten Years Later, Has the Disney Concert Hall Made a Difference?"
The latest controversy surrounding the Grand Avenue re-design, the long-awaited project to develop the stretch of land east of the Walt Disney Concert Hall, is the re-instatement of Frank Gehry, a move which occurred after the city of LA rejected plans from mega-developers Related Cos. (designed by Gensler in collaboration with Robert A.M. Stern) for being "overly commercial."
Of course, while the Related Cos. plans may have failed to wow the city, the decision to bring Gehry back to the project hasn't exactly been embraced either. A must-see article in Zócalo Public Square asks four urban planning experts, "what would you do with Grand Avenue?" In his latest ArchDaily column, Guy Horton offers his opinion: any re-design must rely on activating life on the street-level, rather than on one architectural solution. Well, ArchDaily readers, now we'd like to know your thoughts on the matter.
To get the ball rolling, here are some ideas from the Zócalo Public Square post:
Like Horton, Fred Kent also asserts that activating the street life on the site will be key: "I think it was a major mistake to choose Frank Gehry as an architect of the original Grand Avenue design, which was unveiled in 2007, and to bring Gehry back for the next round of submissions. While Gehry buildings are impressive, they tend to deflect and reflect rather than attract people. That is the opposite of what Grand Avenue project needs in order to be successful." He suggests designing two structures with a pavilion-like structure between them, behind which would be a large, flexible, mixed-use public square, and from which would flow two pedestrian promenades.
Urban Planner Gordon Hamilton takes a similar stance, suggesting that Related Cos. current plan offers "very few amenities outside the glass doors: little or no seating, fountains, public art or landscaping. Stairway entry portals exist on the north and east sides but nothing beyond that. For the most part, it is a project that turns its back to the street." He suggests instead reducing the size of the front row of buildings to create a wide-mouth open piazza: "There should be an interesting large gathering place that would be open to the public and offer spectacular views of the Grand Avenue Corridor and the night lights of the city."
Michael P. Russell takes a more practical, commercial perspective: "The prior design of Grand Avenue by Frank Gehry from 2007 had façade design elements that were very much like Disney Hall. While the Gehry design was exciting in concept, it was completed in a much more robust economy..." Russell sees the potential in the Related cos. renderings, which are following commercial trends in the marketplace (less commercial square footage, more rental apartments). He's confident that as long as the plans are tweaked to include design details such as "glass balconies, interesting elevation changes, and setbacks," they should be successfully approved in the next few months.
What do you think? How would you change Related Cos. plans to design a better Grand Avenue? Let us know in the comments below!