Los Angeles’ booming hospitality industry has provoked many designers to develop fresh, state-of-the-art spaces that fascinate citizens and visitors of the contemporary city. However, some designers are experimenting with abandoned structures, merging historic buildings with contemporary features. The relatively new design trend of adaptive reuse, which was a novelty in the early 2000’s, has now become an in-demand practice in LA, standing front and center in the restaurant / hotel industry.
To dig deeper into why Los Angeles’ hospitality industry is embracing historic buildings, Metropolis Magazine spoke with key hospitality designers and developers in the city such as Historic Resources Group, 213 Hospitality, and Design, Bitches, to learn more about their take on adaptive reuse.
We’ve come a long way from 1980, when people didn’t want to touch historic buildings because they were too much trouble and too expensive. Now we have a developer looking for them - Peyton Hall, principal architect at Historic Resources Group.
213 Hospitality and interior architect Janel Wright, in collaboration with AvroKO and Architectural Resources Group, developed two adaptive reuse projects, taking the place of the 1939 Union Station landmark in Los Angeles. The Imperial Western Beer Company and the Streamliner also opened its doors in the fall of 2018, infusing Art Deco, Streamline Moderne, and Spanish Colonial Revival designs.Their architecture boasts historic design elements such as green-hued ceramic tiling, double-heights, high arches, gold-colored wood frames, and banquettes.
L.A. has a reputation for being a progressive city architecturally, and a city that’s always transforming itself. We have an amazing amount of architecturally significant historic buildings. I think people have grown to appreciate what those have to offer - Eric Needleman, cofounder of 213 Hospitality.
We had to be very precise about what we were doing, and how we were doing it. It’s supposed to be for the public, and honoring the history of what the original architects did was the guiding principle for all of us - Janel Wright, Interior Architect.
LA-based design studio Design, Bitches, renovated the unused second storey of the 1920’s Masonic Lodge in Highland Park, and transformed it into Checker Hall, a bar / restaurant, and the Lodge Room, a live performance / music venue. The designers chose to reveal Masonic roots and keep some elements - the original moldings, murals, and hardware - intact, as well as introduced new features to the space, such as the their stylized Checker Hall’s central bar, which looks like a square and compass in plan, merging two design styles in one space.
People are looking for spaces that feel like they belong in a place. There is an opportunity to bridge time periods together - Catherine Johnson, architect of Design, Bitches.
The Los Angeles regulatory environment has been keen on embracing and encouraging adaptive reuse in the city. The city’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance allows developers and designers of adaptive reuse projects to benefit from facilitated approval processes, and leniency in zoning and code requirements, whereas the financial assistance programs offer reduced property taxes. The city has also established the Office of Historic Resources, which has helped the department shift from when the division operated within the Cultural Affairs Department.
Hospitality is a great way to bring [these structures] back to life because so many people get to experience them on a daily basis. The opportunity is wonderful, and the impact of a food and beverage space, or a hotel, is that much greater - Eric Needleman, cofounder of 213 Hospitality.