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L.A.'s Skyline to Get Gehry Touch

House BuildingArts and CultureArchitectureEli BroadWalt DisneyContractsGuggenheim Museum

Architect Frank O. Gehry will design a 40- or 50-story skyscraper next to his iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall, as well as other elements of the $1.8-billion complex planned along Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, officials said Wednesday.

The selection had been rumored for weeks but nonetheless was greeted with cheers from project planners as well as experts, who said it would make the tower one of the most anticipated architectural efforts in the nation.

It would also bring Gehry's distinctive touch to Los Angeles' skyline.

"Disney Hall is especially impressive and a great landmark, when you're directly there. The tower will be able to be seen across the horizonÂ…. It won't blend in," said Robert Harris, professor emeritus of architecture at USC. "From quite a distance, one sees the tower and it marks the cultural center of downtown."

The choice will re-team Gehry with philanthropist Eli Broad, who co-chairs the Grand Avenue Committee and has talked of turning the street — already home to Disney Hall, the Music Center, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels — into a version of the Champs-Elysees.

"I think it clearly is going to get international attention, international acclaim and it will complement what Frank already did at the Walt Disney Concert Hall," said Broad, whose committee is shepherding the project on behalf of the city, Los Angeles County and the Community Redevelopment Agency.

Gehry and Broad have previously clashed, once over Broad's personal residence in Brentwood and then over Disney Hall, where Broad was a key fundraiser. Gehry threatened to quit when the two disagreed on who should complete the working drawings for the concert hall. But the two eventually resolved their differences.

"That's ancient history," Broad said Wednesday. "We're social friends. We meet up at least once a month with our wives for dinner."

Broad noted that his committee only reviews plans submitted by the developer, Related Cos., so that firm will be the one working closely with Gehry.

In addition to the tower, Gehry will work on the design for part of the large retail and commercial development planned in the streets around Disney Hall.

The Gehry skyscraper, which Related Cos. has described as "the iconic tower," would rise on Grand Avenue above 2nd Street, across the street from Disney Hall.

On the other side of the street, two residential towers would be built along with a movie theater, bookstore, grocery store and other retail businesses.

A 35- to 40-story residential tower would rise a block south on Olive Street.

Nearby, the developers plan a 15- to 20-story office building at Hill and 1st streets above a Metro Rail stop and a 25- to 30-story residential building on 1st and Olive streets.

Architects for the other portions of the development have not yet been chosen, but Doug Gardner, the project executive for Related Cos, said he expected Gehry to have some input on those buildings.

"If we have other designers involved for the balance of the first phase, we would certainly expect for it to be a collaborative effort," he said.

The company had hammered out a tentative agreement to make Gehry Partners the "lead architect" for the first phase of construction, Gardner said.

They expect to finalize the contract within the next two weeks.

Gehry's most famous works include Disney Hall and the titanium-clad Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain.

Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents downtown, said she is eager to see what Gehry designs.

"He's provocative, he's controversial and unafraid," she said.

"He is a visionary, and he needs to execute that."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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