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New Tower to Transform Los Angeles Skyline
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Night rendering of the new Wilshire Grand skyscraper
The new Wilshire Grand will be the first skyscraper in Los Angeles to have an architectural roof. AC Martin

The new Wilshire Grand in downtown Los Angeles will be the tallest building in the West and the city’s first skyscraper to be crowned with an architectural roof.

February 26, 2013—A new 1,100 ft tall skyscraper in downtown Los Angeles will be a unique addition to the city’s skyline. Not only will the building be the tallest in the West upon its completion in 2016, but it will also feature a design element that hasn’t been seen on Los Angeles skyscrapers before: an architectural roof.

Architectural designs for the new Wilshire Grand were unveiled on February 7. Rising from a podium with a maximum height of 160 ft, the 73-story tower will include 400,000 sq ft of office space, a 900-room luxury hotel, and 45,100 sq ft of retail space. The hotel will be in the upper portion of the building—the lobby on the 70th floor; a restaurant on the 71st floor; and a swimming pool, bar, and observation deck on the 73rd floor. The tower will be capped by a glass pediment and 100 ft tall spire, distinguishing it from the flat roofs that characterize the city’s other skyscrapers. The Los Angeles-based architecture firm AC Martin Partners designed the project, and Martin Project Management is managing the effort. 

Y. H. Cho, the chairman of Korean Air, a large airline headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is building the $1-billion project to replace the existing Wilshire Grand, which was built in 1952. The old hotel is being demolished, and the new hotel will be constructed in its place on a 3.2-acre site at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Figueroa Street in the city’s downtown. The site is adjacent to one of the city’s largest metro stops and at the edges of the financial and entertainment districts as well as the 7th Street historic district. “The intersection is just considered superb,” says Christopher C. Martin, FAIA, the chief executive officer of AC Martin Partners and Martin Project Management. “Many people regard it as the premiere corner of the city.”

The old Wilshire Grand was closed in early 2012 and demolition began later that year. The former hotel is being demolished through a process known as deconstruction, which is the selective dismantling of a structure to facilitate recycling and waste management. While many materials from the hotel, including copper pipes and concrete aggregates, are being recycled, the deconstruction is being driven by the significant amount of asbestos and carcinogenic materials within the building as well as the location, Martin says. “Our rules in demolition are that nothing in excess of 200 lb is allowed to free-fall to the ground,” he says. “So everything has to be taken apart and set down on the ground.”

Once the old building is removed, construction of the new Wilshire Grand will begin with an 85 ft deep excavation. A great deal of shoring will be installed to stabilize the site and ensure that the work does not disrupt an adjacent subway tunnel located only 7 ft away, Martin says. The tower will be founded on a 20 ft thick concrete mat foundation, which is slated to be formed in December. Because of the foundation’s massive size, cooling pipes will be used to prevent the concrete from hydrating too quickly, Martin says. Five base levels will rise from the foundation and accommodate parking for 1,100 vehicles. 

 Rendering of skyscraper's decoratively lit glass spire

The new skyscraper will be capped by a decoratively lit glass
pediment and 100 ft tall spire that will add to its slender appearance.
AC Martin

The tower will develop around an 8,000 lb concrete core, measuring 4 ft thick at its base and 2.5 ft thick at its top. The tower’s structural system will include brace frames, which will extend from the core at the 25th, 55th, and 70th floors, Martin says. Tubular steel columns will tie in to the brace frames to form the tower’s exterior frame and support its glass cladding and operable windows. Special glass will be used to diminish nighttime reflections. “There’s nothing worse than being in the top of a beautiful glass building with a gorgeous view and at night looking out at the windows and just seeing yourself,” Martin says. “It’s really tricky to be able to reflect the [light] and still have good vision at night. So it’s a unique solution.”

While a great deal of thought has gone into every aspect of the tower, one of the most interesting features of the design is the architectural roof, which will be unique to the city, Martin says. The city’s building code calls for flat roofs to accommodate large helicopter pads, where rescue crews could land in an emergency. But by adding enhanced safety features, including a concrete-encased fireman’s elevator, to the tower, the designers convinced city officials and safety personnel to approve a code modification. As a result, they were able to design a small helicopter pad and still leave plenty of room for the pediment and spire.

The pediment is designed to include light-emitting-diode signage, and the spire is intended to elongate the tower’s already slender form, Martin says. “It’s a real thrill to do something that everybody’s going to look at and say, ‘Wow, a pointed building,’” he says. “Everybody’s going to look at that and say, ‘I want to go there.’” 

Interior rendering of the Wilshire Grand

The tower will house 400,000 sq ft of office space, 45,100 sq ft of
retail space, and a 900-room luxury hotel that will include an
observation deck on the 73rd floor. AC Martin

Construction of the new Wilshire Grand is slated to be completed in the summer of 2016, but it will not officially open until the first part of 2017. The hotel is expected to be a destination for people in Los Angeles, whether they are visiting for a conference or are residents who want to have a drink and take in the views from the 73rd floor, Martin said. In a press release, Cho, whose airline has served Los Angeles for more than 40 years, said he is thrilled to offer this contemporary facility in the heart of Los Angeles. “The new Wilshire Grand is an investment that makes sense, and we are excited to continue our relationship with this great city,” Cho said. “Together, we have helped make L.A. a global connection and destination for world travelers.”

Brandow & Johnston, a Los Angeles-based engineering firm, is providing structural engineering on the project in association with Thornton Tomasetti, an engineering firm headquartered in New York City.


 

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