With designs like the RAND Headquarters in Santa Monica and the new LAPD Headquarters in the Downtown Civic Center, Paul Danna, AIA, principal at AECOM, is an architectural leader regionally, and his firm globally. Paul is also the current president of AIA|LA, and he spoke this month with TPR about his accomplishments, the role of the AIA in ushering architects through tough times, and the upcoming AIA|LA Design awards event at LACMA's Resnick Pavilion on October 27.
Before affording you an opportunity to promote AIA|LA's upcoming 2010 Design Awards event in October, please share the process employed by your AECOM team in designing one of AECOM's signature projects- the LAPD Headquarters in Los Angeles' Civic Center.
The LAPD Headquarters project was significant and important to all of us at AECOM, particularly my design partner Jose Palacios and me. The positive results that the project has achieved are in large part due to a process of outreach-working with the client, LAPD, and the community to understand their needs and goals. The final design evolved and significantly improved through interaction with the Downtown residential community who live in the adjacent Higgins Building.
We are most proud of the way the headquarters building-500,000 square feet in an 11-story building-contributes to L.A.'s Civic Center. Jose and I believe that this building creates new and useable public places, while accommodating the security needs of the LAPD. These open spaces provide physical connections to the community and bring significant benefit to Downtown.
These spaces were conceived as a result of some of the project's constraints, the most challenging of which was a mandatory set back of 75 feet from the curb line to the building. It's very difficult to design a good urban building without siting the building on the street frontage to define an urban edge. We had to find alternative ways to do that, which we did by creating a variety of open space types along each of the four major street frontages. Along 1st Street, across from City Hall, we created a new Civic Plaza, a place for people to gather and a space that mediates and spans to City Hall directly to the north. To the south, along 2nd Street, we created a one acre park space for the residents of the Higgins Building and other residential downtown residents to use. On Spring Street, we created a linear sculpture garden that features the artwork of Peter Shelton that also aligns with the open space in front of City Hall, tying those two important blocks together. Along Main Street, we located an auditorium and a café, the two programmatic elements that were exempt from the 75-foot rule. We placed them there to create a good pedestrian-scaled street frontage along that street.
Who else was on the AECOM LAPD Headquarters project design team?
First and foremost was Roth+Shepard, AECOM's joint venture partner on the project. Other major consultants included: Nabih Youssef Associates Structural Engineers; TMAD Taylor and Gaines, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineering; Meléndrez Associates, landscape design; Horton Lees Brogden for Lighting Design, Inc.; and Merry Norris Contemporary Art was our public art consultant.
While the LAPD Headquarters project is clearly a significant new city landmark, could you also share with our readers your and AECOM's design work on other signature buildings and infrastructure projects both locally and globally. Headquartered in Downtown Los Angeles, it is not commonly known that the firm's work includes high-rise buildings around the world that have created city skylines as well as education, cultural, research, and transportation facilities that make cities livable.
AECOM Design has been involved in a wide variety of work locally-from academic projects such as the new library at Loyola Marymount University to headquarters projects for the Aerospace Corporation, RAND, GE, BMC Software, and others. We continue to be involved in the design of office buildings and renovations for developers, such as Hines and Thomas Properties, and we are doing mixed-use and retail developments.
We also work overseas in China, the Middle East, and South America. We are now a truly global company, with more employees presently located outside of the United States than within.
I personally have worked on Loyola Marymount University's William H. Hannon Library in Los Angeles; the RAND Headquarters building in Santa Monica; and the Korea Development Bank in Seoul. Recently, we were awarded the commission for the new state courthouse in Long Beach. Succinctly, we are involved in design projects as small as office interiors and furniture to the design of bridges and large-scale infrastructure projects, even new towns and entire universities.
How have AECOM's sustainability practice and design offerings evolved over time, given the changing rules, regulations and targets that have been established with respect to green building and sustainability?
Our design philosophy hasn't changed that much over the years. We have always prided ourselves on practicing sustainable design, back to the early 1990s when we designed the headquarters for the state of Washington's Department of Ecology Headquarters-one of the first green buildings in the United States. Since then our practice has gotten stronger and more consistent as we are now more skilled in the use of sustainable methods and as the green agenda is now more important to our clients and the communities in which we work.
In addition to your design practice and responsibilities, in January you accepted the presidency of AIA|LA. What is the present state of your economically stressed profession? What are the goals of AIA|LA-and yours-since you assumed that position?
You hit that nail on the head. It is a very difficult time for the profession. A number of our members are out of work. A large part of the mission of AIA|LA this year has been to maintain the value of membership in the AIA by doing whatever we can to help our members through this difficult time, especially those that are the most in need. We've attempted this through continuing education programs-programs on building information modeling, sustainability, and new project delivery methods. We hope that education on current topics will help members find their way back into the workforce.
We are also holding a number of networking programs so people can maintain contacts, make new ones, and uncover new opportunities. Our wide range of committees that focus on everything from building codes to the environment have also played a big role in education and creating connections for our members. We have been working hard to leverage the efforts of our committees to help our members and to also promote a more livable environment for all of Los Angeles, as many of the issues the committees address are the ones that impact us all.
One of your responsibilities as the president of AIA/LA is to select design awardees for AIA/LA's upcoming dinner, Oct. 27 at LACMA's new Resnick Pavilion. Elaborate on the AIA/LA's selection process-your criteria for choosing your honorees this year.
It would be wonderful if TPR readers attend our upcoming design awards event. It will be a great event. We are honoring a diverse group of individuals. Our honorees include architects, builders, patrons, publishers, educators, and non-profit leaders. This diverse group has several things in common-vision and passion for what they do, and, while strong leaders, they are also great collaborators.
The Gold Medal will be given to Brenda Levin, FAIA, for her more than 25 years of architectural work, including her work in renovating and restoring important buildings, and through them, important neighborhoods within Los Angeles. Brenda is very much a professional leader and collaborator, having worked closely with developers, craftspeople and others to realize her pioneering renovation work in L.A. Brenda has brought incredible benefit to our city and is clearly deserving of the highest honor that AIA|LA can bestow upon an individual.
Other 2010 honorees include: Carol Schatz of the Central City Association for her leadership in helping promote a healthier, more livable, more vibrant Downtown. Bill Roschen, architect and president of the L.A. City Planning Commission-the first architect to hold this position in 80 years, and he is doing a fantastic job. Mike Alvidrez, executive director from the Skid Row Housing Trust, is being honored for his use of architecture to provide shelter but also to instill pride and dignity in the lives of those he serves. Paul J. Matt, the CEO of Matt Construction, for his legacy of collaborating, enhancing, and realizing the visions brought to him by architects and designers. Wallis Annenberg, for her generous and thoughtful contributions to the cultural framework of Los Angeles-supporting architecture and the creation of places and programs for the people of Los Angeles. William Menking of The Architect's Newspaper, for the way his publication in a timely and relevant way is spreading the word about the importance of architecture and the issues impacting our built environment. And Ralph Knowles, a longtime professor at USC, for his research and writing on sustainable issues far in advance of the popular awareness of sustainability.
The new Resnick Pavilion at LACMA is a great place for our October event. We have the unique opportunity to be one of the first groups to see the new Renzo Piano building and the exhibit that formally will open the pavilion. It's a great place to celebrate our architectural community, in and around the work of one of the best architects of our time.
Lastly, architects, it is said, are only as good as their clients. How is AIA/LA helping to focus civic leadership, in difficult economic times, on the importance of the built environment and on the value of urban design?
One of the roles of AIA|LA is to bring attention to issues involving the public realm, both the built and the un-built environment. We provide an important service: we open up the public discussion. AIA|LA facilitates discourse and is a resource for information on important topics-and there are many these days, ranging from sustainability to mobility to effective planning practices. These and others issues are critical as the city moves into a time of great change, with the arrival of new transportation systems through the 30/10 plan and the development of other important infrastructure.
It is a critical time for Los Angeles. We should talk about these issues, share ideas, and develop a common vision. The AIA is a platform for that conversation, and bringing the resources and expertise of our organization to bear is in the best interest of AIA|LA members and the city of Los Angeles as a whole.