Bombastic, brand-name architecture is transforming the L.A. Arts District

Los Angeles’s Arts District neighborhood is seeing a rapid influx of large-scale, developer-driven mixed-use projects, which are poised to upend the enclave’s status as an affordable, artists’ neighborhood.

Within the last six months, several large-scale proposals by international and local firms have shaken up the Arts District’s development trajectory by injecting an infusion of branded architecture. Irvine, California–based developer SunCal and Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron have partnered on the 6AM project, a $2 billion development located at the intersection of 6th and Alameda Streets. Initial plans call for roughly 2.8 million square feet of mixed-use development to the southern edge of the district, including 1,305 apartments and 431 condominiums.

The project’s retail areas will be contained within a multi-story ground-level podium that will act as a literal platform for the housing units above, articulated as long bars of apartments. The platform is designed as a collection of raw concrete structural components—square columns, rectangular beams, and a thin slab—raised high enough off the ground to create large expanses of covered outdoor space along the street and what amounts to a cavernous, open-air mall within. The interior of the retail complex will be carved into various blocks, with alternating exposures of the housing above looking down into the interior shopping streets. The complex is capped along Alameda Street by a collection of housing towers. Mia Lehrer + Associates will act as landscape architect for the project and AC Martin will serve as executive architect. 6AM is expected to be built in three phases starting around 2018.

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Chris Alexakisparks