Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pellisimo!! Red Building Rising: Cesar Pelli's Missing Link: The 40-Year Saga of the Pacific Design Center

An appropriately colored crane for Pelli's Red Building. Photo by John Crosse, January 2010. 

While attending the on-going exhibition "Folly - The View From Nowhere" (see my January 13, 2010 post) recently at MOCA Pacific Design Center I happened to notice the above gigantic red crane looming over the construction site for the long-awaited missing piece of Cesar Pelli's grand vision for the Pacific Design Center. With any luck, the Red Building, Phase III of a 40-year effort, should be completed sometime in 2011. Phase I, the beloved "Blue Whale" was completed in 1975 after a five-year design and construction period. Based on the state of the current economy the Red Building may take as long as the Blue Whale did, i.e. nine years, to become fully leased.

I attended the gala groundbreaking ceremony for the Red Building on March 29, 2007 during the annual Westweek festivities. The official program below commemorated the event.

 Covers of the Red Building Groundbreaking brochure. (from my collection).

Interior of the Red Building Groundbreaking brochure. Note Pelli's signature. (from my collection).

 March 29, 2007 issue of the L.A. Times. p. C1. (from my collection).

The above article talks about a booming economy and the timing finally being right to build the final phase of the PDC. One can't help but wonder if the project would have gone forward in light of the economic and financial events of the past year-and-a-half.

March 29, 2007 issue of the L.A. Times. p. C2. (from my collection).

March 30, 2007 issue of the L.A. Times. p. C2. (from my collection).
 Design Book Review 12, Spring 1987 issue commemorating the groundbreaking for the Green Building. (from my collection).

Interiors, February 1987 issue with Paula Jackson cover story commemorating the groundbreaking for the Green Building. Hans Neleman photo. (from my collection).

Site plan with all three phases complete from the above cover story. (from my collection). 

Quoting Pelli from the above feature cover story "The first building was rigorously conceived as a unique, free-standing architectural object sitting on the ground and clad in brightly colored ceramic glass. I never imagined for a moment that I would ultimately have to re-think the relationships between the "Blue Whale," the site and the community around it. But that is exactly what happened. To 'undo' that which was 'finished' has been an extraordinarily creative experience but I think we've made the site much richer as a result. Each of the two additional phases will have its own character, will be seen as an independent, individual fragment coming together in a beautiful and an exciting complex of forms."   

 January 1987 issue of Progressive Architecture, 34th Annual P/A Award for the Pacific Design Center Expansion. Model by Model Concepts. (from my collection).
 March 1989 cover story "Green Phase" by John Morris Dixon describes the completion of the Green Building. Photo by Aker Photography. (from my collection).

Back cover of "Cesar Pelli" by John Pastier, published by Whitney, 1980. (from my collection). 

"Cesar Pelli" author John Pastier states "Here (the Blue Whale) is a speculative undertaking that manages to outshine the city's recent public monuments, but it's quirky form and sharp break in scale have puzzled and even outraged many Los Angeles residents. It's contextual effects may be honestly debated today (late 1970s), but in time the sea will rise, surely enough to make it seem more like a dolphin." How prescient he was! 

The below two publications are indicative of the big splash made by the "Blue Whale" on the L.A. architectural scene upon completion in late 1975.

Left: A View of California Architecture: 1960-1976 by David Gebhard and Susan King, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1976. (Exhibition catalog from my collection). Right: Cover story, L.A. Architect, December, 1975 (from my collection). 

From the November 7, 1971 issue of the L.A. Times.

Above is the earlist mention of the Pacific Design Center project in the L.A. Times.