By NOLA L. SARKISIAN
An entertainment complex being developed around the Cinerama Dome is a futuristic assemblage of glass and steel. Directly across the street, a brightly colored Streamline Moderne complex is going up, complete with sweeping horizontal metal bands and decorative sheet-metal panels.
A few blocks away, the architectural design of the Hollywood & Highland project defies traditional labels.
Hollywood architecture, always distinctive if not downright gaudy, is getting a fresh dose of pizzazz that will clearly alter the look and feel of the area after years of decay and neglect.
"It's taking an enormous amount of investment and research to redevelop this neighborhood. It's not like turning around a speedboat. You're turning around a huge battleship that takes enormous efforts from the city and the developers," said Richard Peiser, professor of real estate development at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a former USC director of planning. "This area has the potential of becoming the most exciting retail node in the city. The timing is perfect."
Sanford R. Goodkin, a Del Mar-based retail consultant, said, "They're building these structures for the same audience as Spielberg and Lucas, so they have to push the envelope and pursue their fantasies. They should have great fun with this, since all the rules are thrown out."
Nowhere is this more apparent than at TrizecHahn Development Corp.'s Hollywood & Highland project.
The challenge for the four-firm architectural team is to complement, rather than overshadow, the project's famous neighbor, Mann's Chinese Theatre. In addition, the $385 million project is situated below the hills and the landmark Hollywood sign, so it is being designed to avoid obstructing views and create open passageways to facilitate them.
To do that, lead architectural firm Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects Inc. has created a series of buildings that will be lower and more conservative near the Chinese Theatre and become successively taller and more colorful as the project moves northeast away from Hollywood Boulevard.
"The idea is to have restrained exterior and more-flamboyant interior. You have more latitude inside, where all hell can break loose," said Ehrenkrantz principal P. Vaughan Davies. "We couldn't put this center anywhere else in the world. It belongs here and represents the character of the place."
The focal point will be the entrance, dubbed "The Grand Stair," where 40 steps, bordered by tiles painted to resemble a Bedouin rug, gradually rise about 18 feet from the sidewalk of Hollywood Boulevard. Atop the stairway will be a grand arch, leading into "Babylon Court," a landscaped outdoor plaza.
The 130-foot-high stucco fa & #231;ade carved with historic emblems and griffins uses pieces that were in the 1916 D. W. Griffith movie, "Intolerance."
The crowning feature will showcase a 190-foot tower on the corner, made of steel with a central piece of glass that will be illuminated and have a 60-foot-high panel for signage.
Unlike TrizecHahn's project, Regent Properties' Sunset & Vine development reflects a Streamline Moderne feel of the 1920s.
About 20 shops and restaurants, along with a 12-screen multiplex, will comprise the $50 million, tri-level project. It is being designed by Venice-based Jerde Partnership, known for the boldly designed Horton Plaza in San Diego.
Each tenant will have its own unique fa & #231;ade, adorned with lots of vertical signage. Chunks of sweeping horizontal metal bands will frame the exteriors. Plaster, ceramic tile, decorative sheet-metal panels and beveled glass are part of the design elements that will accent the brightly colored complex.
"We like to have big signs and big patterns to make it a quintessential L.A. street and pedestrian fair," said Jerde Vice President Charles Pigg.
Across a 15,000-square-foot parking lot, another 5,000 square feet of retail space is being developed, along with the refurbishing of the 73-year-old Doolittle Theatre. Architectural firm M2A is restoring the theater to its original appearance, creating a wrought-iron marquee to hang over the sidewalk, bronze display cases, a marble base and cast stone cornices.
Across from the Sunset & Vine site lies the Cinerama Dome, which will be the focal point of Pacific Theatres' project. Use of the geodesic structure fueled a heated battle between preservationists and the developer. Originally, Pacific planned to remove the curved screen, knocking down interior walls and installing stadium seating. But historians balked and the city gave the dome landmark protection.
After meeting with residents and the city, San Francisco-based Gensler, the project's architect, scaled back the amount of retail space and traded in an original Art Deco theme for a '60s futuristic look, to be more harmonious with the dome.
"Our goal was to create a fun, spacey feeling at the center," said Neil Haltrecht, Pacific's vice president of real estate and development. "We wanted to play off our major asset, which is the dome, and create a gathering place for office workers who just want to have a lunch or a couple who want to enjoy dinner and a movie."
The $90 million project will focus on entertainment, with about 10 restaurants and food court eateries, a 12-screen cineplex, a nightclub and health club. The retail buildings are pulled back about 40 feet from the dome. The low-level storefronts will serve as a backdrop to the dome, with additional buildings getting successively higher, topping out at three stories, as they stretch southward.
The designs of all three Hollywood projects been forced to pass muster from a sizable contingent of city officials, consultants and residents.
"We expect and demand that they follow urban design guidelines that are appropriate to the historic district of Hollywood, and (the architects) have all been very responsive to the notion," said Roxana Tynan, Hollywood economic director for Councilwoman Jackie Goldberg's office.
Among the design elements that architects were required to incorporate are parking structure entrances on side streets, visual breaks in facades, and compatibility with pre-existing architectural styles. Compatibility alone can be a daunting requirement, considering that Hollywood Boulevard has six primary styles from the Masonic Temple's Classic Revival building to the Gothic Art Deco style of the Hollywood Professional Building.
"They want to create destination points without clashing with the community. It's not an easy process," said TrizecHahn consultant Christy McAvoy, a managing partner of Hollywood-based Historic Resources Group. "You have to do your homework. These projects are an evolving work."
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