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BEST HOTEL ARCHITECT

Andy Cohen, 54

Executive Director, Gensler

In his 30 years at architecture firm Gensler, Andy Cohen has overseen some of the most prominent developments in this part of the country, including 2000 Ave. of the Stars in Century City and the new Las Vegas megaproject known as CityCenter.

But for Cohen, one development that recently opened outshines them all: the $1 billion Ritz-Carlton hotel-condo tower in downtown Los Angeles.

“This has been the pinnacle of my career,” said Cohen, executive director at Gensler. “It’s been a real honor to work on such a prominent project.”

The striking 1.1 million-square-foot, 54-story tower of curving blue glass and steel is the centerpiece of the monumental L.A. Live complex, developed by AEG. It is also the first skyscraper to open in downtown in the last two decades.

The innovative multi-use building will house two separate hotels – an 878-room J.W. Marriott on floors one through 22 and a more upscale 123-room Ritz-Carlton on floors 23 through 26 – as well as 224 condominiums on the highest floors. The J.W. Marriott is set to open Feb. 15 week and the Ritz-Carlton on April 1.

This is certainly not Cohen’s first high-profile project. In addition to 2000 Ave. of the Stars, the home of Creative Artists Agency that opened in 2007, and CityCenter, a mammoth multi-use development that opened in December, Cohen has been at work on what will be one of the world’s tallest buildings. At 2,000 feet, the Shanghai Tower, which is under construction, would be the world’s second tallest.

These high-profile projects are a far cry from the Lincoln Log structures he built as a kid. By age 10, he knew he wanted to be an architect and eventually enrolled in the Pratt Institute in New York.

After graduating and working for a year at a small architecture firm, Cohen joined Gensler, where he said in an earlier interview that “the world opened up for me.”

He started as a junior designer, working mostly on office buildings. He expanded to hotels and became what he called an expert in airport design.

Cohen worked his way up to studio leader and then head of the L.A. office. In 2006, he was appointed executive director, one of the firm’s top positions.

Though he oversees the entire Southwest region, Cohen said he still helps sketch out big ideas for new projects, including the Shanghai and Ritz-Carlton towers.

Indeed, when Gensler was brought in to work on the Ritz-Carlton tower in 2002, Cohen said that he spent as much as three-quarters of his time working on that project. The time commitment lessened when construction began in June 2007. Now, Cohen is proud of the work put in and the final design.

“It’s about vibrancy; it’s about elegance; it’s about entertainment,” he said.

But the design was about more than just elegance; it also was about functionality. The building’s curved façade allows the J.W. Marriott rooms to be 32 feet long, the more upscale Ritz-Carlton rooms to be 37 feet long and the residences to be 40 feet long.

Though the building Cohen labored over only recently opened, it is already winning raves from the community.

“Clearly this is going to be a signature tower,” said Carol Schatz, chief executive of the Central City Association. “It enhances our skyline and it really makes the southern edge of downtown a very important destination.”

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