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Gehry’s Sunset Complex Moves Ahead

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

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A Frank Gehry-designed mixed-use complex planned for Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip has gotten a preliminary green light from officials, but the fate of a historic bank that could be razed for the development is still unknown.

The complex, developed by Townscape Partners, faced challenges both because of its proposed size and because the part of the property at 8150 Sunset Blvd. is currently the site of the Lytton Savings Bank, designed by Swiss-born architect Kurt Meyer and built in 1960.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the developers agreed to scale down the tallest building in the complex (simply known as 8150 Sunset) and make certain other concessions before Los Angeles City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) voted last week to approve the project. But even as the committee gave the new complex its preliminary approval, it delayed a vote on landmark status for Lytton Savings.

Campaign to Save Lytton

In July, the City Planning Commission voted to support the Gehry complex in spite of a campaign by preservationists, including the Los Angeles Conservancy, to develop an alternative plan that would preserve the Midcentury Modern Lytton Savings building, which currently houses a Chase Bank.

In September, the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission issued a recommendation to list the bank building as a Historic-Cultural Monument. The commission’s report notes: “The bank was constructed in a distinctive mid-century modern style that melds Googie and New Formalism stylistic influences, reflected in glass walls, travertine cladding, concrete columns, and [a] zigzag, folded plate roof.”

Lytton Savings was one of architect Meyer’s first commissions in L.A., according to the report. Meyer went on to a prolific career, designing largely for Los Angeles, until his death in 2014.

Alterations to the Plans

According to the Times, councilman David Ryu, who had supported the preservation efforts, announced before the planning meeting that he wanted 8150 Sunset’s tallest buildings to be scaled down, and wanted more parking and more affordable housing included.

Townscape reportedly cooperated with Ryu’s requests, bringing the planned height of the tallest residential tower down from 234 feet to 178, and agreeing with planning commission requests to add parking, widen sidewalks and increase affordable housing units.

The complex is reported to involve 65,000 square feet of commercial space, including a bank, restaurant space, and a grocery store, in addition to 229 residential units.

Preservation vs. New Development

According to local news source WeHoville, one councilor on the PLUM committee questioned whether the Lytton historic status matter should be considered before the new building was approved, but city staffers said that “the historic hearing does not have any bearing on the approval of the project.”

Historic status reportedly would not necessarily save the building, but would extend the process necessary to get to the point where it could be demolished. Preservationists associated with the L.A. Conservancy have presented plans to save the building without preventing the new development from being built, but Gehry reportedly said at the PLUM meeting that the Lytton building would need to be gone before the necessary cranes could be erected for the construction of the new buildings.

The development next goes to L.A.’s full city council, which is reportedly expected to give its approval. The Lytton Savings historic landmark status matter, which was to be discussed at the same meeting of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, is now on the agenda for the committee’s Nov. 22 meeting.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Color + Design; Developers; Government; Historic Preservation; North America

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/1/2016, 8:38 AM)

I am not seeing the aesthetic appeal of Lytton. At all.

Comment from Stuart Sachs, (11/1/2016, 9:22 AM)

Just because it's old doesn't mean it's good (design).

Comment from Jesse Melton, (11/2/2016, 8:44 AM)

Something from the 1960's isn't exactly old... I've got a turtle older than that. I don't see the appeal of the building either; it looks like an oversized Whataburger. Regardless, aesthetic value and good design aren't the same thing. One is completely subjective while the other is probably best defined by how well it meets its intended purpose (my definition of good design is also good material for starting a bar fight if you're so inclined). What I don't understand is why, if the architect's career was centered around L.A., why choose a building from early in his career instead of one that highlights the culmination of his many years of experience in the same city.

Comment from Jesse Melton, (11/2/2016, 8:55 AM)

Thinking about it, I wonder what the architect thought about the endless march of culture. The Super Whataburger could never have been built had countless other architects not laid the foundation for the structures design. Neither artists nor architects create solely from imagination. Things created by others (and nature) all influence the way people design things.

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