Winging It

Winging It

Today California-based architecture firm AC Martin Partners unveiled detailed plans for the Wilshire Grand, a 1,100-foot tower in downtown Los Angeles that will be the tallest building on the West Coast.

The $1 billion, 73-story project, funded by Korean company Hanjin International, is downtown’s first high-rise office in decades. (The building also contains a large hotel.) Located on the corner of 7th and Figueroa streets, it will include 400,000 square feet of office space, 900 hotel rooms, and a 160-foot-tall, mixed-use podium at its base.

The building’s tapering, elliptical shape is evocative of a sail, or, as architect David Martin, an aviation enthusiast sees it, an airplane wing. He said that his cousin Chris Martin, who is managing the project under the company Martin Project Management, thinks the podium design resembles Half Dome, the famous rock formation at Yosemite National Park. “It’s nice that it evokes these reactions in people,” said David Martin.


The building’s uneven crown is a first for LA, a city whose fire regulations require flat tops for tall buildings to aid with helicopter-based rescues. AC Martin was able to work with the city’s fire department, replacing the requisite helicopter-centered evacuation design with a series of emergency measures such as fireproofed "hardened elevators," that will work during any conflagration. Fire teams can still lower respondents and supplies in from the top of the building, if necessary.

In the plan, the structure is long and thin. Its footprint measures just over 100 feet from north to south (about half the width of the building), minimizing the tower’s exposure to low-angle east and west sunlight. The building will offer wide-ranging views of the Pacific Ocean, the Hollywood Hills, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Atop the hotel and office portions, a 50-foot-tall glass section, supported by outrigger steel trusses, encloses a restaurant, pool, party space, and deck. The top terrace will be completely open to the elements, a rarity in tall buildings. A 100-plus-foot-tall stainless steel spire projects from the east end of the structure, making its overall height significantly taller than that of the current tallest West Coast building, the 1,018-foot-tall U.S. Bank Tower, also in LA.

Horizontal bands of LED lighting will likely be embedded in the mullions of the curtain wall. They would repeat every 14 feet. At the base and top of the tower LEDs could be imbedded into the glass curtain wall itself. Martin said that the lighting design is still being determined, but it “won’t be as huge or blatant as some may have feared. It will be very sophisticated.” This is in reference to complaints among downtown residents that an earlier iteration of the tower’s lighting scheme would be gaudy and distracting.


The five-story podium at the base, which will contain an undulating glass canopy, is programmed for retail on the ground floor as well as a ballroom, a landscaped pool terrace, restaurants, a spa, and meeting rooms. Emerging from that space will be a landscaped plaza, welcoming pedestrians from Figueroa Street. Most of the building’s hotel and office rooms are enclosed by floor-to-ceiling glass, and a few hotel rooms on the east and west sides will project outward, providing wrap-around views.

The tower, which is aiming for LEED Silver accreditation, is expected to be complete by March 2017. The previous Wilshire Grand, an unremarkable hotel built in 1952, is now being demolished to make way for the new building.

A recent event kicking off the demolition drew several top city officials, including city councilwoman Jan Perry, who told the Annenberg Digital News: "We’re not going to be able to tax our way out of this recession. I think we’re going to have to build our way out.”