The Gensler-designed $60 million rehaul of the US Bank Tower’s public areas in downtown Los Angeles opened this weekend in Los Angeles. Renovations for the original 1,015-foot tall building, designed by Henry Cobb of the architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, came about after several years of high vacancy rates for the office building. When the building came under the ownership of Singapore-based Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE) in 2014, plans were floated to convert a portion of the building to residences and a hotel. Eventually, however, the owners and Gensler decided to pursue a modest renovation of key elements of the existing structure, adding tourist-oriented program elements to what will continue to otherwise to be an office building.
The renovation includes a new ground-level plaza and lobby area, as well as a snaking labyrinth of so-called “digital interactivity” spaces, including moody hallways, panoramic video displays, and movement-sensitive light installations on the 54th floor. Because the building’s existing elevator configuration could not be altered, this floor’s waiting areas are a required stop on the way to the 70th floor OUE Skyspace viewing platform and restaurant.
The big ticket item for the new OUE Skyspace is a 1¼ inch-thick glass panel slide that exits the building’s envelope at the 70th floor, curves out over the city 1000 feet below, and swoops back onto an outdoor terrace at the 69th floor, where the rider is dumped onto a red, padded mat. At $8 per ride, the slide’s to price tag luckily leaves room for second guessing, as the long line leading to the terrifying threshold is the perfect place to see and hear screaming thrill seekers tumble through the air just outside the building. The slide, designed by Brooklyn-based engineer M.Ludvik & Co consulting engineers, requires the user to scoot over a precipice into the hazy abyss beyond.
In a region short on tall buildings, the new viewing area will join a growing list of sky-high vistas including the rotating bar atop the Bonaventure Hotel and the more recent rooftop bars at the Ace and Standard Hotels. The slowly rising steel frame of the nearby Wilshire Grand Hotel will also boast a rooftop pool terrace over 900 feet above the street when completed in early 2017.