L.A.’s Board of Supervisors has approved a $40 million plan by Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH) to renovate Music Center Plaza, a raised outdoor space in the heart of the city’s cultural complex.
Similar to New York’s Lincoln Center, the Music Center, designed by Welton Becket and Associates between 1964 and 1967, is a Modernist acropolis for the performing arts. The now-defunct landscape architecture firm Cornell, Bridgers and Troller designed the fountain-filled plaza itself, working together with Becket on a plan that would defer to the original buildings and serve as a central gathering space between the Music Center’s three theaters.
View of the new restaurant, Abernathy’s, from the plaza center. (Rios Clementi Hale)
While it’s an iconic piece of the city’s development on Grand Avenue, the plaza hasn’t been renovated since it opened. RCH’s plans will ease access, increase capacity from 2,500 to 5,000 people, and add programming.
The plans will widen and flatten the facility’s main entry from Grand Avenue, add escalators from the street, and raise the plaza’s sunken portion. The Jacques Lipchitz–designed Peace on Earth sculpture, currently located in the center of the plaza’s fountain, will be moved west to allow for more continuous use of the space between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Ahmanson Theater, and the Mark Taper Forum. Landscaped vistas will overlook Grand Park (also designed by the Los Angeles firm) on the eastern end of the plaza.
New entry from Grand Avenue. (Rios Clementi Hale)
“The Music Center was originally oriented toward Hope Street, but Grand Avenue is really its front door now. We needed to reflect that,” said RCH Senior Associate Naseema Asif.
Five new buildings on the site will include a restaurant, wine bar, coffee house, welcome center, and permanent restrooms. It remains to be seen how all this new development (and the raising of the plaza’s recessed portions) will fit into the overall aesthetic of the Music Center, but Asif notes “they are all single story, simple massings with really tight material palettes that relate to the plaza.”
Funding for the project will include $30 million from the Board of Supervisors and $10 million from the Music Center, whic has raised $6.8 million for the renovation thus far. Becket, little-known outside of Los Angeles, designed many of the city’s most important structures and complexes, including Capitol Records, The Beverly Hilton, the UCLA Campus Plan, the Century City Master Plan, and Parker Center, the former L.A. Police Headquarters that’s now slated for destruction.
View of plaza at night. (Rios Clementi Hale)