The tallest building in California will be a 77-story 'supertall' skyscraper in Los Angeles
- Los Angeles could be getting a brand-new skyscraper that's taller than the Wilshire Grand - the tallest tower in California.
- The planned skyscraper is 77 stories high and features a mixture of condos, hotel rooms, and commercial space.
- The future development represents a growing trend of supertall construction as cities compete to have the most impressive skylines.
Los Angeles has endured endless criticism for its low-lying slab buildings, flat-topped towers, and mismatched design aesthetics.
In 2013, the former architecture critic at Los Angeles magazine, Greg Goldin, lamented the city's "dull" and "mediocre" landscape.
"The list of path-breaking public structures is pitifully short, especially for a city that has been a mecca for architectural talent," Goldin wrote. "Los Angeles has not one thrilling subway station portal and not one inspiring modern skyscraper."
That could change with the development of a 77-story tower that's set to become the tallest in California.
At 1,107 feet, the skyscraper will surpass the height of the city's current tallest building, the Wilshire Grand. Its plan includes a mixture of condos, hotel rooms, commercial space, and additional hotel amenities.
To some extent, the skyscraper's height was borne out of necessity. The site where it could soon stand is bound by a freeway on three sides, so architects were forced to design upward rather than outward. When they realized they were close to setting a record, they decided to push the building even higher.
"We got to the point where we were so close to being the tallest that we thought, 'Why shouldn't we be?'" said Jeff DiMarzio, whose firm, DiMarzio Kato Architecture, is designing the structure.
The real motivation behind the project, he said, was to make a noteworthy addition to the LA skyline, which he describes as "boxy" and "not as aesthetically pleasing as other cities."
The problem dates back to the city's 1974 municipal code, which required each building to have an emergency helicopter landing facility on its rooftop. When the ordinance was overturned in 2014, it opened the door for architects to experiment with their rooftops in exchange for installing certain safety features like a fire service elevator and additional exit stairs.
The new building at 333 South Figueroa will buck the trend of boxy development with its sleek, tapered exterior. DiMarzio said the tower's narrow top was designed to stand out among other buildings.
"We're really trying to find a great addition to Los Angeles to give downtown an iconic tower that they can be proud of - just like New Yorkers are proud of their towers," he said.
That doesn't necessarily mean incorporating flashy design elements.
"We didn't find any reason to starting doing things like twisting or shifting or creating graphic facades or doing all sorts of trickery," DiMarzio told Business Insider.
Instead, he said, the skyscraper "took a few cues" from a 13-story hotel on the site at 333 South Figueroa. The hotel's prismatic walls and reflective panels will be complemented by the skyscraper's angled glass and steel exterior.
As part of the development plan, the hotel will be converted into an apartment complex. One of the biggest challenges, DiMarzio said, will be preserving a 300-person international boarding school that's currently on-site.
DiMarzio said the development plan will likely be approved in a year and a half.
That puts it on pace with a host of supertall construction across Western America and other areas like Asia and the Middle East. Last year saw the completion of more than 140 skyscrapers worldwide, including 88 in China and 13 in the US.
The trend has been driven by numerous factors: the vanity of developers, the attempt to accommodate a growing urban population, and the desire to maximize revenue by adding more space. But it often boils down to competition between cities.
DiMarzio said cities are "vying for status" when it comes to the height of their skylines. With a new 77-story skyscraper, Los Angeles could appear more vibrant to the rest of the world.
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