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2016’s most exciting Los Angeles design proposals

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Architects dreamed up imaginative new buildings and much-needed makeovers

Developers are as keen as ever on Los Angeles, and some of their new buildings and makeovers stand to reinvigorate (or destroy, depending on your point of view), the look and feel of the city. This year, plans were filed almost daily for new housing complexes, creative offices, towers, hotels, and museums, and, in some cases, we were lucky enough to get renderings showing what some of those new or converted buildings might look like.

Not every proposal was creative or breathtaking, but there were more than a handful that make LA’s future look at least a little brighter. From the unique to the beautiful to the exhilarating to the eye-popping, behold, the most exciting renderings put forth in 2016.

A rendering of the Mesquit project designed by Bjarke Ingels. There are a group of buildings with glass facades. A courtyard is in the center of the buildings. Courtesy of Bjarke Ingels Group

Bjarke Ingels glassy mixed-user

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is bringing his talent to the Arts District, where he’s designing a funky, cool structure to hold two boutique hotels, creative offices, housing, shops, and open space along the Los Angeles River. The glassy buildings would be huge and tall, topping out at 30 stories, but would be designed not to look terribly dense. Called Mesquit, the project would be built on land that extends from Seventh Street north along Mesquit Street almost up to where the new Sixth Street Bridge will be.

Via Los Angeles Planning Department

The future LAX

LAX is slowly becoming a more pleasant airport with swankier terminals and higher-quality restaurants and bars. Still, it’s a major headache to navigate. Fortunately, there’s a plan to fix that, most notably by giving passengers alternative options to arriving and departing from the chaotic airport.

One of those options would be a “people mover,” which is basically an electric train, to ferry passengers among terminals and to a future light rail station. A report released in the fall gave us our first look at a multitude of planned infrastructure upgrades, including the addition of the people mover, plus new pedestrian bridges, structures for passenger pick-up and drop-off, a central hub for car rentals, more landscaping, and revamped terminal facades.

The redesign of Pershing Square

In May, city officials announced that Agence Ter had been selected to totally redesign unwelcoming Pershing Square, the one square block bounded by 5th, 6th, Hill, and Olive streets in Downtown Los Angeles.

Agence Ter plans to flatten out the multi levels of concrete and turn the plaza into a lush place that people actually enjoy, with gardens irrigated by rainwater stored in the underground parking garage, a large canopy made of trees and solar panels, and a pool reflecting the Biltmore Hotel. It’s a pretty simple idea that landscape designer Wade Graham told KCRW’s Frances Anderton “comes closest to realizing the holy grail of good public squares.”

A skyscraper with death-defying pools

One of the most thrilling proposals out of 2016 is this skyscraper with glass pools jutting out from it, right next to the 1924 building that houses popular rooftop restaurant Perch at Pershing Square. Developer Jeffrey Fish wants to erect a 57-story tower to hold commercial space, and above that, condos, many of which would come with cantilevered glass lap pools projecting from the buildings facade.

Courtesy of Studio One Eleven

Studio One Eleven’s chic complex

In LA, mixed-users tend to be boring and boxy, but Long Beach-based Studio One Eleven’s scheme for a multi-use complex next to the forthcoming Arts District outpost of Soho Warehouse is chic and airy. The compound would be comprised of three buildings and open spaces and outdoor paseos, partially covered by a zig zagging roof-like structure of exposed wood and steel.

Courtesy of Tribune Media

Gensler’s tower atop a future subway station

This tower, which would rise atop the forthcoming 2nd/Broadway subway station being constructed as part of Metro’s Regional Connector project to link the Blue and Expo Lines to Union Station, is another example of a creatively-designed mixed-user. The off-set boxes look isn’t unique; we’ve seen it in the Icon and Epic towers in Hollywood, but this one designed by Gensler is even more asymmetrical and dramatic, and with all of that glass, it doesn’t look as bulky.

A marine research center at Ports O' Call

Gensler is also behind this futuristic looking research and education center at San Pedro’s Ports O' Call. Called AltaSea, it will hold classrooms for Southern California’s universities, an interpretive center, and a research and development hub devoted to "commercializ[ing] scientific breakthroughs and emerging technologies" as well as exploring "ocean-centered solutions" to global issues like food security and sustainability.”

Two 58-story towers in the Arts District

Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron’s first project in Los Angeles is these two towers in the Arts District. At 58 stories each, they’d be, by a long shot, the tallest in the gentrifying neighborhood. The design is influenced by the Arts District’s industrial warehouses. The buildings would be framed in concrete, leaving large blank spaces to "encourage murals and other evolutionary art responses.”

George Lucas’ Museum of Narrative Art

San Francisco and Los Angeles are vying to be the home of George Lucas’ legacy project, the Museum of Narrative Art. Chinese architect Ma Yansong has drawn up renderings for both locations, and LA’s is a smooth, futuristic building that looks like a Star Wars spaceship. There’s nothing else like it in the city.