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Studio Gang unveils its first Los Angeles project: A wavy, 26-story tower in Chinatown

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The site “really calls for a great piece of architecture”

The Chinatown high-rise would hold apartments, hotel rooms, and shops.
© Studio Gang

Chicago-based architecture firm Studio Gang has signed on to design an eye-catching 26-story apartment and hotel tower in Chinatown.

The widely-respected firm has designed numerous projects in Chicago, San Francisco, and New York, including the expansion of the American Museum of Natural History. This would be its first in Los Angeles.

“The site is at the nexus at a lot of different nodes of development,” says Studio Gang design principal Weston Walker, citing the rapidly developing Arts District and the recently reopened Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The prominent site, near Cesar Chavez Avenue and North Spring Street, “really calls for a great piece of architecture,” Walker says.

The slim, curving tower would hold 300 apartments, 149 hotel rooms, shops, and public open space. Planned for 643 North Spring Street, it would rise 270 feet, or 26 stories, and measure just 55 feet wide.

“The building’s narrow form allows for fresh air and sunlight in every unit,” according to Studio Gang.

An added bonus of the building’s narrow, wavy shape is that because it’s not a rectangular block, “you never get that feeling of [the building] being a wall,” says Jeanne Gang, the firm’s founder and a MacArthur fellow.

Balconies would dot the structure’s glassy exterior, and windows would be set back into the building’s facade to create shade.

Hotel guests and building residents would share amenities on landscaped second- and third-floor terraces. At the street level, 22,000 square feet of public plazas are planned, designed by landscape design firm Elysian.

The hotel would be operated by MOB Hotel, a European brand with hotels in Paris and Lyon, and another in the works in Washington D.C.

The developer is French real estate investment company Compagnie de Phalsbourg. It’s working with Arts District-based real estate firm Creative Space, which will serve as a “local development partner.”

They’re expected to file plans for the project with the city today, while community meetings are expected to begin in the coming months.

Chinatown residents have pushed back against tall buildings, which are often seen as out-of-scale with the neighborhood and as harbingers of further housing inaffordability, or both. In at least one case, unwanted attention from neighborhood activists resulted in a project that planned to have two 20-story towers opting instead for a handful of five-story buildings on the site.

“Obviously we know there’s some sensitivity” to a taller building, Gang says, but the project “seems to fit in.”

The site at 643 Spring Street is, for now, occupied by pair of low-rise buildings—one of which is the shuttered King Hing Theater.

In January 2017, local developer Redcar proposed building a 203-unit residential project that would rise 102 feet on the site. That proposal was withdrawn from the planning department in September 2017.