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L.A.’s kinder, gentler police stations

By Allison Milionis

Gruen Associates’ 20th Area station (above) AC Martin’s Hollenbeck station (below). Images courtesy Gruen Associates (above); AC Martin (bottom).

In March 2002, Los Angeles voters passed the Citywide Public Safety Bond, also called Proposition Q, a $600 million fund for the upgrade, expansion, and construction of 13 police, fire, and bomb-squad facilities. The seven-year expansion program is actually one year ahead of schedule: All of the projects are expected to be completed by 2008.

The city hosted more than 50 public meetings to discuss the new projects, which needed to meet police- and fire-department safety and efficiency standards. Officials learned that residents wanted most of all to avoid the fortresslike aesthetic of the city’s existing facilities. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which has a reputation for keeping citizens at arm’s length, also wanted to establish connections to local neighborhoods. Most projects will have community rooms and open lobbies; some will have small parks or plazas. Facilities are also required to meet design standards set by the

L.A. Cultural Affairs Commission, to receive a minimum LEED Certified rating, and to incorporate public art.

“We’re giving something back to the neighborhoods,” says Nick Seierup, principal at Perkins & Will. The firm included public gardens at both of its projects, the Harbor Area Station in San Pedro and the Rampart Area Station Downtown. The Rampart station comprises a series of horizontal masses and planes that extend into its site, referencing the area’s Art Deco and Moderne architecture. A stone-clad wall slices through the building, forming a vertical counterpoint that separates public and high-security areas. Ribbon clerestories, light shelves, and skylights at each entry allow natural light to reach into the building’s interior.

At the 20th Area Police Department facility, located in Korea Town, Gruen Associates used the look of the officers’ shield to inspire the building’s membrane. Composed of ballistic-rated glazing, fiberglass, and a faceted metal panel system, it imparts a lightness and openness. A perimeter site wall peels off the main structure, defining the facility and creating secure outdoor areas.

New bomb-squad facilities in Granada Hills and downtown Los Angeles, by WWCOT, are necessarily less transparent, but still unique. Double-hued plaster, similar in look to the bomb squad’s hazardous-duty gear, is employed on the facade while a jagged window alignment symbolizes patterns of detonated bomb shrapnel. Projected window frames allude to the force of internal detonations and provide added security.

Other firms working on Proposition Q facilities include HOK, RNL Design, AC Martin, and Carde Ten. DMJM and the Downtown Architecture Alliance are designing a new, 11-story, 500,000-square-foot, triangular-shaped headquarters for the LAPD with a granite exterior and random window pattern. While not part of the Proposition Q inititative, the building will add significantly to this mix.

May 2006

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