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In Los Angeles, Grimshaw and Gruen on Track to Win $4 Million Union Station Contract

By Marissa Gluck
June 20, 2012
The L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority staff has recommended a master plan by UK-based Grimshaw Architects and local firm Gruen Associates.
Photo courtesy Metro
The L.A. Metropolitan Transportation Authority staff has recommended a master plan by UK-based Grimshaw Architects and local firm Gruen Associates.

Los Angeles’ major transit hub, the historic Union Station, is one step closer to a massive expansion.

Union Station Plan
Image courtesy Metro
Grimshaw Architects and Gruen Associates' vision plan for L.A.'s Union Station and the surrounding area.
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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) staff has recommended UK-based Grimshaw Architects and local firm Gruen Associates to develop a master plan for the project. In April 2011, Metro acquired the station and 40 surrounding acres from a private developer for $75 million. Grimshaw and Gruen's ambitious preliminary proposal is designed to turn Union Station into a world-class terminal.

Metro staff will present its recommendations to the Planning & Programming Committee today at 1 p.m. (PST). During a second meeting on June 28, Metro’s board of directors is expected to consider the recommendations and make a final decision.

The recommendation comes after six global architecture firms were invited to present their future vision for the passenger rail center and the surrounding area, totaling six million square feet. Metro initially received 22 responses to an RFQ. Its shortlist, announced in December, included well-known firms such as Renzo Piano Building Workshop and Foster + Partners.  

While the six shortlisted teams presented “vision boards” to the public in April, Metro oddly announced that the schemes would not be executed and, in fact, would have no impact on the selection process.

“First and foremost our goal is to accommodate current and future transit needs,” says Metro’s Jenna Hornstock, deputy executive officer for countywide planning and development. To accomplish this, Metro wants to improve circulation and connections between the multiple transit lines, create better bike and pedestrian access to the station, and develop the surrounding area. The revamped site will likely include retail, residential development, new offices, entertainment, parks, and potentially a high-speed rail terminal. The budget for the master plan contract is $4.15 million.

Grimshaw has extensive experience designing transportation and infrastructure projects globally, including London’s Waterloo and Paddington Stations as well as New York’s upcoming Fulton Street Transit Center.

Likewise, Gruen Associates, a 65-year old firm, has worked with Metro before, most recently completing phase one of the newly opened Expo Line. Gruen also recently worked on master plans for the Pacific Design Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center expansion.

Right now, the firms are staying mum on specifics about the Union Station master plan until a final decision has been made. “We’re bursting at the seams,” says Debra Gerod, a partner at Gruen.

According to Hornstock, Grimshaw’s design vision combined with Gruen’s project management experience make them a winning team. Additionally, “their ability to articulate that vision in a really accessible way” helped them secure Metro’s recommendation.

First opened in 1939, the iconic building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and underwent a major restoration in 1992. Partially designed by John and Donald B. Parkinson, the same architects who designed Los Angeles City Hall, the building combines Mission Revival, Streamline Moderne, and Dutch Colonial Revival architectural styles. The station has served as the backdrop for countless movies (especially film noir), television shows, music videos, and even video games.

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