Los Angeles, California
OTL Incorporates Sculpture Garden Architectural Fountains at Atrium of Major Office Plaza in Downtown Los Angeles
Downtown L.A.’s cultural center known as Bunker Hill recently welcomed Halo, a “next-generation” food hall situated at street level in the former Wells Fargo Plaza on Hope Street.
The Class A office complex, now owned by Brookfield Properties, was undergoing a significant redevelopment when OTL was called in to complete a series of artfully inspired water features as part of the renovation of an existing sculpture garden in the outdoor courtyard at Halo. The gymnast-themed bronze sculptures were created by the late artist Robert Graham.
OTL coordinated closely with top-tier landscape architect GGN, the artist’s son Stephen Graham, and the project’s cultural and fine art coordinator Karen Amiel to overcome numerous challenges in delivering a project at this reimagined property that is as aesthetically unique as it is functional.
The team custom designed and built four architectural fountains to serve as the sculptures’ bases. The figures were mounted atop geometric pedestals – designed by the artist and his son – that had previously been placed in the atrium’s pools. (Click on the short video below for a walk through the plaza to view the revitalized sculpture garden.)
Graham Garden’s renovation took place during an active remodel of a fully operational commercial property.
This presented a number of limitations and challenges for the project, including a series of ever-moving barriers that kept the public out of active construction areas while maintaining passage through the courtyard to the office buildings and on-site restaurants.
The design team was also faced with integrating the water features into a courtyard that was being built on top of an existing structural slab over a parking garage and some back-of-house storage and mechanical spaces. This meant the allowable thickness for the fountain structure, waterproofing, and finishes was a mere 3.5 inches, defined by the shallow dimension between the top of the slab and the finish floor level.
In addition, there were limitations on approvable coring locations through the slab, based on conditions set forth by the project’s structural engineer and the location of existing underslab beams and tree pits.
To meet these challenges, OTL devised a system that tied all four water features together with gravity drain lines back to a common surge tank, meaning that no water needed to be stored in the shallow basins. This approach allowed the firm to prefabricate stainless-steel pans, which served structural, waterproofing, and aesthetic functions.
Alterations to the original pedestals were designed to minimize changes to the bases and maintain their original designs while ensuring that water could coat and flow down the columns in a controlled fashion. The bronze sculpture bases were modified to create a new water effect and mounted atop stone pedestals. The stone surrounding the pedestals was hand-tooled to create a “cut and chiseled” texture, similar to stone textures utilized by Robert Graham on previous sculpture bases. These textures had worked well to keep water flowing at a low rate so that it spread across the entire surface of the base.
Stephen Graham, who had worked closely with his father, had actually created the sculptural plinths on which the figures are mounted. For the remodel, Stephen modified three of the four sculpture plinths to change the water effect from rings of spraying jets to a water-coated bronze. The low flow rate and texture of the bronze patina allow the water to create a very intricate pattern of lacy waves, which complement the figures’ delicate details.
The fourth figure is mounted atop a slender base with a rainfall effect that was true to the original design. Testing in OTL’s studio showed that the design created minimal splash and would work well with the new basin dimensions, and the free-falling water produces a pleasing contrast with the water-coated surfaces beneath the other three figures.
The team also installed an anemometer to monitor wind conditions and shut the fountains down on windy days, ensuring that the falling water would not be blown out of the fountains.
The refresh of Graham Garden with OTL’s meticulously designed water features provides a gentle but dazzling backdrop for the new culinary center and a historically steeped entryway for this distinctive office plaza.
The remodeled sculpture garden highlights the entire atrium remodel, while distinguishing the asset from other office properties in the market and presenting it with an unmistakable amenity that will attract tenants and visitors to the property time and again.