Peer Review Architects
December 5, 2010 § 1 Comment
Sometimes working behind the scenes can be very influential. Architects are not only tasked with making great buildings and places for a variety of clients, but sometimes they can serve as consultants to cities in the role of a “peer review architect”. This role requires architects to critique the work of other architects, providing input on behalf of a city with the intention of getting the best possible result.
For the past few years, we have been working as peer review architects for the cities of Long Beach, Downey, Paramount, and Anaheim, and have come across a range of interesting drawings – from efforts that just needed some tweaking, to designs that needed a little more help. Lately there’s been a lot of activity in Downey, and we wanted to share what’s been built or currently on the drawing boards, and how we’ve contributed to the process.
First is the new Downey location of Porto’s Bakery – the Cuban family-owned business that’s been operating two highly successful locations in Glendale and Burbank for many years, selling everything from birthday cakes and guava pastries to meaty empanadas and medianoche sandwiches. In this case, we couldn’t design the building but were able to steer the architects in the right direction through the peer review process. The initial elevations showed a large Mission-style building – an image of faux historicism that seemed inappropriate for space-age Downey, a city previously home to NASA and other aerospace firms. After several rounds of comments and adjustments to the design, we were confident the architects were on the right track, and several months later, the new, warm, modernist Porto’s was constructed (see image above.) The corner entrance off of Firestone Boulevard is highlighted with a tower and decorated with stained glass. It serves as a welcoming beacon for the hungry customers who often drive many miles for the coveted baked goods. Judging by the finished product (and the resulting long lines on opening week) we think it’s a success, and will stimulate good architecture and urbanism in the downtown.
Right across the street from Porto’s is Downey Gateway, a rehab of an underperforming retail property on a prime intersection in the city. Here, a simple iterative peer review process wasn’t enough to get the design in line with the City’s hopes for the project, so the City hired us to reconsider the architecture and create an entitlement package for approval. We took the initially proposed design and transformed it into a modern set of buildings – reflecting Downey’s mid-century heritage – with simple massing and inviting open spaces that also worked better for the tenants (see renderings above). John Perfitt, director of Economic Development for the City, liked the renderings so much that he said he’d eat lunch there every day. Wouldn’t you?
Further down Firestone Boulevard is the iconic Bob’s Big Boy Broiler (formerly Johnie’s Broiler), a mid-century “googie” gem, saved from the wrecking ball by the City, a building owner, and a community determined to restore this beloved building. About two weeks before the grand opening, the City contacted us for help with landscaping the project. We created a modernist inspired landscape plan in a matter of days, and it was installed almost immediately. The resurgence of the historic Broiler has exceeded all expectations, and it has gone on to win a President’s Award from the Los Angeles Conservancy and has even appeared on a recent episode of “Mad Men,” demonstrating the historical accuracy of the retro design.