A Grand Project

Liz Diller's keynote address in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium.

Liz Diller's keynote address in the Abby and Howard Milstein Auditorium. William Staffeld / AAP

Case Studies in Urban Development, 2013

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A Grand Project

Cornell's Case Studies in Urban Development (CSUD) 2013 will treat the development known as the Grand Avenue Project in downtown Los Angeles. The project is the latest, and perhaps grandest, effort to create vital downtown business, civic, and cultural venues for Los Angeles. These endeavors date back to the 1950s when the City of Los Angeles condemned and cleared Victorian homes and regraded Bunker Hill. Beyond enhancing the physical design and cultural vitality of downtown, the project is intended to attract residents, stimulate job creation, and generate tax revenue for local government. Early in 2007, the Los Angeles City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors endorsed an extensive public-private undertaking to transform the civic core of Los Angeles. The much heralded Grand Avenue master plan by Frank Gehry was anchored by such cultural institutions as the Disney Theater, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and included housing, parks, and extensive mixed-use development along Grand Avenue. The 2008 financial crisis delayed implementation and compelled the developers, Related California, to revise the scope of the original conception. Nonetheless, the project currently encompasses a new museum by architects Diller, Scofidio and Renfro that is now under construction; a 16-acre park by landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios, that opened in July 2012; and a housing tower by architects Arquitectonica.

CSUD 2013 will investigate the historic conditions and motivations that led to the razing of the original Victorian structures and landform of Bunker Hill; the evolution of the public-private enterprise to develop the site; the economic pressures that led to revisions to the original plans; and the individual contributions by the developers, landscape architects, architects, governmental agencies, and urban planners.


Opening, 12–12:30 p.m.

Imagining Bunker Hill

Ed Dimendberg, professor, film and media studies, visual studies, and German, University of California–Irvine

Panel Session 1, 12:30–2 p.m.

Grand Visions

Greg Hise, professor of history, University of Nevada–Las Vegas

Bringing the Hill Back to Earth

Don Spivack, former deputy chief of operations and policy, Community Redevelopment Agency, Los Angeles

Grand Promises: Designing a New Los Angeles

Dana Cuff, professor of architecture and urban design and planning, UCLA

Moderator: Jeff Chusid, associate professor, city and regional planning, Cornell University

Keynote, 2:15–3 p.m.

Liz Diller, founding partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro

Panel Session 2, 3–4:30 p.m.

Bill Witte, president, Related California

Mark Rios, founding principal, Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Simon Pastucha, director, Urban Design Studio, Los Angeles Department of City Planning

Moderator: Mark Foerster, C. Bradley Olson Real Estate Faculty Fellow, Cornell University


Dana Cuff is a professor, author, and practitioner in architecture. Cuff holds her primary appointment in the Department of Architecture and a joint appointment in Urban Planning at UCLA. She is the founding director of cityLAB, a research center at UCLA that explores the challenges facing the 21st-century metropolis through design and research. Cuff's work focuses on urban design, affordable housing, modernism, urban sensing technologies, and the politics of place. She has published widely on these topics, including the books Fast Forward Urbanism (edited with Roger Sherman, Princeton Architectural 2011) and The Provisional City (MIT 2000), a project supported by both the Getty and the National Endowment for the Arts. Through cityLAB, Cuff has expanded her studies of infrastructure, post-suburban Los Angeles, and new formulations of green design, most recently through funded research about the urban design implications of proposed high-speed rail. She organized the design ideas competition called WPA 2.0: Working Public Architecture, which attracted 400 submissions from students and design professionals around the world in 2009. Cuff teaches various courses related to the profession of architecture as well as special seminars on cultural issues, architectural theory, and urbanism.

Elizabeth Diller is a founding principal of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and a professor of architectural design at Princeton's School of Architecture. DS+R is a 75-person interdisciplinary design studio that integrates architecture, the visual arts, and the performing arts. Among the various projects of DS+R's international body of work are the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts expansion and renovation; the High Line, an urban park situated on an obsolete elevated railway stretching 1.5 miles long through the Chelsea area of New York City; the Institute of Contemporary Art on Boston's waterfront; and the Creative Arts Center at Brown University. Currently in design are the Broad Art Museum in Los Angeles; the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive at the University of California–Berkeley; the Columbia University Graduate School of Business in New York City; the Museum of Image & Sound on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the Dongguan Factory and Housing Complex in Shenzhen, China; the new art and art history building at Stanford University; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Expansion on the National Mall in Washington, DC. DS+R is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation genius award, the National Design Award, and the Brunner Prize, among others. Diller is a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Diller attended the Cooper Union School of Art and received a bachelor of architecture from the Cooper Union School of Architecture.

Edward Dimendberg is a professor of film and media studies, visual studies, and German at the University of California–Irvine and he is a consultant and editor. Dimendberg publishes on the relation of the mass media to the built environment in numerous journals, collections, and exhibition catalogues and has lectured widely on publishing, film, and design at conferences, museums, and architecture schools in Europe and North America. His book, Film Noir and the Spaces of Modernity (Harvard University Press, 2004). In 2013, the University of Chicago Press published his book Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture After Images, a historical monograph on an architecture studio widely admired for its buildings and multimedia projects. He is a member of the editorial boards of the journals October and Modernism and Modernity and editor at large at University of Minnesota Press. Dimendberg currently serves as coordinator of the FlashPoints electronic book series published by the University of California Press that strives to address the current crisis in scholarly publishing by the development of a model of simultaneous electronic and print publication. He actively follows online and electronic publishing and is committed to the development of new paradigms of scholarly communication which manifest high editorial standards while increasing the accessibility of scholarship and the speed with which it appears. He received his bachelor of arts from Brown University, his master of arts from New York University, and his Ph.D. in the history of consciousness from the University of California–Santa Cruz.

Greg Hise is a professor of history at the University of Nevada–Las Vegas. For two decades Hise has been studying urbanization and urban life in North America. In five books and more than 25 essays, he has examined intersections of politics and economic development with ideals and aspirations as each shaped the modern city. Hise's investigations of metropolitan Los Angeles, regions and regionalism, and architecture as state building have received multiple prizes and have appeared in journals and anthologies in the U.S. and Europe. His primary work at present is a history of the struggle for open housing reconceived as a fundamental facet of the long Civil Rights movement, a story told through the career of attorney Loren Miller that brings California to the forefront of national narratives heretofore southern and northern in their geographies.

Simon Pastucha is the head of the Urban Design Studio for the Los Angeles Department of City Planning. Pastucha was part of the core team that developed the downtown design guidelines and revised street standards. This resulted in the adoption and implementation of the first context sensitive street solutions for the City of Los Angeles. He helped organize the Green Alley and Green Streets initiatives to change the engineering of storm water runoff in the city. He is crafting city-wide urban design principles and guidelines and is part of the team to develop and update design and land use policy around Transit Oriented Districts. Pastucha graduated from California State Polytechnic University–Pomona with a degree in landscape architecture with an emphasis on ecosystematic design and sustainability. His achievements include handling the subdivision of land, preparation of environmental impact reports, crafting new laws for to the Los Angeles Municipal Code involving the simplification of permit entitlement processes. Pastucha sits as a commissioner of the Marina Del Rey Design Control Board where design standards are set for the community. Current projects include the Los Angeles Event Center; a new NFL stadium and the expansion of the LA Convention Center, also the Broad Museum, the Park 101 Cap Project, among others. Pastucha has won several awards for his work from the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and the Southern California Area Governments. Also notably Pastucha lives in Los Angeles without a car.

Mark Rios, who founded Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCHS) 25 years ago, has always tried to create complete environments — outside and inside — and to design all the elements that give each place its character. As founding principal, Rios has been the leader of both the design and business direction of RCHS since first establishing the firm Rios Associates in 1985. Under his design leadership, the firm has developed an international reputation for its collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach, establishing an award-winning tradition across an unprecedented range of design disciplines. The firm — renamed in 2003 to acknowledge its collaborative nature — spans the design disciplines of architecture, landscape, interiors, graphics, branding, planning, and product design for clients that include entertainment studios and venues, cultural institutions, schools and universities, city agencies and departments, retail and restaurant establishments, and private individuals. This approach spurred the American Institute of Architects California Council to bestow its 2007 Firm Award to the multi-discipline practice. In 2009, RCHS was selected as one of two finalists in the category of Landscape Design by the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards program. Rios received his bachelor of science in architecture from University of Southern California, and both master of architecture and master of landscape architecture degrees from Harvard University.

Don Spivack is an independent planning and urban development consultant, an activity he began shortly after retiring from over 40 years of professional transportation and land use planning and urban redevelopment, primarily in local government. His current activities consist of consulting with the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, a locally-based park advocacy and development entity, and with the Los Angeles Collaborative for Environmental Health and Justice, a consortium of community-based organizations funded by, among others, the Liberty Hill Foundation and the California Endowment. Spivack served most recently as Deputy Chief of Operations and Policy at the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, California (CRA/LA), where he managed the appraisal, real estate acquisition and disposition, relocation, environmental planning, cultural and arts planning and development, engineering/public works, geographic information systems, "Brownfields" remediation, and long-range and strategic planning functions of the CRA/LA. During his over 28-year career at CRA/LA Don also oversaw operations in, at different times, nearly all of CRA/LA's then 34 redevelopment project areas, along with adoption of several redevelopment project areas following the 1992 civil disturbances and the 1994 Northridge earthquake. Spivack holds a master of arts in city planning from Yale University and a bachelor of architecture from University of Pennsylvania.

William A. Witte is the president and managing partner of Related California, one of the largest developers of urban and multifamily housing in the state. Prior to joining the company in 1989, Witte served as Deputy Mayor for Housing and Neighborhoods under Mayor Art Agnos in San Francisco, where he oversaw all housing, development, and redevelopment activities for the city, and from 1981–88, as director of housing and economic development under Mayor Dianne Feinstein. He also served as an appointed commissioner of the San Francisco Housing Authority in 1989–90. Prior to his tenure in San Francisco, Witte served in 1980 as executive assistant to assistant secretary for Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner Lawrence B. Simons at Housing and Urban Development in Washington, DC as legislative director for the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (1978–80) and with the Philadelphia Office of Housing and Community Development (1975–77). He received a bachelor of arts in urban studies and a master of arts in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania. Witte is a member of the Board of Overseers of the Graduate School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the National Real Estate Advisory Council of the Enterprise Foundation. He is also a Policy Advisory Board member of the Fisher Center for Real Estate at University of California–Berkeley's Haas School of Business; and a member of the Boards of the Center for Real Estate at the Merage School of Business at University of California–Irvine, the Lusk Center for Real Estate at USC, and a member of the Community Partner Advisory Board of the Orange County Human Relations Commission. In addition, Witte sits on the boards of the Center for Creative Land Recycling in San Francisco, Shelter Partnership in Los Angeles, and the Foundation for the Great Park in Orange County.

About the Series

CSUD is an annual symposium focused on the interdisciplinary nature of complex urban projects. The series examines economic and political catalysts for development; the dynamic processes of land use regulation; the cultural and social contexts and frictions of urban transformation; and the architectural, landscape, and infrastructure design aspects that attend any large-scale urban project. Begun in 2006, past CSUD symposia have examined urban development in Seattle, London, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Songdo IBD, South Korea. CSUD is hosted by AAP and involves students and faculty from multiple disciplines including landscape architecture, planning, architecture, real estate, fine art, and urban design.

The symposium is made possible through the support of Matthew L. Witte (B.Arch. '79). The series is sponsored by AAP and the Baker Program in Real Estate.
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