Volume 25, Issue 3 - May/June 2011


Red Glass Helps Define PDC Campus

Hollywood is one city with an “anything goes” kind of attitude. So while the construction of a red glass building might be out of place anywhere else, in Hollywood it fits right in. The “Red Building,” in West Hollywood, to be exact, completes the Pacific Design Center (PDC) campus, joining the Blue and Green buildings—also made of glass. This three-part composition spans nearly 40 years of design and construction. The first building, nicknamed the Blue Whale and completed in 1975, was designed by Cesar Pelli when he was partner for design at Gruen Associates. Pelli’s Green Building, along with a smaller freestanding outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art, followed in 1988.

“The notion for the red building has been around for some time,” says Kristin Hawkins, senior associate with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. “When the Green Building was being done Cesar developed the master plan for the PDC campus and decided that the third building should be red, an idea that he had been considering since designing the Blue Building. Each of the three buildings was conceived to be part of a collection of uniquely shaped and colored forms. It’s the longest tenure project we’ve ever had, spanning more than 30 years. We’ve been working with the current owner for about ten years.”

The most dynamic of the three buildings, the Red Building is sheaved in high-efficiency, double-glazed, scarlet red glass. It is composed of two curved, sloping towers atop seven levels of parking. The six-story West Tower slopes inward against the Hollywood Hills to the north while the eight-story East Tower continues the gesture, curving upward and culminating in a high point to the east. Like the previous two PDC buildings, the Red Building is clad in glass—red glass—supplied by SYP Glass in China. And while the glass of the earlier buildings was opaque, the façade of the Red Building includes both transparent and fritted glass. To create a taut, all-glass appearance, the red glass is held in its aluminum frames with silicone; 19,000 square meters of unitized curtainwall, storefront and entries to be exact. Permasteelisa served as the contract glazier.

“There are 20 different types of glass—laminated, fritted, different colors, etc. The two types of vision glass are clear with a gray tint and low-iron with no tint; the red and the white glasses are solid frit plus two different frit patterns. The patterns are made with dots that go all the way to the edge of the glass; one pattern is 50 percent opaque, meaning that 50 percent of the glass is covered with dots; the other is more dense, at 70 percent opaque. The frit patterns are on the #2 surface, except for the laminated glass, in which case it is on the #4 surface,” she says, explaining that red frit does not bond well to interlayer material.

Located between the two towers is a seventh-floor courtyard planted with palm trees. The walls facing the Palm Court are constructed of the same technology as the red walls, but incorporate white glass to give the courtyard a light, ethereal quality.

Hawkins says that solving the geometry of the structure was one of the greatest challenges in designing and building the Red Building.

“It looks simple but it is not. Nearly every exterior wall is either curved, sloped or both. There are more than 1,700 different shapes of glass in the curtainwall, which is a four-sided structurally glazed wall, the first to be built in West Hollywood.”

Hawkins also notes that working on a project, which began more than 30 years ago, makes it a significant piece of work.

“We’ve taken an archetype that Cesar developed in 1972 with the Blue Building and transformed it using today’s technology. We were able to build the project to be in keeping with modern technology while still respecting the aesthetics of the original two buildings,” Hawkins says.

Architects' Guide to Glass & Metal
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