Frank Gehry is the architect engaged by Townscape Partners to design the 8150 Sunset Blvd. project. The project has attracted attention, and opposition, from some West Hollywood residents who live at its southern border. And it has been criticized by preservationists who argue that it may mean demolishing the Lytton Savings Bank building on the project site. That building was designed by noted Southern California architect Kurt Meyer. Now a Chase Bank, the building, with its zig-zag folded plate roof, glass walls and interior art work offered a departure from traditional bank buildings when it opened in 1960. In mid-September the L.A. Cultural Heritage Commission unanimously agreed to recommend landmark status to the building. The Los Angeles City Council is likely soon to consider whether to endorse that recommendation, which could slow, although not halt, the possible demolition of the Lytton building. And the L.A. Conservancy has brought a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles that also might have an impact on the Lytton building’s future
What does Gehry, perhaps the nation’s most famous living architect, think about preserving the Lytton Savings Bank building at its current location? He tells us in an Oct. 27 letter to the Los Angeles City Council, published below:
I am writing to you regarding the upcoming hearing on 8150 Sunset Blvd. When we started this project, we set out to accomplish a number of goals with our clients. Primary among them was to create a building that is simultaneously a good neighbor to the surrounding buildings, while also creating something of signiﬁcance which would speak to the historical gateway nature of the site. We wanted to create a user-friendly building that would be open and welcoming to pedestrians which would cultivate a vibrant street-life that is so sorely lacking on that corner currently. In order to do this, we broke-up the massing of the building to ﬁt into the existing fabric of the neighborhood. This move also allowed us to create wide view corridors to create reciprocal views between the hills and the City and to engage the street while creating large open plazas to invite lively pedestrian activity.
I know this site very well and can contextualize the historical signiﬁcance of the Garden of Allah. I also remember that there was a huge outcry when the owner of the bank — Bart Lytton — bulldozed through the approval process for a project that was out of scale and out of synch with the existing neighborhood. As a practicing architect for all of these years, I have encountered the wrecking ball on a few of my buildings. Each time, I was asked to protest, to ﬁght the demolition of these buildings, I declined because it was clear to me that time had passed and the people behind the demolishing were interested in creating new buildings for a new generation of activities.
In that spirit, I feel that the bank, as it stands, has lost its raison d‘etre and would severely hinder our ability to create a design that engages and activates the street. It would block the creation of a new venue which is open and inviting to the community. It would make it very difﬁcult to create any reciprocal relationship between the site and the hills and to create an appropriate entry to the Sunset Strip.
My process on this project, as on my other projects, includes the use of models as a tool to explore a variety of options for the project. We tried dozens of massing Options for this project to arrive at the best solution. We looked at options using the bank building and without the bank building, 1 do not come to this recommendation lightly or without having done my homework, but 1 really do not believe that 1 can design a successful project while keeping the bank on the site.
Frank Gehry, Architect