The Militant once heard in a song the line, "A skyscraper hasn't reached maturity until it has the ability to shine at night."
That line couldn't have been more true driving back to the Compound on Tuesday night via the eastbound 10 when it beckoned him to come closer.
The sight was of the awesome glowing outlines of the 54-story Ritz-Carlton Hotel building (heretofore referred to by the Militant as "The Ritz" (no not that one, nor that one either), now the 10th tallest building in Los Angeles, and the tallest non-office building in town.
As the Militant swept through the curving interchange from the 10 east to the 110 north, the glowing white LED outlines of each of the building's four curving corners seemed to vary in luminosity depending on the viewer's position, and at times, one corner would "vanish" from a certain angle. Furthermore, because of an optical illusion from the building's glass skin, when three lighted corners are visible, the "hidden" fourth corner seems to appear faintly in its expected position, as if the building were a transparent figure.
Like whoa (The Militant learned, upon closer inspection that the lighting effect is achieved through strategically-angled LED lights and a parallel column outfitted with reflectors).
The Militant, admittedly a building and wannabe architecture geek of sorts, hasn't been this excited over the first lighting of a building in Downtown Los Angeles since the 73-story Library Tower (now the USBank Tower) made its debut nocturnal illumination on the night of July 3, 1989 (yes, the Militant remembers these sorts of things).
It's no wonder since The Ritz is the first skyscraper to be built in Los Angeles in nearly two decades, also representing not just a continuing southward shift of the Downtown skyline along the Figueroa Corridor, but signifying the shift from highrise commercial office space to residential (the upper half of the tower are residential condos) and hotel use. In fact, it's not just one hotel but two: From the fourth floor to the 21st, the building houses 879 rooms of the newly-opened J.W. Marriott Los Angeles LA LIVE (a.k.a. the expensive hotel). From floors 22 to 26, it's 123 rooms of The Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles (a.k.a. the really expensive hotel), with a combined 1,001 hotel rooms.
For those of you who have been following the nearby area for the past 20 years, the hotel is a really big deal with regard to the nearby Los Angeles Convention Center. Unlike its nearby competitors in Anaheim (popular with music geeks) and San Diego (popular with comic book geeks), the Convention Center, last undergone a major expansion in 1993, has long lacked adequate hotel facilities to not only host convention guests but to provide supplementary convention space. The new Ritz/Marriott tag team changes the game at long last.
For us locals, the hotels may or may not mean much to you, unless you plan to have your wedding reception/high school reunion/overtly lavish quinceañera booked there. But it sure looks purty. Designed by the architectural firm Gensler, The Ritz effectively widens the skyline and adds an extra 21st-century flair to our late-'80s/early '90s style-dominated Downtown towers. And even during the day, the building's glass skin panels form a complex pattern corresponding to the various uses of the building's parts (Gensler even employed a computer-generated design to achieve this).
Most of all (and the Militant has heard all the different sorts of criticisms lobbied at LA LIVE), you can't deny that the synergy of the hotel, the new Regal Cinemas LA Live Stadium 14, the Nokia Theatre, The Staples Center and the amenities of LA LIVE itself, sort of signal the fact that Something Big Is Happening Downtown, even if it's not exactly the organic street-fronting facades us new urbanism types salivate over. But who's to say that the surrounding streets can't be that, and they already are. Getting off at the 9th Street exit from the 110 north already almost feels like exiting the 80 or the 101 in Downtown S.F. It's part of the energy that Downtown needs. It's not everything of course, but it's all interconnected. It's starting to happen folks.