LEVER Architecture solid wood office building in Chinatown will be LA’s tallest

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LEVER Architecture, the Portland-based design company whose portfolio of timber buildings has made waves in the Pacific Northwest, recently established itself in California, a state that is only beginning to explore the potential of construction in cross-laminated timber (CLT). With its new office in Los Angeles, LEVER recently opened a 145,000 square foot office building in Los Angeles Chinatown at 843 N Spring Street, commissioned by Santa Monica-based developer Redcar Properties. When completed next year, it will be among the first major CLT office buildings in the city and California by extension.

As part of an adaptive reuse project, the envelope of a one-story commercial building that has been on the site for three decades will be transformed into a chain of retail modules on the ground floor of the office building, which the company says will be occupied by businesses that reflect Chinatown’s cultural history. The decision to devote a significant amount of space to the public was prompted by the building’s proximity to the Chinatown subway station across the street and the area’s overall commercial resurgence in recent years. At just under 75 feet, rising above its neighbors, the building will become one of the tallest CLT office buildings in the city while meeting the 2021 International Building Code (IBC) standards for the state.

The design takes advantage of its proximity to the Chinatown metro station with the creation of public spaces and retail pods along its ground floor (LEVER Architecture)

To accommodate the steep slope of the site, the building is split into two volumes to make way for a vertical, multi-level garden courtyard at its center designed by James Corner Field Operations, the international landscape and urban design firm. Given Chinatown’s temperate climate, LEVER and Field Operations worked together to develop a creative environment that weaves the office spaces and the outdoors through multiple open-air circulation spaces, a rooftop terrace, and dimensional balconies. generous rooms overlooking College Street. “The new development will provide a unique office environment for creative next generation tenants,” the team wrote, “while providing the community with a public landscape experience in a high density urban setting.”

The building will continue the company’s tradition of expressive material design using a new hybrid structural system developed by LEVER that combines the 5-ply CLT with a concrete slab and exposed steel columns. The interior spaces will be bathed in natural light and clad in exposed wood panels to imbue the office spaces with a warm aesthetic. As one of the few CLT structures under construction in Los Angeles (including the Alvidrez, a 14-story supportive housing project designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture for the Skid Row Housing Trust), the building represents a promising new construction method for the city’s near future. Currently at 30% under construction, the project is expected to open to the public on July 8, 2022.

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