TWO BOILING POINTS OF VIEW: The VINZ: Groundbreaking or grotesque?
New neighbor is getting it's final touches, but is the building a contemporary masterpiece or a modern eyesore?
January 31, 2018
Innovative: The VINZ takes brave architectural steps
Frank Gehry, the world-renowned architect and visionary famous for Walt Disney Concert Hall downtown and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, once said, “You’ve got to bumble forward into the unknown.”
The Vinz, a mixed-use apartment building with 149 apartments, follows in this spirit of innovation. Nearly completed on the corner of San Vicente and Fairfax next door to Shalhevet, the building is nothing if not visible.
The postmodern structure is a beacon of ambition. It challenges the public to calibrate its expectations of what a building should be. It is not a box that one will accept at first glance and never bother to think of again. Instead of conforming to the traditional buildings of the neighborhood, it looks to its future.
Metallic waves that function as screens for apartments facing Fairfax undulate along the western facade and offset nearby stone walls and give a sense of movement. Colorwise, flat surfaces are punctuated with a sharp dash of purple that breaks up the metallic grey and white elsewhere.
Nor is it merely a monolith of industrialism. Limestone on the exterior of the eastern wall combines with the metallic overtone to form a nod to the past and a step forward into the future at the same time.
This pursuit of adventurous architecture is not without precedent in the neighborhood. Take a glance up Fairfax and witness the goliath that is the Petersen Automotive Museum, which emulates the excitement of a racecar in its design. Cross Wilshire Boulevard from there and observe the ambitious undertaking by Renzo Piano that will be the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. It would be different if the Vinz jutted out of a residential neighborhood. But it stands on a major street composed of bold pieces of architecture already.
This area of Miracle Mile is not the same as it was 20 years ago. Old Spanish-style homes that line Orange Grove Ave are only one note in the symphony that is the neighborhood. The Vinz is a step in the new effort to embrace creativity.
The Vinz will function not only as an apartment building. Its ground level will house several commercial spaces that provide services to the community and brings much-needed upscale retail to the immediate area currently inhabited by Carl’s Junior and Shakey’s Pizza Parlor.
Complementing Shalhevet’s environmentally friendly efforts, the developer of the building, the Cunningham Group, promises that the Vinz “will employ renewable energy and reduce water use through photovoltaic panels, green roofs, low-flow plumbings and a greywater system.”
The building is not without its flaws. The concept of using different materials throughout the structure is a bold idea. However, it detracts from the sense of cohesiveness that many other great landmarks tend to possess. Such a limitation will likely prevent the structure from receiving much acclaim. Additionally, the placement of the building is awkward in that the top floors overlook the roof of Shalhevet, which may lead to Shalhevet students feeling uncomfortable.
But more important than than these detracting factors, the building pushes aesthetic norms in the direction of innovation.
Los Angeles is the city that gave us Walt Disney Concert Hall. It would be safe to say that our city is post-rectangular. And if we are going to take a step forward artistically, it will not be comfortable and familiar. When I first saw the building, it did not appeal to me. But after taking time to understand the ambition of architecture like the Vinz, I have the understanding that innovation is only possible by taking bold steps in an unfamiliar direction.
Out of place: Bizarrely designed, it should find a different street corner
The tagline for the “the Vinz,” the 150-unit, 43,000-square-foot apartment structure soon to have its debut adjacent to Shalhevet, is “the art of modern living.”
But what the building is doing can hardly be considered art. A metallic monstrosity that does not fit anywhere in the old Miracle Mile District of Los Angeles, the Vinz is the architectural version of a person who wears red to a funeral. Of course, there is also the Petersen Auto Museum, but two wrongs do not make a right; the two are both architecturally out of place.
Adjacent to blocks of old Spanish-style homes, the gargantuan and metallic new Vinz looks industrial and grotesque. The only thing stopping the edifice from appearing as if it was picked up by a crane and accidentally dropped into the Fairfax neighborhood is that it is on a street corner, giving it some potential stylistic autonomy.
Alliance Residential, which built the Vinz, builds most of its properties on street corners. For example, the Boulevard on Wilshire, just six minutes northeast of Shalhevet, the Axis apartments in Seattle and the Broadstone Germantown in Nashville all occupy themselves on corners, which has the effect of “I’m here.” A location on a street corner tells everyone from multiple boulevards and streets that the building has arrived, industrial robot-looking and all. The properties do not share the street with other buildings, instead they ostentatiously jut out in a way that a building sitting in the middle of a line of normal homes could not do.
Being on a corner also gives the architect some architectural freedom — if the Vinz were constructed between the homes on Fairfax Avenue or South Orange Grove Avenue, not only would it not fit but it would also be even more out of place. By sitting in their lonesome on top of corners, the properties created by Alliance Residential can do whatever they please, completely disregarding their surroundings. The Vinz fails to speak to its neighbors, save perhaps for the random splashes of limestone that attempt to complement Shalhevet’s building next door.
The one saving grace of the Vinz is its potential to have a commercial ground level, so at the very least it can interact with the neighborhood and pedestrians in that way.
Structurally, the building is split in two, like conjoined twins — one taller, white building covered in a metal plate, kind of like Iron Man. The attached, second structure is shorter and stockier, but instead constructed of half metal and half limestone. The two constructions being different but tied together with metal gives the Vinz some nice movement, actually.
But in a hapless attempt to further bring the two together, a dark hot pink color coats the inside of two different balcony walls, one facing Fairfax and the other facing Olympic Boulevard. Hot pink, beige and metal. How about garish, overly conspicuous and gaudy? We can hear the conversations in the architect’s’ offices: “How do we break up the ugly industrial metal monotony?” “I know, let’s randomly throw some pink at it.”
Additionally, the goal of Alliance is to create what it calls “Broadstone communities,” which the company describes on its website as places ”Inspired by those who desire to be surrounded by everything they need in daily life, Broadstone communities offer an unparalleled blend of service and amenities. Whether you want an upscale sanctuary with access to explore the great outdoors or a luxury urban residence in the thick of culture, nightlife, entertainment and dining, there is a Broadstone community that is perfectly suited to you.”
However, the Vinz is definitely not a community; it’s just a fancy apartment structure trying to offer its residents everything they need within the compound. The corporation is essentially attempting to create isolated, gated communities in urban areas. The building is a “community” within itself, which defeats its ability to be a true community, because it does not pay any consideration to the surrounding community.
The Vinz does not do this completely. The sub-structure that is directly adjacent to Shalhevet has limestone, likely to complement Shalhevet’s exterior. But limestone is a traditional material. Though it has entered the arena of modern architecture, like at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kans., it does not mix well with the metal blocks that alternate with the limestone ones.
Overall, the building just goes to show the corporate impact on architecture. A megalith of odd, thin metal, the Vinz does not complement or match the neighborhood whatsoever. The features for residents do not respond to or communicate with the community at all — for example, the illogical view some of the Vinz’s balconies have of Shalhevet’s south wall or parking lot, testify to the low spatial awareness of the building’s designers. Nothing gives a warm welcome home after a long hard day of work quite like randomly placed pink walls, sheet metal and a view of a high school’s parking lot.
High rent adds injury (high prices) to insult (aesthetic offense), as apartments.com estimates a two-bedroom unit in the Vinz will cost $3,000 a month.