February 1, 2018

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.

OVERLOOK: The north side of The Vinz faces Shalhevet’s parking lot.

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.


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