IAC, a leading media and Internet company, selected multi-disciplinary design firm Rios Clementi Hale Studios for the innovative renovation of its West Hollywood office building. Rios Clementi Hale Studios collaborated with Rana Creek to create a living canopy of plants that extends up the street façade of the seven-story brick building. Consisting of a five-story trellis landscaped with more than 11,000 plants, the wall brings nature to a busy commercial intersection, and encourages native habitat by attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. An ingenious irrigation system saves 100,000 gallons of potable municipal water per year by re-using existing nuisance water that was previously pumped daily from the building’s garage. The project includes the public amenity of a landscaped plaza, and a new entry lobby to correspond with the enlivened building.
The steel latticework framework projects 16 feet from the building face to form a dramatic canopy over the building entrance and future café on the site. This tapering structure, which is bolted to the concrete structural frame, reaches a height of 70 feet and stretches to about 150 feet wide at its base. Its open grid—designed to correspond with the building module—preserves window views from the building, while covering the 1980s brick façade, now painted white, with an ever-changing display of nature. LED lighting fixtures embedded in the lattice illuminate the planted wall at night, emitting a lantern-like glow.
Within the different sections of the latticework are 6-foot-by-4-foot steel containers for about 30 different varieties of plants, including California Fuchsia, Beach Strawberry, Hummingbird Sage, and Golden Yarrow. The planting selection ensures the species were mostly native to the Southern California region and would attract birds and pollinators to the site. Rana Creek propagated most of the plants and developed a light-weight growing medium specifically for this project.
During the design phase, the project team discovered that thousands of gallons of water had to be pumped from the building’s basement as a part of a continual de-watering system installed with the original building to prevent flooding of its five-level underground garage. The source was a subterranean stream flowing from the hillside above the IAC building. Rios Clementi Hale Studios and Rana Creek worked with the water district to gain approval to utilize the water to irrigate the wall and surrounding landscape. Water is captured from the existing dewatering system, stored in a tank within the underground parking garage, and pumped to the living wall as necessary. A digital system monitors the need to irrigate the plants and drip lines within the planters to deliver the appropriate amount of water to the specimens. As a result, no municipal water is consumed for irrigation and about 100,000 gallons of potable water are saved each year.
The building is branded with two IAC signs designed by Bruce Mau, and strategically placed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios. One of the blue, yellow, and white signs was mounted along the roofline on the west side of the building to be seen easily by motorists. Situating the other one to a steel structure inside a hedge at the newly designed plaza level allows a more personal engagement with the company symbol and establishes the color palette for the outdoor furniture and interior finishes.
The plaza was created as a comfortable space for the public, and features native plantings, custom seating, and geometric pre-cast concrete paving tiles. Rios Clementi Hale Studios created site-specific furniture based on geometric forms in the paving. Folded powder-coated steel plate was chosen to create contrast between the sense of the large volume of the trellis and thin profile of the furniture. Chairs and benches are placed to allow easy circulation as well as small-group interactions. At night, the ground plane is aglow when in-ground uplights illuminate the metal surfaces. The colors are brought inside the lobby, where a glowing yellow reception desk is backed by a white wall that announces “IAC” with perforations reminiscent of the trellis grid openings. The lobby floor and walls use the outdoor paving tiles to create a seamless flow between interior and exterior. The ground pattern also makes a strong pedestrian gesture, as it extends from the sidewalk to the major cross walk, thereby becoming an integral part of the Sunset Strip experience.