International Architecture Awards Tell a friend
Architects: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Lead Architect: Patricia Rhee
General Contractor: Del Amo Construction
Client: SteelWave LLC.
Photographers: Matthew Millman
The Los Angeles Times’ Printing facility—once an abandoned industrial ruin—is a fresh take on the common creative office campus. The suburban Orange County facility, vacant since 2010 along with an even-longer-abandoned rail line and gas station, is reincarnated as a 439,224 square foot multidisciplinary workspace with a dining Canteen and a public Rail Trail on its 23.4-acre site. The goal was to breathe new life (daylight, views, fresh air, access) into the buildings while preserving and respecting the original forms and structure. The integration of landscape is a pervasive theme, tying together the site and structure as one: a ruin recaptured by nature. The approach was one of selective subtraction, at all scales. This subtraction exposes the beauty of the existing, reviving what has been neglected and inviting the landscape to enter through and around the campus. Spaces for machines become spaces for people.
The architects removed swaths of the old building to introduce courtyards or passageways and carefully engineered slots in the concrete shell to maximize daylight and views and help humanize interior spaces. The new atrium is an open-to-sky moment at the heart of the project. Once one of the original clear height “cathedral” spaces, it is now activated by new catwalk-like circulation and suspended pop-out meeting rooms and platforms. A “sky cut” slices across the building to create a new pedestrian path with tenant entrances and opportunities for indoor-outdoor experiences. Former mechanical penthouses become a hideaway rooftop bar and sky garden, bringing in greenery and light. The result is a humanized campus in harmony with its industrial history and enhanced by the natural landscape.
A thoughtful, intentional balance between preservation and growth distinguishes this complex adaptive reuse. The design celebrates both material and organic markers of time. Paint chips, rail spurs and conveyor belts are left as is and an existing tree is placed to grow through the structure itself—hinting at history, site and context. Avoidance of newness for its own sake informed the use of thermally modified pine wood, which is both relatively low impact due to fast growth and will age to echo the original building’s patina. Among adaptive reuses of its scale, the project is notable for utilizing nearly every aspect of the building’s previous use.
The campus design preserves and upgrades the existing structure with minimal intervention, extending the lifespan of a local landmark beyond even its newly repurposed use today. By providing unique office space in an underserved market, one client goal was to bring jobs closer to where current and potential future employees live. The revitalized buildings and site create a campus with unique amenities, including a landscaped park area in an otherwise nature-starved corner of Costa Mesa. The project additionally reincorporates an existing rail line into a bike and pedestrian trail – an early component of one of Orange County’s most ambitious master plans to date. Ultimately, its goal is to be a catalyst for commercial conversion in an underutilized area. A second building, currently under construction, will provide approximately 185,000 sf of additional R&D facilities.