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Is downtown L.A. turning into the Las Vegas strip? A debate over flashing lights

Talk back LA A new proposed high-rise development in downtown Los Angeles would push the limits when it comes to flashing lighting. The Times' David Zahniser reports the towers would put on their own light show:

The proposed downtown complex would include ads on a 45-story hotel and a 65-story office tower. If developers of the proposed billion-dollar Wilshire Grand project have their way, such colorful images as stars, butterflies and waterfalls would fade in and out along the upper floors of both their planned 45-story hotel and their 65-floor office tower, thanks to thousands of tiny lights embedded in the buildings' surface. Both skyscrapers would see their lowest 10 floors emblazoned with an array of commercial images, from flashing digital signs to streaming "news ribbons."

Supporters say the plan, modeled after similar technology on the Chanel building in Tokyo and the Cira Centre in Philadelphia, would bring energy and vibrancy to a stretch of downtown — the Figueroa Corridor — that already is being remade by the L.A. Live complex a few blocks to the south. Opponents say the plan would reopen the way for turning high-rise towers into massive versions of the electronic billboards that have generated protests in many parts of the city.

What do you think of the idea? Share your views here.

Illustration: The proposed downtown complex would include ads on a 45-story hotel and a 65-story office tower. Credit: Korean Airlines, Thomas Properties Group

Comments () | Archives (33)

It seems like it would be really interesting to make three or four zones (about 2 sq miles ea?) within city limits (Hollywood, Downtown, somewhere in West LA, and somewhere else to boot) where we just go turbo in terms of density, signage, everything that makes downtown Tokyo what it is/was, and then keep the rest of the city very quiet - no billboards, etc.

It seems this is something of the plan surrounding billboard districts, but some more color should be thrown in, in addition to just colorful billboards. And yes, these districts should be able to be seen for miles - the idea being if you're not in one of these districts, it's quiet and darker, but you're still able to see the lights in the distance. Seems pretty civic to me.

In a declining nation such as ours such architectural failures should not be unexpected. Commercialize everything! Why not. Capitalist culture is quite venal.

Replicants everywhere appreciate the Blade Runner aesthetic. Real Life will look more like Second Life.

Maybe MORE CHEESY, and there's a NEW mob in control, taking 'tribute.'

Blade Runner is here

Downtown Los Angeles is turning into the largest dog kennel in Southern California. I think you have to own a dog if you want to live within 10 blocks of the 110 between 1st street and Olympic.

L.A. Live is one of the most soulless and loathsome places in the city. The thought of downtown taking that as an example of the direction things should be going in fills me with despair.

While the Cira Center in Philadelphia may be capable of some of the effects mentioned, it is rarely lighted that way. That building has a small disc of colored LEDs at the intersection of every other window, creating a roughly 8'X8' grid. Occasionally these LEDs are used to create large forms such as a pink ribbon shape (for breast cancer awareness) emblazoned across an entire side of the building, but usually the Cira Center LEDs are just illuminated in one or two seasonal colors and animated with a simple cross fade.

Great waste of energy...

This is a great idea. Many of the world's biggest and best cities already have this. Considering our downtown is considered a joke by all visitors, in spite of the Staples center led revival, its clear more must be done. This is more of that, with the two new high rises combining to add more spice and flavor to an area that deeply needs it.

I am all for it.

Too pretentious and glam. Instead of lighting, why can't we have textures and sustainable, and subtle intonations using clever architecture and design? It seems like there isn't really a guideline to follow when it comes to buildings. Case in point: that eyesore next to the Convention center.

Great !!! Now build a parking structure to go with it. Downtown sucks if you drive there. Build parking and they will come.

Vegas? Sounds more to me like the L.A. depicted in the movie Blade Runner.

I live in San Diego, not L.A., so it feels odd that no one else has commented yet on this story. The skyline of downtown L.A. is nondescript, but on my most recent foray into town on a Friday evening just after sunset, my breath was taken away by the juxtaposition of the downtown skyline, the palm trees, the Hollywood hills and that natural phenomenon which apparently led to to the naming of something called Sunset Blvd. You do not need electrified advertising, 65 stories high, to "add" to this urban landscape, IMO. Most of my adult life was spent in San Francisco, that city with a chip on its shoulder because it has been surpassed by L.A. long ago, culturally, artistically and financially. And for years I toiled in what was known locally as "the stacked refrigerators" which were relics of then mayor Dianne Feinstein's "never say no" to any downtown high-rise development schemes. But what anyone observing San Francisco today remembers is not the commercial buildings, with the exception of the Transamerica Pyramid which contributes a unique modern skyscraper shape, but rather the natural contours of the hills, the bay, the low mountains and those magnificent bridges. Similarly, I don't think L.A. will ever construct a commercial space which can compete with the natural elements of the locale, and it shouldn't bother trying. What it can do is create a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere at street level, which this electric high-rise billboard will never accomplish. Las Vegas is a hoot for the totality of its garishness and excess. Adding a dollop of same to the L.A. skyline will only cheapen what is already marginal, if you ask me.

I think this is a great idea. It's a start into changing the whole downtown city of Los Angeles. We need to bring back this city to how it once was.

And it won't look like Las Vegas but more like NYC and their whole Times Square.

Also, revitalizing Broadway is going to help as well. Which is already on its way....Bringing Back Broadway


When I'm rolling on E, I like bright shiny things, but I don't want this 365 days a year. This isn't an appropriate architectural feature and would be nothing less than wasteful, visual pollution. Why not try to capture people's attention by blaring loud horns or shoot objects from the buildings? Competent architects can find better solutions than this.

STOP IT !!!!!

Don't agree with the electronic billboard idea because it is such an energy waste. Although it is a flamboyant showcase to a mellow downtown L.A. , I believe that the lights would generate an enormous amount of waste sort of like radiation. Somethings are better kept at Vegas.

No, Downtown LA is turning into Downtown LA. As a resident, i love watching all the change and the city center get better and better every day.

We should be proud that our city is going to have a new tallest building and two beautiful buildings that will anchor our skyline. That area is not residential and the light show will add to the area. how about the Times starts talking about all the good that this project will bring? A connection to the 7th street metro center, new class A office space, upgraded hotel rooms, construction jobs, tax dollars (yes, even with the tax break, it will still add to the city tax coffers, at least the amount that the current hotel brings in), and other developments and improvements that will happen because of this.

7th and fig should connect to LA Live as an entertainment district, and with the myfigueroa street scape, streetcar and bike lane project, this is a perfect end piece.

the only problem I have with this is they need to make sure its ready for "the big one" superquake that everyone is expecting.

The last thing we need is everyone in the southland panicking and getting on our crappy freeways.

Megaprojects aren't what's reviving Downtown LA, it's the slow, steady accumulation of new residents, new restaurants, new businesses, reknitting the fabric that Downtown had early in the last century.

Just build it already!! The more energy in downtown the better

This sounds like a wasteful, stupid, eyesore of a mega-billboard.

LA and the Angelenos in it is smarter than that, even if we try to fool the rest of the world by calling this LaLa Land. (Some of us are trying to keep the secret.)

There's a technology these days to use special glass in windows that steers multiple wavelengths of light to photovoltaic units all around the edges. Depending on the wavelength absorbed, which is varies some at different times of day, the reflected light off the glass gets a different sheen.

That would be beautiful *and* interesting.

And then increase pedestrian areas by about 1000% so that people could actually admire the sight.

Let's not advocate turning downtown into Times Square. There's nothing wrong with trying to attract business with a little light. Nature does the same thing, but I realize the slippery slope of advertising covering our buildings. Only the lowermost floors of this project will have advertising. And about Las Vegas, YOU ONLY WISH that downtown had that kind of display! You only wish that Los Angeles could attract the numbers of tourists that Las Vegas does with its lighting! You Nimbies won't even allow a childhood memory of mine to continue: the lighting of the Hollywood sign at night! Now THAT is sad ... the driving icon of the City being left in the dark because hilltop residents are garbage!

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