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Layoffs at Frank Gehry's firm have L.A. architects on edge

April 25, 2008 |  4:45 pm

Gehry From offices near Venice Beach, Frank Gehry has designed some of the world's most eye-catching and acclaimed buildings, from Disney Hall in downtown Los Angeles to the Guggenheim museum in Spain. But not even Gehry's world renown and design savvy are enough to insulate his firm from the slumping economy. This week, the L.A. architecture community was buzzing about rumored layoffs at Gehry Partners and the prospect of job cuts at other firms across the region.

One Gehry architect told LA Now today that 23 workers were laid off in the firm's Venice office in response to the delay in the giant Atlantic Yards project in New York and the slowing economy. On Thursday, Curbed LA reported a rumor that 80 people had lost their jobs. Gehry's firm, for its part, is not talking, failing to respond to several e-mails and phone calls today.

What's for sure is that architects, along with real estate developers and builders, are seeing business drop off steeply, with no end in sight. Says Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne:

"I think it's likely certain big firms around town will have to take similar action; even foreign investors flush with capital, which have been keeping a few high-stakes projects here from collapsing, are starting to look wary of investing in the U.S. All the same, Gehry's is a special case: The sheer scale of the firm's Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn -- not to mention Grand Avenue, Abu Dhabi and other mega-commissions around the world -- meant it had to expand over the last few years to an unprecedented degree. Staffing levels there really had nowhere to go but down."

-- Jesus Sanchez