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Financier Poses Design Challenge in High-Rise

October 06, 1985|TERENCE M. GREEN | Times Staff Writer

A dream is being realized in steel and concrete at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Bixel Street, created from innovative and courageous engineering.

The dream belongs to Ming Yu Tsai, a Taiwan-born and Taiwan- and Japan-educated (MBA and Ph.D.) financier now based in Japan, who wants a unique architectural landmark to house the headquarters of his U. S. operations.

The 38-story, $75-million realization of his dream has been topped out and completion is scheduled for January.

The building's uniqueness (as far as anyone here knows, there is nothing just like it anywhere else in the world) lies in the design. The floor plan of the bottom 12 stories is roughly square, then its cross section becomes triangular to the top.

The engineering problem was that the two shapes have different dynamic characteristics; in a greatly oversimplified explanation, if an earthquake should happen, the two parts of the building would vibrate at different speeds--out of phase--and the shaking would put tremendous strain on the junction.

Nabih Youssef, structural engineer with A. C. Martin & Associates, the project consulting architect, explained it this way:

"Dr. Tsai envisioned this unusual building, which has two irregular-shaped masses atop one another.

"Our major problem with the concept was how to unify the triangular top two-thirds of the building with the lower rectangular shape, keeping the entire structure seismically sound.

"We were able to do it after months of work and help from computers."

The problem of getting the two portions to vibrate in phase was largely solved by the design of the core common to nearly all steel-framed high-rises, heavily built for stiffness and containing the elevator shafts, stairwells and often other components, such as the plumbing system.

This core was specifically designed to "act like a spinal cord," Youssef said. "It runs the full height of the building and helps enforce a uniform response--it helped us fine-tune the response."

Has any other such building been built?

"No," he said. "None. No one else has had the guts to design such a structure for a building of this magnitude."

The building, at 1100 Wilshire Blvd. and officially named the Wilshire Finance Building, is a project of JCG Finance Corp. of America, Tsai's "umbrella company" for his American enterprises, now headquartered half a block away. Dillingham Construction is the general contractor and Merrill Lynch Commercial Real Estate is the leasing agent.

Colin Simpson, director of construction for JCG and the Wilshire Finance project, said the 500-foot-high building will have 321,000 net rentable square feet of space, averaging 13,900 per floor, with 14 parking levels for 702 cars or 2.3 spaces per 1,000 square feet, and will be served by 13 high-speed elevators.

"Aside from the unique design and construction of this office tower," he said, "is our location west of the Harbor Freeway, which will provide tenants with easy access and panoramic views of Los Angeles from every direction."

A visitor to the framed but not enclosed 38th floor was struck by the views and noted that the building's hilltop site brings its top about even with nearby, low-land buildings a score of floors taller.

Phil Logsdon, JCG's director of marketing, added, "Two other unusual features of the building are the swimming pool on the club level (the top of the 12th floor, where the square becomes a triangle and leaves a triangular deck) and the 18-by-10-foot crystal chandelier that will hang from the 40-foot-high mirrored ceiling in the lobby.

"We believe this is possibly the largest crystal chandelier for an office building lobby," he said. Dominating the large, L-shaped space, it is the size of a compact car, weighs 2 1/2 tons and has 3,000 crystals.

Logsdon added that security, telecommunications, life safety and energy systems will be the most modern available, adding:

"Dr. Tsai has envisioned this structure as both an architectural landmark for Los Angeles and his flagship building for his businesses in the United States.

"He also has plans for further developments west of the freeway and intends to make the area the most desirable in downtown Los Angeles."

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