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Gruen Associates, at 40, Still Busy With Major Commissions

July 19, 1987

Life isn't beginning at 40, but it's sure continuing with gusto at Gruen Associates, a Los Angeles-based firm founded in 1947.

For years Gruen was primarily thought of as a planning and engineering firm, but its architectural capabilities were quietly expanding, and now it is the architect, with I. M. Pei & Partners, for the $168-million expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center, which is expected to be completed in 1991.

Gruen Associates is also involved in designing the $150-million expansion of the Pacific Design Center, with Cesar Pelli & Associates as design architect. The Phase 2 building is due to open next March.

Other projects are the $25-million Los Angeles Koreatown Plaza retail and commercial center, due to open in the fall, and the completed $100-million, 42-story California Plaza office tower and Museum of Contemporary Art, designed--respectively--by architects Arthur Erickson and Arata Isozaki with Gruen Associates as executive architect. Gruen Associates is entering its fifth decade with projects nearing $1 billion in construction volume under way or completed in the Los Angeles area alone, but the company also has projects as far away as Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Canada.

Concurrent with its 40th birthday, the firm also announced a new partner, the company's fifth. He is Maris Peika, an architect who spent 23 years with the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Ki Suh Park, managing partner, said, "Maris Peika is a significant addition to our ongoing effort to be on the cutting edge of design." Other partners include Allen M. Rubenstein, Kurt Franzen and Robert L. Lesnett.

"This is the third generation (of partners) since Victor Gruen founded the firm," Park added.

Vienna-born Gruen, who died in 1980, and his partners designed and planned shopping malls, mixed-use commercial centers and downtown cores of major cities. So synonymous was the Gruen name with shopping malls that The Times recently used it in a crossword puzzle in answer to the clue: "pioneer mall builder."

When the firm was only 10 years old, it designed one of the nation's first two-level enclosed shopping malls, known as Southdale, in Minneapolis. Since then, it designed or planned such notable projects as Sea World, Marina del Rey, California Mart, Laguna Niguel, Valencia, South Coast Plaza, Fox Hills Mall, Santa Anita Fashion Park, Long Beach Plaza and Puente Hills Mall.

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