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Up-and-comer on Avenue of the Stars

January 07, 2007|Scott Timberg

THIS sleek glass-and-steel structure is as striking as any to go up in the Southland recently. It solves a number of spatial problems elegantly, speaks to the buildings around it and has a more-sustainable-than-average design. Driving by, you see a long glass-curtain wall and metal panels coated to look like aluminum that echo the nearby Century Plaza Towers.

The structure is a sequel of sorts: It's destined to be known as "the CAA building" -- or even "the new CAA building" -- for the Hollywood talent agency. It's not the sole tenant, but 2000 Avenue of the Stars, a 12-story, nearly 800,000-square-foot office tower in Century City, will be anchored by a tenant associated with an architectural icon. Sometime this month, Creative Artists Agency will depart its I.M. Pei-designed building at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, which became a symbol of then-CAA Chairman Michael Ovitz's Herculean power, for its larger home.

But it's a bit like the top-secret sequel to a big hit: The agency won't talk about it, adding to the mystique.

Can the new building, whatever we call it, live up to that kind of pressure? So far, it looks promising. Even unfinished, the $350-million project, which officially opens Jan. 18, had great street presence. It was designed, according to principal designer Gene Watanabe of Gensler, "to mediate between two very different buildings" -- the elliptical Century Plaza Hotel across the street and the triangular Century Plaza Towers behind it.

The new building's interior is unusual: In some ways it's two separate office towers, with some floors running across the entire structure. The building has two grand lobbies, each almost 300 feet long, with French limestone floors; one is entered from street level, the other from a new 3-acre garden, with an 80-foot-wide staircase connecting the two.

It replaces the old ABC Entertainment Center, which Watanabe calls "impenetrable ... a fortress." He wanted to make the new building pedestrian-friendly and "to allow the tenants ease of movement." And

2000 will eventually include, besides the office space, two white-tablecloth restaurants and a 10,000-square-foot performing arts center accessible to tenants and pedestrians.

Part of the challenge, he says, was that the building, for engineering reasons, could include only 12 floors, making it shorter than many of Century City's towers. "Unlike most buildings, this one had to be placed over an existing subterranean parking garage, which supports the Century Plaza Towers as well."

As for the glass-curtain exterior, it was designed with tenants, and not just aesthetics, in mind: The glass allows views and a great deal of natural light but filters out heat.

"In a speculative office building, where at the time you're designing you aren't designing for a specific user," he says, "you have to use common sense and your understanding of the marketplace. Daylight is one of the things you can design into a building without knowing who your tenants are."

Speaking of tenants, how does having CAA on board change the project? This was an issue Watanabe, as well as a spokesman for the agency-that-dares-not-speak-its-name, wouldn't discuss.

Either way, it could prove a welcome addition to an eerily corporate-looking city that, in the words of authors David Gebhard and Robert Winter, seems to have been planned "not for people but for architectural photography."

-- SCOTT TIMBERG

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