Pfeiffer Partners Architects Inc.
Like Los Angeles, the Griffith Observatory, a 1935 Art Deco masterpiece conceived by Russell Porter and designed by the firm Austin and Ashley, exists in several domains, illusory and real. Whether glimpsed in the movies—1955’s "Rebel Without a Cause" or 1984’s "The Terminator"—or as a twilight destination in the Hollywood Hills, the Griffith’s iconic three-domed structure, what longtime observatory director Edwin Krupp calls the “hood ornament of Los Angeles,” also provides that rare Los Angeles accident: true public space.
Angelenos have come to take for granted the drop-dead views of the L.A. basin from the Griffith’s formal, Beaux-Arts plan’s rear terraces and colonnade, as well as the informative, accessible displays of astronomy’s wonders inside. They didn’t foresee that their fondness for the building would wear it out to the point where it would need to close for five years while comprehensive restoration could occur.
Pfeiffer Partners and Levin & Associates respected these convictions when the two L.A. architectural firms collaborated on the preservation and expansion of the observatory during a 10-year, $93 million project. It helped considerably that the two firms’ principals—Pfeiffer’s Steven Johnson, AIA, and Brenda Levin, FAIA—had worked together on some of the most high-profile historic preservation projects in Los Angeles, including the 1993 preservation and expansion of Bertram Goodhue’s 1926 central library (at the time, Pfeiffer was part of Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer).
Johnson and Levin approached the project as a study of dualities—the existing and the new, the iconic and the contemporary, the sky and the ground. Walking up to the building, you would never know the architects had taken the existing 27,000-square-foot building’s cramped galleries and doubled them in size with nearly 40,000 square feet of new underground space.
Due to the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, the original architects eschewed the vogue for a Spanish Revival tile dome, embracing concrete in order, Levin says, to “use materials volumetrically in a clean, modern building,” resulting in a “fortresslike” building that needed no structural upgrades. The high craftsmanship of the original observatory was owed to cheap, Depression-era labor, says Johnson, and it shows in the restored exterior details, heavy bronze window grates, and the marble floor and travertine walls of the rotunda.
Want the full story? Read the entire article in our June 2007 issue.
Principal-in-Charge: Stephen Johnson, AIA
Project Manager (design): David Hart, AIA
Project Manager (construction): Edward Carfagno, AIA
Project Manager (construction): Steven H. Hall, AIA
Historic Architect : Stephanie Kingsnorth, AIA
Construction Architect: Lalida P Nakatani, AIA
Architect of record:
Principal: Brenda Levin, FAIA
Project Architect: Robert Knight
Interiors: Kate Bowman
Principal : Ken Wong, S.E.
Mechanical Project Manager: George Lui
Electrical Project Manager: John Neshek
Construction Administration: Scott Goroon
Project Manager: Tom Chacon
Principal: Jose M. Gama
Acoustical & Audio-visual:
C&G Partners LLC
116 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003
Principal: Jonathan Alger
Senior Designer: Kevin Sayama
S. Leonard Auerbach, President
Exterior Envelope Conservator:
Murals Conservator Analyst:
Martin Eli Weil
Project Manager: Kevin Clounch
Linnea Dix Dawson
Photographs © Tim Griffith
CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCad 2000, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Excel
Built-up roofing: Sarnafil
Other: Cetco Self-Adhesive Membrane
Glass- Vitrines: Viracon Glass
Insulation: Owens Corning
Metal doors: Milcor
Wood doors: Nikolai
Hinges: Julius Blum Company, Inc.
Exit devices: Von Duprin
Security devices: Pelco
Cabinet hardware: Julius Blum Company, Inc.
Stretch fabric ceiling system in first floor exhibit halls: Eurospan
Acoustical ceilings: Tectum Inc., Ceiling Plus, Ecophon
Suspension grid: Decoustic, Armstrong
Wall Tile: Ann Sacks
Wall/Floor Tile: Dal Tile
Rubber Flooring: Johnsonite
Cork Flooring: Duro-Design, Expanko Cork Company
Paints and stains: Scuffmaster, Tnemec, Sherwin Williams
Wallcoverings: Wall Technology
Paneling: Haver & Boecker from Architectural Material Resources,Gordon Metals
Plastic laminate: Formica, Johnsonite, Nevamar
Special surfacing: Armour Coat, Venetian Plaster
Floor and wall tile:
Terrazzo: Corradini Corp
Resilient flooring: Stonhard
Custom glazing covering: 3M Scotchcal
Carpet: Prince Street
Fixed seating: Knoll Textiles, Seating Concepts
Upholstery: Mechoshade System Inc.Other furniture:
Toilette partitions: Surrel by Formica Corp.
Downlights: Translite: Sonoma; Translite: Ardee
Task lighting: Cooper Lighting, Bartco, Birchwood, Lightolier
Exterior: Luminaire, B-K Lighting, Cole Lighting, Hevlite