Pfeiffer Partners Architects Inc.

Los Angeles


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.


The City of Los Angeles

Pfeiffer Partners Architects Inc.
811 W. 7th Street, 7th Floor
Los Angeles, CA  90017
213-624-2775 (Tel)
213-895-0923 (Fax)

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

Project Team:
Kate Bowman
Virgil Castelo
Yoon Sung Cho
Richard Hofmeister
Tom Miera
Juan Minaya
Heather Perry-Melish
Cynthia Salah
Cecilia Valino

Architect of record:
Pfeiffer Partners Architects Inc.

Associate architect(s):
Levin & Associates, Architects  
811 W. 7th Street, 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA  90017

Principal: Brenda Levin, FAIA

Project Architect: Robert Knight

Project Team:
Steve Fader
Alex Chung
Robert Stone
Martha Christian

Interior designer:
Pfeiffer Partners Architects Inc
811 W. 7th Street, 7th Floor
Los Angeles, CA  90017

Interiors: Kate Bowman

Miyamoto International, Inc.
700 So. Flower, Suite 1010                                           
Los Angeles, CA  90017  

Principal : Ken Wong, S.E.

M-E Engineers, Inc.
10113 Jefferson Blvd.
Culver City, CA  90232

Principal: Frank Stefan

Mechanical Project Manager: George Lui

Electrical Project Manager: John Neshek

Construction Administration: Scott Goroon

Melendrez Design Partners
617 South Olive Street, Suite 1110
Los Angeles, CA  90014

Project Manager: Tom Chacon

Civil Engineer:
Psomas and Associates
1444 West Olympic Blvd                                               
West Los Angeles, CA  90064

Principal: Jose M. Gama

Horton-Lees Brogden Lighting Design, Inc.
8580 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA  90232

John Dunn
Teal Brogden

Acoustical & Audio-visual:
McKay Conant Brook, Inc.                                            
5655 Lindero Canyon Road, Suite 325                           
Westlake Village, CA  91362
Kyle M. Ridenour            
Michael SantaMaria 

Exhibits and signage:
C&G Partners LLC
116 East 16th Street
New York, NY 10003

Principal: Jonathan Alger
Senior Designer: Kevin Sayama
Graphics:Amy Siegel

Theater/Planetarium Audio-Visual:
Auerbach + Associates
225 Green Street
San Francisco, CA 94111

S. Leonard Auerbach, President
Larry French
Greg Weddig

Exterior Envelope Conservator:
Simpson Gumpertz Heger, Inc.
The Landmark @ One Market, Suite 600
San Francisco, CA  94105

Carolyn Searls
Mariana Parreiras
Eric Schroter

Murals Conservator:
Rainer & Zebala
2809 Ocean Avenue
Venice, CA  90291

Leslie Rainer
Aneta Zebala

Murals Conservator Analyst:
Tatanya  M. Thompson & Associates
1453 14th Street, Suite B                
Santa Monica, CA  90404

Tatanya Thompson          

Paint Conservator:
Martin Eli Weil Restoration
5 Cambridge Street                
Los Angeles, CA  90006

Martin Eli Weil

Metals conservator:
Williams Art Conservation, Inc.
6234 Afton Place
Los Angeles, CA  90028
323-462-2394 Fax

Donna Williams

General contractor:
S. J. Amoroso Construction                                          
275 East Baker Street, Suite B
Costa Mesa, CA  92626

Project Manager: Kevin Clounch

Contractor’s Conservator:
Silverlake Conservation
1824 Micheltorena Street
Los Angeles, CA  90026

Linnea Dix Dawson
Amy Green

Photographs © Tim Griffith
Tim Griffith


CAD system, project management, or other software used: AutoCad 2000, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Excel



Structural system:
Custom designed poured-in-place concrete
Miyamoto International Inc.

Exterior cladding:
Concrete: Lithocrete: Shaw & Sons

Waterproofing: Bentonite

Copper Roofing: Van Nuys Sheet Metal

Built-up roofing: Sarnafil

Edison Coatings
Johns Mansville SBS Modified Butimen Roofing

Other: Cetco Self-Adhesive Membrane

Steel: New window steel provided by American Glass &  Aluminum

Glass- Windows: American Glass &  Aluminum

Glass- Vitrines:  Viracon Glass

Insulation:  Owens Corning

Entrances: Glass in new doors: Benheim

Metal doors:  Milcor

Wood doors:  Nikolai

Locksets:  Precision

Hinges:  Julius Blum Company, Inc.

Closers: Rixson

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls:   Trimco

Security devices:  Pelco

Cabinet hardware:  Julius Blum Company, Inc.

Interior finishes:
Planetarium Ceiling: Spitz

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:
Stone: DMB Hatch (restoration and repair)

Terrazzo: Corradini Corp

Resilient flooring: Stonhard

Custom glazing covering:  3M Scotchcal

Carpet: Prince Street  

Reception furniture: Corian Counter Tops

Fixed seating: Knoll Textiles, Seating Concepts

Upholstery: Mechoshade System Inc.

Other furniture:
Toilette partitions: Surrel by Formica Corp.

Interior ambient lighting: Shaper Lighting, Prudential Lighting, Lithonia Gotham,  ETC, LSI, Poulsen Erco

Downlights: Translite: Sonoma; Translite: Ardee

Task lighting: Cooper Lighting, Bartco, Birchwood, Lightolier

Exterior: Luminaire, B-K Lighting, Cole Lighting, Hevlite

Controls: Lutron

Elevators:  Mitsubishi

American Standard
Waterfountains:  Filtrine