The Wilshire Grand Center— which is opening up to the public today— closely eclipses the U.S. Bank Tower is the tallest skyscraper in Los Angeles. But what could stand out more than the height of Angelenos is the ornamental top of the tower.
It’s the first high-rise downtown to be built since Los Angeles City Hall in 1928 that won’t have a flat roof. Instead, at its apex, there is a glass “crown” and a light-up spire rising above the 73rd floor. It’s because of the unique, decorative roofline that Los Angeles is home to the tallest skyscraper west of Chicago.
The crown is often described as a sail, but the shape of its curve was actually inspired by Half Dome, a massive granite formation in the Yosemite Valley.
Los Angeles boasts world-famous landmarks, such as the Hollywood Sign and the Santa Monica Pier, but it has never been known for its skyline. If other architects take advantage of the City’s 2014 decision to allow spires, slanted roofs and other innovative shapes, this may not be the case forever.
The Wilshire Grand has restaurants, shops, offices and a hotel, and, in honor of its opening, here are five fun things to know about the glassy giant.
Update: Take a good look at the Wilshire Grand, LA’s new tallest skyscraper The California-inspired design’ There is an architectural reference to Half Dome, as well as a glass skylight forming the Merced River at the base of the mountain,’ says Architect Chris Martin to KCRW. (By the way, his firm, AC Martin, helped design LA’s lovely town hall.) The skylight that Martin refers to is a steel cage wrapped in 475 glass panels. It swoops across the tower’s first-floor entrance like a ribbon, and it’s one of the first things that LA’s transit system sees when they disembark from the 7th Street / Metro Center.
Martin says he visits Yosemite every year, and that the chairman of Korean Air, who owns the skyscraper, has an affection for the United States and its national parks. Martin says that “all went to Yosemite together early on in the project.” By the numbers, just how tall is it? It’s 1,100 feet. At one point, there were an amazing 950 people working on the Wilshire Grand every day, according to KPCC’s Off Ramp. The Los Angeles Downtown News Foundation says crews poured 21,200 cubic meters of concrete into the longest continuous concrete pour in the world. The entire project has cost $1.2 billion.
The owners of the Ernst & Young Plaza, just south of the Wilshire Grand, have claimed that the new shimmering facade reflects a lot of light and creates a “thermal heat gain” in its square. The Wilshire Grand is wrapped in a glass type called VRE 1-38, the same glass used on the facade of the Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas, which produced a light beam so hot that the guest’s hair was sung and the plastic cups melted.
In November, an expert told us that the Wilshire Grand would produce some vexing glares, but no “serious heat stuff.” That’s because the Wilshire Grand Tower is convex, while the Vdara is concave.