Caltrans Building

Principal Architect: Thom Mayne and Morphosis; General Contractor: Clark Construction. Caltrans building (California Department of Transportation District 7 Headquarters Replacement Building), 100 South Main Street, Los Angeles. Design 2001; construction 2002-2004.

Quick tour features (text from a Caltrans tour brochure):

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is very proud of the new District 7 headquarters building. This futuristic 13-story building defies convention while exemplifying the State's extraordinary commitment to creativity, environmental sensitivity and design excellence in public architecture. This structure achieves world-class design, sustainability and integration of art and functional architecture. It contains 716,200 gross square feet of functional space plus underground parking for 1,142 vehicles. Currently the building is the home to 1,850 Caltrans employees and 500 City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation staff. The construction cost was $165 million.

1. Eli and Edythe Broad Plaza: Pedestrian traffic on Main Street flows directly into this space. To engage street traffic, public amenities such as the exhibition gallery, large public art piece, future stores, and a cafe are located around the outdoor plaza.

2. Outdoor Lobby/Motordom. Integrated into the outdoor lobby, is the four story light installation by artist Keith Sonnier, titled Motordom. Shifting patterns of red and blue light, generated in neon and argon tubes, develop horizontal bands all around the lobby. The colored light not only plays with the outdoor lobby, filling and animating the space, but also washes through the glass curtain walls into the first four levels of the building interior. Motordom is the largest public art installation in Los Angeles.

3. Interior Lobby: The design extends the lobby from the inside to the outside of the building to be casually shared by employees, visitors and the general public. Looking above the inside lobby, just beyond the elevators, theunique glass floor of the third-floor conference room can be seen.

3. Begin's Cafe: Passing from the outdoor lobby into Begin's Cafe, a visitor will find Code: Survey by Renee Green installed on the north cafe wall. This wall-based artwork is comprised of 168 one-foot-square glass panels. Each panel contains a unique digital image, including photographic, graphic, typographic, documentary and map sources related to transportation.

5. Urban Landmarks: There are two large building identifiers. First, a forward-canted, super-graphic sign for the building street address: "100" rises to a height of four stories over the Main Street entrance. Second, a glowing light-band cantilevers out of the building on the north side to mark the First Street corridor and provides another identifying beacon.

6. Environmental Design: The facade (metal scrim) along Main Street features an innovative double skin of glass behind perforated aluminum panels. The panels open and close mechanically timed with the movement of the sun and weather conditions, providing surface variety on the facade, shielding the interior from the sun, and giving office workers changing views to the outside. On exceptionally windy days, the perforated panels actually hum.

7. Energy Performance: The building's south facade is entirely surfaced with photovoltaic cells, mounted with a new system designed by Morphosis, its project collaborators and a team of special consultants. The cells, which extend from the fourth to the thirteenth floors, generate approximately 5% of the building's energy while shielding the facade from direct sunlight during peak summer hours. This and other energy savings features have led to an energy Silver Rating.

8. Fourth Floor/Ten Past Five O'clock: In one of the building's unusual skip-top elevator lobbies, on the fourth floor, visitors will discover Ten Past Five O'clock, by Alan Rath. Within the lobby this motorized, programmed metal sculpture consists of five cylindrical elements with attached arms, each about 30 inches long, which are mounted on the wall ten feet above the floor and act as "satellites" of the larger lobby elements. Arms rotate on the larger and smaller elements on a changing program to allow for surprise and eventual repetition. The Wellness Fitness Center and Division of Environmental Planning are also located on this floor.

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