Los Angeles Skyscraper Regulations

Despite being a global power in commerce, business, real estate and an all around fabulous place to live, Los Angeles’ presence as a city seems somewhat stunted by its lackluster skyline. Under a building provision instituted back in the 1970s that required buildings in downtown Los Angeles to be flat so as to accommodate a helicopter landing pad, the skyline has grown stunted, incongruous and unremarkably throughout the last 40 odd years. Now in an effort to invite the world’s foremost thinkers in design and architecture to the city to showcase their work, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has lifted that provision, freeing up the design of the city’s skyscrapers for the future.

“I want to see innovative design,” Garcetti said in a statement. “I want to see good design, but we’re going to take the handcuffs off of you when we ask you to do that. I want neighborhoods to look good, and I want our buildings to look iconic.”

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The iconoclastic look that Garcetti is referring to is one that many other U.S. cities have long embraced without the restrictions of outdated rules and regulations. New York has the varied facades of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. Chicago has the diamond-shaped Crain Communications building and the triangular peak atop Two Prudential Plaza. Even Dallas is home to a rather attractive skyline with its unique structures, however for too long Los Angeles’ skyscrapers had been limited by an old-fashioned law that is now officially eviscerated.

“Anyone who’s been to New York or cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong and even San Francisco can see how the tops of buildings can help to define the identity of a city,” said Michael Woo, a former city councilman who is now dean of the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona, to Los Angeles Times. “But for Los Angeles, for years, we have limited ourselves.”

Move Marks ‘Sea of Change’ For Los Angeles Architecture

In spite of the chaos that it has caused aesthetically for the great city, the original requirement for helipads atop building more than 75 feet tall was meant to act as a safety measure. The helipads were to allow for airlifts in the event of a fire, attack or an emergency and the concept was adopted after a devastating occurrence in Brazil left many injured and dead.

However, over the years technology has flourished, making buildings safer in the process and the restriction outdated. Now that building designers will be able to think freely of the design that will be incorporated into this global symbol, Mayor Garcetti and other city officials see a bright future for the changing skyline.

“All it takes is one or two iconic, innovative structures and all of a sudden, wow, it becomes a signature,” said Will Wright, director of government affairs at the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects, to Los Angeles Times.

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