Caltrans District 7 Headquarters

Caltrans District 7 Headquarters, Los Angeles - California, Morphosis
Construction year: 2004
Address: S. Main Street 100 | LOS ANGELES-CALIFORNIA | United States
Latitude/Longitude: 34.0522, -118.243

A public plaza bounded by a constantly shifting building skin denotes an urban landmark. While its material language and structural elements allude to freeway infrastructure, the kinetic architecture of the building facade borrows its characteristic animation directly from the car. The outer layer of the double facade delaminated from the body of the building-functioning like the car body to protect and shield its inhabitants via a constantly shifting mechanical skin of perforated aluminum panels that alternately open or close depending on the sun’s angle and intensity. Appearing to be windowless and opaque at midday, the building transforms in appearance over time until it reaches near complete transparency at dusk-the fundamental reading of the building is in terms of transformation.

Research done for the San Francisco Federal Building project led to resolutions that challenge normative office culture, improve office worker comfort, and increase environmental efficiency. Floor plans were made deliberately nonhierarchical, with open, light-exposed workspaces prioritized for all workers regardless of rank. All window shades on exterior windows are manually operable to ensure that employees have a sense of control over their own work environments with respect to the amount of light and air that they deem optimum. Elevators operate on a skip-stop basis, opening onto centrally located stairwell lobbies-interim gathering places-on every third floor. This “skip-stop” scheme intensifies circulation and encourages productive social exchange.

The organizational strategy was informed by an optimistic assessment of the vibrancy that will occur as the nearby urban environment develops further. The main lobby is relocated to the exterior, as a large plaza for office workers, visitors, and the general public. Amenities, including an exhibition gallery and cafeteria, adjoin the outdoor lobby at ground level to draw users from pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The entire budget for public art was invested in one installation that, designed in collaboration with artist Keith Sonnier, integrates inseparably with the architecture. Horizontal bands of red neon and blue argon light tubes cycle through light pattern sequences, mimicking the ribbons of headlights on California’s freeways. The large cantilevered light-bar connects the structure to First Street, and the forty-foot, forward-canted super-graphic “100” marks the South Main Street entrance. This layered sign, with its nod to Chandleresque L.A.’s Hollywood sign, denotes the building as an urban landmark.

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