Red Glass Helps Define PDC Campus

Hollywood is one city with an “anything goes” kind of attitude. So while the construction of a red glass building might be out of place anywhere else, in Hollywood it fits right in. The “Red Building,” in West Hollywood, to be exact, completes the Pacific Design Center (PDC) campus, joining the Blue and Green buildings—also made of glass. This three-part composition spans nearly 40 years of design and construction. The first building, nicknamed the Blue Whale and completed in 1975, was designed by Cesar Pelli when he was partner for design at Gruen Associates. Pelli’s Green Building, along with a smaller freestanding outpost of the Museum of Contemporary Art, followed in 1988.

The most dynamic of the three buildings, the Red Building is sheaved in high-efficiency, double-glazed, scarlet red glass. It is composed of two curved, sloping towers atop seven levels of parking. The six-story West Tower slopes inward against the Hollywood Hills to the north while the eight-story East Tower continues the gesture, curving upward and culminating in a high point to the east. Like the previous two PDC buildings, the Red Building is clad in glass—red glass—supplied by SYP Glass in China. And while the glass of the earlier buildings was opaque, the façade of the Red Building includes both transparent and fritted glass. To create a taut, all-glass appearance, the red glass is held in its aluminum frames with silicone; 19,000 square meters of unitized curtainwall, storefront and entries to be exact. Permasteelisa served as the contract glazier.

“There are 20 different types of glass–laminated, fritted, different colors, etc. The two types of vision glass are clear with a gray tint and low-iron with no tint; the red and the white glasses are solid frit plus two different frit patterns. The patterns are made with dots that go all the way to the edge of the glass; one pattern is 50 percent opaque, meaning that 50 percent of the glass is covered with dots; the other is more dense, at 70 percent opaque. The frit patterns are on the #2 surface, except for the laminated glass, in which case it is on the #4 surface,” says Kristin Hawkins, senior associate with Pelli Clark Pelli Architects, explaining that red frit does not bond well to interlayer material.

Hawkins says that solving the geometry of the structure was one of the greatest challenges in designing and building the Red Building.

“It looks simple but it is not. Nearly every exterior wall is either curved, sloped or both. There are more than 1,700 different shapes of glass in the curtainwall, which is a four-sided structurally glazed wall, the first to be built in West Hollywood.”

Hawkins also notes that working on a project, which began more than 30 years ago, makes it a significant piece of work.

“We’ve taken an archetype that Cesar developed in 1972 with the Blue Building and transformed it using today’s technology. We were able to build the project to be in keeping with modern technology while still respecting the aesthetics of the original two buildings,” Hawkins says.

Read more about this project in an upcoming issue of the Architects’ Guide to Glass and Metal magazine.