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Village Visions

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By Bekah Wright

Published Jan 1, 2013 8:00 AM


Ideas for renovating Westwood Village imagine a people-friendly neighborhood and include such amenities as a subway plaza.

art

Photo courtesy of: cityLAB.

Los Angeles is a city known for its stylists, surgeons and spin doctors, all at the ready for image makeovers. Who does one call, though, when the subject isn't a person, but a village? Westwood Village, to be exact.

Many entities have vested interests in the area, including the Westwood Village Business Improvement District and a steering committee of neighborhood activists, property owners, business owners, merchants, tenants, residents and, of course, UCLA. They all agree that change is necessary. The problem thus far: no shared interest.

Tackling this quandary has been cityLAB, founded by the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design Department (A.UD). "We're a think tank that can bring varying parties together to negotiate urban design and what the future of the Village might be," says Dana Cuff, cityLAB director and A.UD professor.

With changes afoot for Westwood Village due to the economic slowdown and including in 2013 a new mayor and the arrival of the Metro Purple Line, cityLAB launched a research initiative to bring the disparate parties together to offer a vision for Westwood's future.

Helping to hone this vision was a presentation made in 2011 by Roger Sherman, co-director of cityLAB and principal in Roger Sherman Architecture and Urban Design (RSA.UD), and Neil Denari, A.UD vice chair and principal of Neil M. Denari Architects Inc. (NMDA). Two different scenarios for Westwood Village's future were presented to the group of interested parties. Happily, neither includes another shopping experience extraordinaire cum The Grove or the Third Street Promenade.

"If Westwood Village is going to succeed, it can't be synonymous with another experience you can already get in Los Angeles," explains Sherman.

This is the crux of the "Living Culture" scenario from Sherman's team with Edwin Chan, whose cornerstones are the Hammer Museum and the Geffen Playhouse. The scenario's novel ideas include moving the Fowler Museum and the performing arts programs at Kaufman Hall and the Freud Playhouse to Westwood Village. Added to the mix would be Zocalo, a public gathering space at the MTA arrival point where Westwood Boulevard and Broxton Avenue meet. On tap at Zocalo would be farmers' markets, speakers' forums and other public events.

The Denari team's vision is called Car- Lite Westwood Village. This scenario builds off the planned Metro Purple and Exposition Corridor lines. Helping to keep automobile traffic to a minimum would be expanded bike paths and the reestablishment of a pedestrian-oriented area.

Both concepts could take up to 30 years to realize. Until then? Do something "physical, design-oriented and exciting that shows people they can operate together in a positive, creative way that redefines the Village," says Cuff.

Enter "Westwood Blows Up," two consecutive weekends in October that will feature an inflatable exhibition akin to an outdoor museum occupying a block near Broxton and Weyburn avenues. Nationally and internationally acclaimed artists will showcase their work.

Westwood Village Vision

The key players—the various interests in the Village—will each have their own assigned roles to play in the festival.

As scenarios go, Cuff has her own vision. "Westwood Village has the bones to be the model of the 21st-century city," she contends, "a demonstration of the future of Los Angeles. One in which Los Angeles is no longer 72 suburbs in search of a city, [but] a district where you can work, play, get educated and enjoy life in one of the most incredible spots in urban existence."

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