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Will this skyscraper be the next icon to grace Downtown LA’s skyline?

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The developer says he didn’t want a “cookie cutter” high-rise

The parking podium will be wrapped in corrugated metal, glass, and offices.
Courtesy of Psomas

Plans for a skinny skyscraper with a clever diamond-paned exoskeleton has won rave reviews from city planning commissioners, who predict it might be beautiful enough to earn a spot as one of LA’s most iconic buildings.

“We need excellent architecture Downtown, this project delivers that,” said Samantha Millman, who chairs the Los Angeles City Planning Commission.

If it’s ever built, that is.

There’s always the possibility that the plans will die or development plans will change. To ensure this design sticks around, however, commissioners recommended to the City Council last week that any changes to the look are vetted by them.

The architect, Noberto Nardi, and his firm Nardi Associates have been working on plans for the steel skyscraper, named Olympic Tower, for more than six years.

“I created a high-rise that is not a boring high-rise,” Nardi said.

The middle of Olympic Tower would feature a unique “carve-out” element.

The 57-story skyscraper would shoot up near the Staples Center and right next to Hotel Figueroa, wiping out a car wash on a “super tight” lot measuring just about 30,000 square feet. It would bring 373 hotel rooms, 374 market-rate condos, offices, and shops to South Park.

Developer Simon Neman told the commission that his company, OlymFig26, didn’t want a “cookie cutter” high-rise. What he got is, arguably, anything but generic.

Nardi plans to use an steel exoskeleton to hold up the entire building, eliminating the need for interior columns. Without columns, he envisions scooping out the center floor plates and inserting vertical gardens and a 28-story atrium in the middle of the tower to “establish [a] connection with the rest of the city.”

Plus he says, “the building, on the top, is fun, and I think architecture should be producing happiness.”

Commissioners said they were particularly impressed with how the eight-story parking podium would be “disguised,” wrapped in glass, corrugated metal, and offices, and how the tower would meet the street. The tips of four massive diamond-shaped anchors that pierce the sidewalk, creating passageways for people on foot to weave around.

Commissioner Helen Leung called the design “really thoughtful,” and commissioner Mark Mitchell called it “aesthetically beautiful.”

“I’m very familiar with this sad little corner of Downtown. This is a fantastic improvement,” said commissioner Karen Mack. “I really appreciate the design and thought and focus on incorporating our design guidelines to create a landmark for that part of Downtown.”

Roy Reel, who works in business development for Harley Ellis Devereaux, the firm that handled architecture and engineering for the Downtown megadevelopments Circa and Metropolis, told the commission that Olympic Tower is “one of the most beautiful [high-rises] we have seen.”

“We believe... it will be as iconic for Los Angeles as William Pereira’s Transamerica Center is for San Francisco,” he said.