August 11, 2010

The road ahead is often poorly lit and badly paved. So it is no wonder that we often take reassuring cues from traditions to gently guide our way forward. Even boldness, in fact, is usually rooted in the tried and true.

Such is the thread that runs through this issue, from the dutiful efforts of New York City and the Pentagon to honor their pasts in ways that enhance their futures, to the grand dreams of cities like Los Angeles, London, San Francisco and Boston. Each is either weighing or pushing ahead with new development that borrows from their respective histories to forge new paths.

These efforts also reinforce what we have long known, that this industry holds the rare power to unite and inspire, to encourage and enthrall. To lead.

In Southern California, the new Kodak Theatre and sprawling Hollywood & Highland complex last month welcomed the annual Academy Awards gala to its new home in a spectacular debut that would have made Cecil B. DeMille proud. As seen on page 24, the project purposely harkens to the oversized sets and lofty ambitions of early silent epics, like "Ben Hur" and "Intolerance." Ironically, the design aims to give L.A. both a past and a downtown that it never really had before.

San Francisco, meanwhile, is straining to grow responsibly, in the wake of a dot-com frenzy that blew through town, leaving hopes dashed, towers unbuilt and spec offices unoccupied. But now, the dust has settled and a new crop of more stable owners is pumping new life into downtown.

London, however, may be poised for the most significant lifestyle change.

Last month, Italian architect Renzo Piano unveiled plans for his new London Bridge Tower, which would be Europe's tallest structure (see page 14). Local observers say the project's fate actually rests with another key proposal, the 728-ft.-tall Heron Tower, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, New York City. If approved by the British secretary of state this month, as expected, Heron would become London's first new downtown skyscraper to be built since 1979.

In the years since, growing businesses have fled to London's suburbs to avoid the height restrictions on downtown office space. Now, all eyes are on the crown to see if that time has past.

Here's hoping that London, like so many other cities now, also is ready to step up.


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