LA's game changer: Wilshire Grand Center

Silver Award: This billion-dollar mixed-use tower will alter the Los Angeles skyline in more ways.

May 22, 2018 |

At 1,100 feet, the 73-story Wilshire Grand Center is the tallest tower in Los Angeles and the nation’s tallest building west of Chicago. But its significance to the City of Angels is greater than its height. The billion-dollar project, developed by Korean Air and its parent company Hanjin International, is the latest addition to the city’s rejuvenated downtown, bringing 900 four-star hotel rooms, 400,000 sf of Class A office space, and more than 45,000 sf of retail and restaurants to the city center.

Topping the tower is a first for Los Angeles: a sloped, sail-shaped spire that stands out in a city of flat-topped structures. The 172-foot-tall, glass-and-steel structure would normally be prohibited in Los Angeles, due to a long-standing city ordinance that requires a helicopter pad on all buildings over 75 feet in height.

Looking to create a distinctive aesthetic for the Wilshire Grand Center—and a one-of-a-kind “sky lobby” for guests of the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown hotel, which occupies the upper half of the tower—the project team collaborated with city officials on a variance to the city code. The solution involved placing a small pad at the midpoint of the spire that allows a portion of the helicopter to touch down. The design scheme also permits emergency personnel to be lowered onto and gain access to the roof. This performance-based approach could change the city’s skyline for years to come, if future projects follow suit.

To maximize leasable space and views of the city, the design team developed a structural solution that downsized the exterior columns while meeting structural and seismic performance requirements. The composite structure features a hardened concrete core with a structural steel frame that is supplemented with three levels of buckle-resistant bracing, which act as shock absorbers against earthquakes. The composite structural solution is a first for downtown Los Angeles.

These creative solutions were the result of a close-knit project team—owner, architect, engineers, contractor, subcontractors—that was assembled early during the design process. The team used design-assist delivery for the vertical transportation and building envelope design, as well as design-build MEP trade partners, prior to the start of design development. Early coordination helped the team solve complex issues. For instance, the team utilized prefab bathroom pods—698 in all—to shave roughly 100 man-hours per bathroom off the schedule, ensuring the project would be completed on time.


Prefab bathroom pods were among a host of innovations employed by the Building Team to pull off this ground-breaking high-rise project. Gary Leonard, Courtesy Turner.


Building Team — Submitting firm, general contractor Turner Construction Company Owner Hanjin International Architect AC Martin Partners Structural engineer Brandow & Johnston Mechanical engineer ACCO Engineered Systems Electrical engineer Rosendin Electric Plumbing engineer Pan Pacific Mechanical Construction manager Martin Project Management

General Information — Size 2.1 million sf Construction cost $1 billion Construction time September 2012 to June 2017 Delivery method CM at Risk


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