Founded in 1980 by Harvard-educated architect Brenda A. Levin, the urban planning and architecture firm, Levin & Associates, received worldwide attention early in the decade for its revitalizing historic preservation work on some of Los Angeles' most-beloved landmarks. In the intervening 20 years, the firm's profound concern for enhancing urban memory and the humanity of a project has positioned it to be an active problem solver in the issues and neighborhoods of a complex city and region.
The scope of Levin & Associates' work includes urban design and master planning, large-scale renovation and adaptive re-use of historic buildings, and the design of new institutional, commercial, and multi-family housing facilities. Geographically, the firm's project sites blanket Southern California.
Its renovation and adaptive re-use work has included the James Oviatt, Fine Arts, and Bradbury buildings, the Grand Central and Chapman markets, Pellessier Building and Wiltern Theater, and the seismic rehabilitation of City Hall. In process are the renovation of Griffith Observatory and the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Barnsdall Park. Although primarily intact, all of these buildings suffered from serious neglect and damage prior to renovation. Levin & Associates introduces innovative, cost-efficient solutions to revitalize these structures for viable re-use.
Among the legendary architects on whose designs the firm has worked are Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph Schindler, Myron Hunt, Gordon Kaufmann and John Parkinson. These projects have provided the firm with an opportunity to master the intricacies and nature of the details and materials of design and construction.
The first of these notable landmark projects was the renovation of a 1928 office building and ground-level haberdashery, The Oviatt. It helped to catalyze the preservation movement in Los Angeles, as did the highly-praised transformation of the green terra-cotta-clad Pellessier Building and Wiltern Theater. In a city defined by boom and suburban expansion, the firm found itself among the urban revitalization pioneers who were able to restore life to parts of the city that nearly everyone had written off.
For twenty years the firm's designs have built upon the existing context, responding to the site by understanding the life of the street, museum or campus. This philosophy is evident in its urban design and streetscape planning projects throughout Southern California, including Old Pasadena, Barnsdall Art Park, Hollywood and Vine, Seventh Street and the Broadway theatre district as well as in its designs of educational, cultural, and affordable housing facilities.
Levin & Associates' inclusive approach to designing on the campus begins with an outreach component that initiates dialogue with the various constituencies of the institution. The result is to gain an in-depth understanding of the culture and spirit of the place. Levin's success with this process encourages its clients to select the firm for successive projects: four individual projects at Occidental College and three at Oakwood School. This approach also was used at the recently-completed Malott Commons at Scripps College and St. James' elementary school.
The firm's recent arts projects have transformed existing facilities into highly-regarded new spaces. At the University Art Museum, the University of California, Santa Barbara, Levin & Associates created a more visible and distinctive identity for the arts facility; and, at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, a former carriage house, now the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, has been transformed into a space for visiting exhibitions. The Los Angeles Conservancy has selected the project for a 2000 Preservation Award.
Levin & Associates has produced a number of innovative designs for affordable housing. Among them is the Adams Congress Apartments in South Central Los Angeles, which has been built on a lot burned out during the 1992 civil unrest; 46 families with 60 children currently reside there. The Downtown Women's Center is both a permanent residence and day center providing services to mentally-ill and elderly homeless women on skid row.
Levin & Associates Architects has been honored and recognized by many organizations, including the American Institute of Architects, Urban Land Institute, California State Legislature, City of Los Angeles and its Cultural Affairs Commission, and the Los Angeles Conservancy. A monograph featuring the firm's work and entitled Brenda Levin, Levin & Associates Architects: Los Angeles has been published this spring.
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