Representatives of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Long Beach/South Bay Chapter met recently with Mayor Robert Garcia and Long Beach Development Services staff to discuss the proposed planning and design for the new development surrounding the historic Queen Mary. The AIA representatives included Rick D’Amato FAIA, Jonathan Glasgow AIA and Nader Ghassemlou Assoc. AIA.
The Chapter received a presentation of the proposed project from the developer’s architect in April of this year. We have reviewed various aspects of the design and have also analyzed the report of the Queen Mary Land Development Task Force, an appointed body of local residents, design professionals and experts. The Task Force established planning and design guiding principles for the property which encompasses one of the largest waterfront development opportunities to be available in many years.
We voiced our major positions related to the project:
1. The AIA is very supportive of a development project to enhance and support the Queen Mary.
2. The Queen Mary is designated on the National Register of Historic Places. Although challenged with many maintenance and preservation issues, the ship is a very important icon in our city and deserves the utmost design respect.
3. The site is an integral part of the overall city of Long Beach and must exhibit a consistent architectural approach to design and develop strong visual, symbolic and physical connections to the rest of the city.
4. The city of Long Beach has a rich tradition of architectural and urban planning history. It is important for all parties involved in the design to understand and honor this tradition.
5. The Task Force Guiding Principles are strong, clear and thoughtful.
We expressed some of our serious concerns regarding the proposed design to the city, including the following:
1. The current design does not appear to respond appropriately to the Task Force Guiding Principles.
2. The current design demonstrates an overt sense of “fake historicism” throughout the project. This approach may end up insulting the historic ship and confusing the public. This technique was already employed at City Place and the Pike, both of which are already being rebuilt.
3. General planning and circulation issues within the site and in connections to the city are weak.
4. The site design direction lacks authentic, bold and honest planning in relation to the city of Long Beach and the Queen Mary.
Mayor Garcia was gracious in discussing our concerns and he provided assurances that the current iteration of the design was only the first step in the design process. The city is currently crafting a response to the conceptual design submitted by the developer.
As a strong voice for design in the Long Beach/South Bay area, the AIA will remain diligent in ensuring that further development of the project’s design aligns more closely with the directions established by the Task Force, all in an effort to achieve a truly “world class” design that the Queen Mary and the city of Long Beach deserve. We challenge the community to watch this project carefully and to demand an outstanding result.
Rick D’Amato FAIA, Jonathan Glasgow AIA and Nader Ghassemlou Assoc. AIA are members of the American Institute of Architects.