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The Urban Grotto is a mixed-use development in Downtown Los Angeles. The proposal includes a fully functioning whole sale flower market, a public plaza, open-air markets, commercial storefronts, offices and residential apartments. Our Approach to the mixed-used development/Flower market explores varying degrees of enclosure that flicker between the inside & outside and the artificial & real.

The Urban Grotto is informed by how it is read at three different scales, the distant or at the scale of the city, the intermediate or the scale of a building and the intimate or the human scale. At the city scale, this is translated into a colossal evacuated space that is semi-enclosed and that hosts a public plaza, amphitheater and open -air market. At the scale of the building, Three carved volumes pinch and expand the space within the building. These spaces are designed to curate specific views to the surrounding urban context. Shared amenities for the residents are housed within these spaces. Finally, at the intimate level, raised courtyards and roof gardens punctuate and break the silhouette of the massing and provide views back into the inner volumes and the plaza.

Since surfaces define the extents of these spaces, we were interested in the impact of surfaces on spatial experiences. The geometry of volumetric surfaces oscillates between both the artificial & real as well as the familiar & unfamiliar. The Dome that forms the plaza is entirely articulated in this way to create a wondrous public space and open-air market. The surfaces spill over spatial boundaries and flicker in resolution in the form of the recognizable High-res to the pixelated Low-res. The materials and imagery we used constantly shifts between the man-made and the natural.

We were interested in this sense of discovery that arose from partially concealing the encased volumes, public plaza and surfaces, and curating very specific spatial experiences and views. The north facing elevation hints at these moments of wonder. Finally, the views, surfaces and varying degrees of enclosure generate multi-layered experiences that flicker between the inside & outside.


The Urban Grotto

M.Arch | SCI_Arc

Akhil Mathew & Yi Ning Lui

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