Scott Hunter of HKS on designing the Los Angeles Rams’ Inglewood stadium

Los Angeles /
Mar.March 24, 2016 02:30 PM

Dallas-based architecture firm HKS is conceptualizing two of L.A.’s buzziest projects, and they couldn’t be more different: the Ram’s massive Inglewood NFL stadium development and Ian Schrager’s boutique Edition Hotel in West Hollywood.

Scott Hunter, the principal and Los Angeles office director for HKS, is overseeing the design of both, as well as a wide gamut of projects on the West Coast from hospitals to luxury resorts. Now that his team has completed the initial designs for Stan Kroenke’s Inglewood stadium — which will have a translucent roof and seat up to 80,000 people —  it is focused on the technical elements that will make it functional. Hunter is also overseeing the design of the adjacent 6,000-seat performance venue and the hotel, retail and residential properties that will eventually surround the arena.

We sat down with the busy architect to chat about how the stadium will affect Inglewood’s economy and why the style of the Edition represents a shift in the hotel industry.

Hometown: Los Angeles

DOB: May 20th, 1965

Family: Married, 3 kids

Is the stadium project making your life crazy?

The interesting thing is that we were working on it for about a year and a half and had to keep it quiet. We couldn’t share the design until the NFL owners bought into the concept. It was a very happy day when that was made public. People weren’t aware we were so far along.

What’s the next step?

We are in the process of developing construction drawings. The design concept was formulated some time ago, so we’re at the technical level now, coming up with things related to the large roof, the bowl and how the seating will work.

How many people are designing the stadium?

We’ve got ten people in L.A. and 25 architects in Dallas, and then Mia Lehrer and Associates is doing the landscape design. It’s close to a 300-acre site with a master plan that involves hotels. It’s a big project.  

What element of the stadium project are you most excited about?

We looked at it as a full complex of buildings because there is also a performing arts center that is the baby brother to the stadium, connected by a plaza. Basically, we took a roof and covered the stadium, the performing arts center and the space in between. When you go to LACMA and there is jazz and people hanging out in outdoor space, protected from the elements but also in the open air, think of that on a large scale. Our team came up with that idea to tie  the project together in a poetic way.

Do you think the stadium will change Inglewood?

I think it will have a positive ripple effect. If we do this right, we are not looking to create an enclave where people drive in and drive out. There is a big opportunity for Inglewood to expand its retail base. On game days, people will be buying in the area around the stadium. There are millions of square feet of potential development in that area, so it’s gonna be a new district. L.A. is a series of community centers connected. It’s not a single point like in some cities. We think the stadium will be one of those centers. Just look at Staples Center and the draw that is for Downtown.

There’s some disagreement about how it will impact Inglewood’s economy…

I don’t think just the stadium alone will be a magic bullet, but I think it will be helpful as part of a long term strategy of adding more housing, because L.A. is in a housing crisis. Hotel projects will be employers in the region and there are groups that want to be associated with the NFL who will move to Inglewood, so that will help too. There’s a lot of jobs created by the construction of it all, and those jobs end when the project ends, but it’s a 20-year plan so it will have a long term impact.

Where did you grow up?

Here. I am a product of L.A. public schools. I grew up in Silver Lake before it was a hipster enclave. I walked to school and rode my bike. I’ve seen the transformation of this city, with more and more people moving here.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

There are challenges, but it’s good. We need to link the area with Metro. (The lack of public transportation) is the achilles heel of our region. The 405 is the lifeline of Westside and it’s a painful part of our existence in Southern California. I lived in New York and never owned a car. I think it is possible for that to happen in L.A. in pockets. People in L.A. are trying to work close to their neighborhoods. But still, a lot of people drive a long way.

Where do you live now?

I live in Westwood, so I can walk my kids to school. I feel very fortunate about that. We have a very neighborhood-y community.

What’s your favorite place to hang out in Inglewood?

The Forum. My first show was the Police playing the forum in 1980, and some Laker games. I think I saw the Harlem Globetrotters play the Forum as a kid.

The Edition hotel and the Inglewood stadium are very different types of work. What is HKS’ niche?

We tend to focus on larger, more complex projects. But we are doing a headquarters for Capital Brands in the Wells Fargo building in Brentwood. Capital makes the NutriBullet. So we are doing this multibillion-dollar stadium and a 25,000-square-foot headquarters. It runs a broad spectrum.

How far along is the Edition?

We’re in construction now, so it will take two years to get the building built. We’re doing the architecture and John Pawson is doing the interior design. It’s a 14-story building with 20 luxury condos, a collaboration with Ian Schrager, Marriott Group and Witcoff Group. Douglas Elliman is doing sales for the condos.

There are a lot of hotels in the pipeline right now. What differentiates the Edition, design-wise?

The design is minimal and serene and different. Hotels focus on creating something new. This is a subtle design palate. The hallmark of John Pawson’s work is minimalist space that is thoughtfully put together. Ian Schrager has some exciting ideas for food and beverage concepts. He has been an innovator and invented the boutique hotel. It’s an exciting experience working with him.

Minimalism wasn’t always the plan for that site…

Initially, the project was entitled as totally different design. It had been owned by someone else and had radical architecture and an innovative, aggressive design by Eric Owen Moss, in Culver City, who I used to work with. We were approached by the new owners who bought it. They thought the planning didn’t work for a hotel alone. We spent the first few months conceptualizing how to make the site work for condos. Condo sales sometimes finance an entire project.

Did you have to go through a new entitlements process?

We spent a good time working side by side with Witkoff and Schrager on the design and then we worked with Pawson on what the exterior expression should be like. Then we worked with city of West Hollywood to say that the new design met the spirit of the entitlements. They wanted landmark architecture.

What elements of the project count as “landmark architecture”?

Well, the way we looked at that is building something of enduring and timeless appeal, something that was made of the highest quality materials. The form of the building is subdued, but it will have power. People understand quality. It doesn’t have to be flashy, and that is something that we as a team really hold dear. A lot of hotels put energy and flash into interiors and the exteriors are sedate and simple. This exterior, the main frame of building is cast of stone, with a lot of use of bronze metals. There’s an earthy quality that grounds it. The craftsmanship is carefully detailed and the wood is used as a feature.

What trends are you seeing in the hotel industry?

Brands are working very hard to establish unique identities rather than trying to appeal to a broad base. Brand energy is focused on a select, specific clientele. The sophisticated patron is looking for a unique experience. They put out an RFP for that 1,000-room hotel adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center, which is gonna be a very different experience than a 50-key boutique hotel.

What is your dream project?

I’m happy to say we are doing some of them right now. Doing an NFL stadium in my hometown for the Rams. I grew up as a Rams fan. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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