The walls are usually open at the office of Los Angeles-based Lehrer Architects. Located in the hills near Silver Lake reservoir, the office was renovated in the early 2000s and features large windowed garage doors that can open to fully expose one side of the office to abundant fresh air. On days when the weather is nice, which in L.A. is most days, the garage door structures are lifted open. The walls might as well have never been there in the first place.
“You’re sitting in a sea of fresh air and literal healthfulness and psychic healthfulness,” says Michael Lehrer, the firm’s founder.
[Photo: Lehrer Architects LA]
These kinds of open-air elements and indoor-outdoor blends have been recurring features in Lehrer’s L.A. designs over the years, including a 100-foot-long wall of windows that opens on the side of a gymnasium at the Stephen Wise Temple, and glass bifold doors that create indoor-outdoor classrooms at the Architecture and Design Institute. “Given that we’re in Southern California, if you don’t do something like this here, I don’t want to say it’s criminal—but it’s close to criminal,” he says. “If you can’t do and don’t do something where the weather is so gracious, then something is really not right.”
Now, after nearly two years of a global pandemic spread primarily through the air, built-in ways of keeping interior air fresh are becoming not just an L.A. design proclivity, but also a pubic-health imperative. More and more, fresh air and ventilation are being prioritized for the way buildings are designed and renovated. One of the most significant architectural legacies of the pandemic may be how buildings are learning to breathe again. Increasingly in Lehrer’s work, clients are calling for the kinds of large openings and fresh air access he’s been designing for more than 15 years. “There are few projects where there isn’t that opportunity,” Lehrer says.
Better airflow and safer ventilation systems are being integrated into buildings old and new. In New York City, one historic 1930s office building has just undergone a full interior renovation at a price tag of nearly $150 million. The remake of the McGraw-Hill Building in Midtown Manhattan included a thorough fit out of pandemic-aware ventilation, showing that even older buildings can adapt to changing conditions.
330 West 42nd [Image: MdeAS Architect]
Designed by renowned architect Raymond Hood and completed in 1931, the 35-story building—which Ayn Rand called, “the most beautiful building in New York”—features green terra-cotta-tile cladding that turns blue on its higher floors, and at the crown, a stunning 11-foot-tall sign of the building’s name in art deco terra-cotta lettering. (Though the McGraw-Hill company left the space in the 1970s, its name remained as an indelible part of the building’s identity.) Recognized as a historic landmark at both the city and national levels, the facade of the protected building has been preserved, while the interior was transformed into modern office spaces. Controversially, …….