“While the idea of leadership is very broad, we are offering this series in hopes that we will all learn something about business, about government, and how to lead.” Culver Chamber President Goran Eriksson spoke over the soft clatter of plates and cutlery, the Leaders luncheon kicked into gear on June 7 at the Courtyard At Marriott.
Steve Ehrlich, Culver City based architect was the featured speaker, and his presentation touched on sustainability, creating space and using resources well. As his prime example, he showed how the offices of Ehrlich Architects at 10865 Washington Blvd. have had many lives. Originally the “Community Club” nightclub owned by silent film star Fatty Arbuckle, it was taken over as a Pierce Brothers Mortuary, and then sat abandoned for many years until Ehrlich took it on just before the turn of the century. Taking it “down to the studs” – stripping the building of all but the basic skeleton of framework, it is now a showplace of re-purposed material and green engineering.
“When we moved [our offices from Santa Monica] to Culver City, you couldn’t even buy a cappucchino around here; now you can’t walk across the street without bumping into one,” Ehrlich commented on how quickly the city has grown up into a place of sophistication.
Asked about his inspirations for ‘green’ architecture, Ehrlich offered his years in the Peace Corps in Morrocco and Marrekesh. “If you want to see truly sustainable buildings, go and visit the poorest people in the world. They don’t use air conditioning, they are not importing glass or marble…if you are in the tropics, you are going to see wide sloped roofing and big openings for cross ventilation. If you are in the desert, they will have thick solid walls to keep the cool air contained inside.”
Introducing Patti Rhee, the firm’s “star designer,” the conversation turned to the design selected to grace 9300 Culver Blvd., the famous “Parcel B.” With the withdrawal of redevelopment funds, the probability of the building has waned, but there is still a commitment. “This project was very meaningful to everyone in our office. Culver City is our backyard, this is our playground.
With the Kirk Douglas Theater as one of the local landmarks transformed by Ehrlich, in partnership with the Center Theater Group and the city, They were also the ones to make the Sony Childcare Center friendly to both the kids and the planet.
When asked how they happened to choose Culver City for their base, Ehrlich cited the central location. “We have people who come on their bikes. It’s a really ideal location, wherever you are coming from it’s easy to get here. ”
In regard to Parcel B, and what else is needed, he noted,”We will all wait impatiently to see how we can get that off the ground.”