'Bouncy-House Urbanism' Reaches New Heights

When a glass slide installed 1,000 feet up the tallest skyscraper on the West Coast is more than it appears.
June 29, 2016, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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You might have already encountered footage of the Skyslide in Los Angeles being flown into place by a large helicopter, or of the first terrified human guinea pigs sliding down the glass connection between the 70th and 69th floors of the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles.

L.A. Times Architecture Critic Christopher Hawthorne visited the new tourist attraction that opened on June 25 and was inspired to conjure up a term that is surely applicable to many places around the country: bouncy-house urbanism.

First, Hawthorne dispenses with the formality of describing the experiencing of sliding down a glass enclosure some 1,000 feet above the pavement below: "The ride won’t exactly be a threat to Six Flags. Nor would I say I’m in a hurry to try it again. But it was an architectural experience, however brief, of a kind I don’t think I’ve ever had."

The slide is the result of a $50 million renovation that includes an observation deck, two new lobbies, a café, a "transfer floor," and a restaurant and bar. Bus, as Hawthorne notes, much more powerful forces are at work than a simple renovation of a building built for a different era of business:

Though it was more than 80% leased when it opened in 1989, by the time OUE scooped it up for $367.5 million three years ago the building was barely half full. And its problems are not unique: As white-shoe law firms shrink and expanding tech companies in L.A. increasingly move into restored warehouses or historic buildings, commercial skyscrapers around the country are struggling to find tenants.

Enter "bouncy-house urbanism." As Hawthorne notes, the building's new owners are hardly the first "to see a possible revenue stream in the desire of adults to pay money to act like children in downtown settings." 

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Published on Thursday, June 23, 2016 in Los Angeles Times
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