When the city of Los Angeles announced it wanted to redesign 13 of the city’s aging police stations, architect David Martin set his sights on a station in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in town: Boyle Heights. “It’s a rough, tough area,” says Martin, principal at local architecture and planning firm AC Martin. “So we thought, of all the sites, we might really be able to make a difference on this one.”

The Hollenbeck Police Station routinely responds to gang violence and drug problems in the neighborhood, and the brutal design of the old building matched the area’s toughness with a hard, unwelcoming exterior. With the replacement station, AC Martin sought to change that.

“We asked ourselves: ‘What if we did the opposite of what you’re supposed to do?” says Martin. Instead of unyielding brick walls, the design team made liberal use of glass. “The idea is transparency—literal transparency—to have it be more of an interesting and welcoming sort of place, rather than a fortress.”

The entrance is located in an undulated glass façade featuring roughly 70 bent frosted-glass panels. Each panel consists of two pieces of bent clear glass laminated together with a translucent interlayer, creating a semi-opacity that obscures what’s going on inside, but still allows light to filter through. The pieces attach to a curtain wall system with a custom aluminum bracket designed in-house at AC Martin, and then further engineered by Dallas-based Curtain Wall Design & Consulting. The effect is a sculptural, staccato display that serves Martin’s idea of literal and figurative transparency, an important tool in building trust with the community.

The façade is oriented toward the street, with a fronting plaza area that looks onto a nearby park. The intent was to make a deliberately open area that could be used by the community—and become part of it. A publicly available multipurpose room is designed into the building, so local groups can hold events there. Double doors open the community room up into the plaza, allowing events to spill out into the neighborhood.

Martin says it was important to both his firm and the LAPD to create a space that intertwined with the neighborhood and its people. But because this community asset is also a police station, there were some distinct security criteria that ultimately guided the design. “Their patterns and adjacencies of how you lay out a police station are fixed—because it’s survival,” Martin says.

Ensuring the security of police personnel was a top priority in determining the location of windows, holding cells, and detainee processing areas. And while the glass panels on the façade are not bulletproof, the glass behind them is. Just to be certain, officers took the material to the LAPD’s firing range to verify the manufacturer’s claims.

Also important was how the building worked for the officers. Wide hallways make it easier to maneuver with heavy equipment, and recycled rubber floors ease the impact of a long day of standing.

Fully operational since July, the station is on its way to earning LEED Gold certification—another type of community leadership. With its inclusive design, the station has already made an impact and become, the architects hope, a welcoming neighborhood landmark.

Project Credits

Client: City of Los Angeles
Architect: AC Martin, Los Angeles—Carey McLeod (principal-in-charge), David C. Martin (design principal), Rana Makarem (project manager), Christopher King (senior designer), Elizabeth Eshel (interior designer), Norm Title (production)
Construction Manager/Contractor:FTR International
Structural/Civil Engineer: AC Martin
M/E/P Engineer: TMAD
Landscape Architect: Melendrez Design Partner
Programming: Jay Farbstein & Associates
Security/Data/Telcom: EASI
Glass Consultant: Curtain Wall Design & Consulting
Glass Installer: Delta Structure
Specifications: CSI
QA/QC: Miralles Associates
Estimating: Iskander Associates
Signage: Selbert Perkins Design
Size: 54,000 square feet (plus 124,000 square feet for vehicle facility and parking)
Cost: $17 million (station building), additional $14.1 million for parking structures


Eco Earth & Eco Stone Color Lines
Eco Surfaces
Recycled rubber floors fill most of the station’s internal areas. The floors have four color schemes, each corresponding to a different programmatic use of space—from break rooms to the watch commander’s area to detainee processing. In addition, the soft feel of the rubber provides some relief for officers throughout their highly mobile workday.

Bullet-Resistant Glazing
California Glass Bending
The glass façade of the Hollenbeck replacement station would seem to be a security risk, but with a 13/16"-thick bulletproof glass curtain wall behind the sculptural glass panels, the station can be both safe and attractive. About 1 1/4" thick, the glass carries a Level 1 bullet-resistant glazing on all surfaces up to 6' above the floor line.

Suspended Indirect Linear T5HO Fixture
Prudential Lighting
Prudential Lighting provided the suspended linear lighting panels that illuminate all of the office and work areas within the station. Because these hang from the ceiling and shine light upward, the rooms in the station do not suffer from harsh direct overhead lighting and are able to stay bright with just two or three panels per room.

Single-Ply Thermoplastic Roofing Membrane
A white single-ply thermoplastic membrane coats the roof of the building, reflecting sunlight and reducing the costs of cooling the structure. Produced by Sarnafil, the coating’s white color also helps to reduce the urban heat island effect and complies with California’s Title 24.