Every now and then, the Hollywood sign makes news. In the last few days, a severed head, and a pair of hands and feet, have been discovered scattered near the trails below the sign, prompting a true Hollywood mystery. But in 2010, there was a different drama developing. Developers wanted to sell the rugged area in back and to the left of the sign. The City of Los Angeles was able to scrounge up the money and accept donations by Playboy Hugh Heffner among others to buy the area, known as Cahuenga Peak, for $12. 5 million. In the meantime, people sent in proposals from all over the world of how the city could make money off the sign. Danish architect Christian Bay-Jorgensen’s proposal included turning each letter of the sign into a hotel. The above photo is his rendering. From my story (Daily News, April, 2010):
Picture it: Hollywood 2010.
The iconic Hollywood sign is in danger of being obstructed by hulking mansions.
There’s fear that future generations will point toward Mount Lee and ask: Mommy, why can I only see the letters “OO” on the hill?
If the demise of the view of the Hollywood sign were a movie, then Danish architect Christian Bay-Jorgensen is among the hopefuls auditioning to be the swashbuckling hero.
His plan: Transform the sign itself into a hotel, each giant letter hosting guests marveling at the sweeping views of the Los Angeles basin.
The hotel-letters would be about twice the size of the current 45-foot tall sign, and include amenities such as an observation deck.
The ultimate goal, he says, would be to preserve an internationally recognized landmark while helping the city generate badly needed funding.
“I’m a fan of the Hollywood sign and the unused spaces of America,” Bay-Jorgensen, a Denmark-based architect, said Monday after visiting Los Angeles. “It could be interesting to make it a center for such events as the Golden Globes and Oscars. This could be the future of the sign.”
But those who watch over the sign’s legacy say ideas like his have come and gone over the years like first-draft screenplays in a studio mailroom. They’ve been pitched ideas from casting bright lights on the letters to running trams up Mount Lee.
But in this city, folks have a saying: The Hollywood sign is the Hollywood sign and shall always remain so.
“That three-dimensional hotel makes a good story, though it’s not going to happen,” said Chris Baumgart, chairman of the Hollywood Sign Trust, the group in charge of repairing, maintaining, refurbishing and raising funds to preserve the sign.