FEATURE, ISSUE 2

More than 73 stories

Through the eyes of the workers building the Wilshire Grand Tower

Photos by Rachel Steinhauser & Hunter Kerhart

More than 700 workers are in the process of building the Wilshire Grand Tower, which will become Los Angeles’ tallest building and (if you include the spire) the tallest building west of the Mississippi River. Dozens of teams of subcontractors work around the clock on every aspect of the building, which has been under construction since 2012. Every worker is a member of a union and while some live in or near Downtown, most commute from outside the area from as far as Hemet, Anaheim, Long Beach and the Inland Empire. Some workers have been with the project since the beginning, others started within the past few weeks. The highly publicized $1 billion development would not be possible without these specialized and fearless workers. 

Below is the view from inside the cockpit of the tower’s primary crane. Every work day, Josh Wiggins, the crane’s operator and the building’s highest-altitude worker, climbs up several ladders into the cockpit where he maneuvers precious cargo, like parts, materials, tools — and lunch — from the ground to the various floors of the tower. Wiggins decided to pursue crane operation after falling in love with the night sky view over Century City as an apprentice operator. His view from the top of the ascending Wilshire Grand is the best he’s had on a job and he chronicles what he sees from his sky office on Instagram. Follow him at @tower_guy.

Photo by Rachel Steinhauser

Crane operator Wiggins looks out over Los Angeles. Photo by Rachel Steinhauser.

In an industry with a high project turnover rate and an emphasis on speed, the taller the building grows and the closer it gets to completion, the more the workers think about their next jobs. Wiggins described his employment pattern as “feast or famine” – when he’s on a job like the Wilshire Grand, he’s logging a lot of overtime and working around the clock, sometimes taking only 6-hour breaks between shifts. But as soon as the job is over, it can be difficult to find another one right away. Louie Marquez, a laborer (pictured above), said getting jobs on big projects is all based on “who you know.” Marquez works 40-hour weeks at the Wilshire Grand and commutes from Glassell Park. He got his start in constructionrepairing Downtown’s First Interstate Tower (now Aon Center) after significant fire damage in 1988.

Photo by Rachel Steinhauser

 

Hunter Kerhart followed up on the story with these aerial images taken in November.