April 25, 2006

urban sprout

I love LA. Its a beast, but its unlike anywhere else on Earth, for both good and bad. LA has a long history of trying to compete with the only other comparable US city, New York, and by doing so, has only kept itself feeling like it is in New York's shadow. It's a mistake that has never worked. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was designed to copy the Met. It has never worked. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion was designed to copy Lincoln Center. It doesn't work. New York's a great city too, but as places, the cities have nothing in common. Proverbial apples and oranges.

Ever since I have lived here, it seems almost every year there is another announcement about a new development project to revitalize downtown and create a "Times Square"-like district. Then we never hear anything more about them. Maybe that's a good thing. Times Square doesn't belong in LA. Every now and then, signs show that LA is beginning to recognize itself. Projects like the Cathedral of our Lady, the Department of Transportation Building, the Disney Concert Hall, and the cancelled new Koolhaas design for LACMA are recent examples.

Today a new development was announced to revitalize downtown. hmmm. This one shows promise. If for no other reason than because it is designed by Frank Gehry, the architect of the Disney Concert Hall. This isn't a Times Square. It calls for two towers and several other buildings including retail and parks surrounding his Disney Hall and essentially connecting it to City Hall, the MoCa, and the Music Center.

from the LA Times:
"Gehry's foray into high-rise design - his first major retail development - gives the project and the surrounding area an instant architectural cachet. Along with Disney Hall, Jose Raphael Moneo's cathedral and Thom Mayne's headquarters building for the California Department of Transportation, the plan creates a pocket of world-class building design in the city center. Most large-scale downtown projects built in the last few decades have been primarily functional, said architectural historian Robert Winter. As a result, he said, downtown has suffered, "with all that money wasted on mediocre and sort of dumb architecture."'

So, we have a model of hope. Question is, will it get off the ground?

  • LA Times article

  • NY Times article
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