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Hawthorne Grades Downtown's Buck Rogers High

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Too ambitious--and a project that ultimately wasn't the right architect/client pairing--says Los Angeles Times' architecture critic Christropher Hawthorne, reviewing the new downtown Central Los Angeles Area High School #9, Coop Himmelblau's new space age (and troubled Buck Rogers) school. Design-wise, while Hawthorne seems to appreciate the "sharp-edged architectural forms," the Le Corbusier-inspired cone-shaped library, and with the "oversized porthole windows on the classroom buildings." But there are examples that the work is "inaccessible and essentially decorative." Quite literally, parts of the school are inaccessible: At the last minute, the LAUSD insisted on a security gate in front of the staircase, one of many signs "of the shakiness of the architect's hold on the political situation he was operating in here." And then there's the tower (that boxy structure pictured on the top), which'll now hold absolutely nothing, according to Hawthorne.

He writes: "No element of the school has been more controversial than the tower rising on the western edge of the site...The tower was originally designed to hold a special-events room at the top that could be rented out for private gatherings. With its dramatic perch atop the downtown skyline, it likely would have been booked from the start. But according to the architects, the LAUSD decided -- in a classic example of penny-wise, pound-foolish value engineering -- that it couldn't justify spending the extra money to make the room usable. With its AC Martin skeleton, its shimmering Himmelblau flesh and its stunning, empty tower, then, the high school is hardly just an example of innovative but expensive name-brand architecture. It is a project haunted by second thoughts and 180-degree turns, a case of conservatism replaced by somewhat misguided daring and finally undercut by several failures of nerve. And nearly every twist in that story line can be read in the architecture itself." If a grade was going to be given out, it looks like the school earns a B minus. Via flicker user rrarch]
· Pass/fail for L.A.'s new arts school [LA Times]
· Buck Rogers High School Finally Gets a Principal [Curbed LA]