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LA Times Archicritic: Expo Line is "Aggressively Banal"

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Looks like we've got a good old fashioned Metro smackdown on our hands, care of LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who has some bones to pick over the freshly-opened Expo Line, which runs from Downtown to Baldwin Hills (and will open to Culver City next month). While he acknowledges that "new transit lines are remaking — genuinely, thoroughly remaking — the civic, cultural and architectural map of Los Angeles," his problem is that Metro didn't seem to go with either "a sleek, restrained design strategy" or "a more ambitious, design-first kind of architecture." He writes: "The architecture of the new stations, unfortunately, is not just weak but somehow aggressively banal?[they] seemingly want to disappear into the cityscape and at the same time assert a Big Metaphorical Idea about what public transit means for Los Angeles. And in trying to do both, of course, they do neither." Here are his specific beefs:

-- The wavy canopies (adapted from a 2004 idea by the sculptor Cliff Garten) as dated and ineffective, which would be bad enough except that it also "overwhelms the rest of the station architecture" and the "impressive landscape design."

-- The at-grade stations, which are split across intersections, "as if each stop is two miniature stations."

-- The weird concessions USC extracted for the stations by its campus, including the exchange of drought-tolerant plants for lawn, black fencing, and "long stretches of red brick."

And the thing is, Hawthorne thinks it matters quite a bit that Expo isn't so perfect--because, he writes, the 2008 Measure R tax increase, which is allocated to transportation projects, could make Metro "the most important patron of public architecture and urban design in Southern California for the next 10 or even 20 years."
· Review: Lackluster Expo Line reflects Metro's weak grasp of design [LAT]
· Scenes From Day One on LA's Brand New Expo Line [Curbed LA]