Welcome back to Critical Eye, Alexandra Lange's incisive, observant, curious, human- and street-friendly architecture column for Curbed. In this edition of her monthly column, Lange pounds the Los Angeles pavement to get up close and personal with the back catalog of one of America's most famous architects: Frank Gehry. And ICYMI, catch up on her past columns about architectural gamer paradise Monument Valley, the changing face of Buffalo, sidewalk-level impact of waterfront development around the Brooklyn Bridge, and last month's piece on LA's newest art museum.Photos by Elizabeth Daniels.
To get in to Frank Gehry's Loyola Law School (1980-90) you have to drive around the block a few times. What most published photos of the campus, near Downtown Los Angeles in Westlake, don't show is that the only entrance to this "academical village" is through the parking garage. The enclave of buildings—cartoon versions of colonnade, grove, tower, and chapel—present their backs as a wall to the street, hiding their Post-Modern flourishes and denying passers-by even a ceremonial gate through which to peer. If you are looking for late-model luxuriant Gehry, you won't find it here. What you will see is one of Frank Gehry's first attempts to create an urban place, with an artful mix of foreground and background buildings, sun and shade, gentle ramps, and aggressive switchback staircases.
The most iconic element of the Loyola campus is Merrifield Hall, a free-standing brick building with a tidy, child's-drawing gable and four stucco columns on its south side. The columns are unencumbered by capitals and unattached to the hall. They are just there as a three-dimensional symbol of our collective image of what the law looks like, set at the working center of the open space.