City of Angels Close-Up


I am normally all over all over a story about a newly constructed artwork by Robert Smithson, but I am in the Pacific time zone, seeing some of Los Angeles' star buildings close up. I checked Curbed and they linked the New York Times article.

Pictured is Caltrans District 7 building, by Morphosis. Read more about it after the jump.


The building plays on two levels: drive-by and walk-in.

Drive-by: its cantilevered masses hover over the downtown scape, something that a drive-by brings to life. The openness of the exterior framework, and the veil-like metal screens, give it the feeling of a building built by monopole sign engineers.


Morphosis did not try to dress up this scaffolding, the way Frank Gehry did for the nearby Disney Concert Hall. Instead, the architects chose to let the scale of the industrial materials, and their profiles (like the curved eyelet screens), overcome the close-up roughness and create an elegance that works at drive-by scale.


Walk-in: its cantilevered masses create shade. Not the kind of shade The Guttersniper is throwing, but shade for people from direct sunlight. The outdoor cafe is quiet, cool, and beautiful. It faces the neon work of Keith Sonnier, which is clearly visible in the shade, washed out in the direct sunlight (reminicent of his early pieces combining incandescent lamps with neon tubes).


The Sonnier piece wraps what I will dare to call public space. If there were a million more people in a ten block area, and the cafe was a little more robust, and it had about ten more entrances, one might even call it a piazza. But this is downtown Los Angeles, and for the people who work there, the architectural tourists (tough love begins at home), and anyone who actually needs to visit this building, the open space is well-considered, useful, and capable of handling large crowds for fun.


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