YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

A School or Prison?

November 11, 2000

Re "Two Schools of Thought" (by Nicolai Ouroussoff, Nov. 1):

Surely I cannot be the only reader impressed by the fact that the rendering of the proposed Science Center elementary school looks like (a) a prison complex; (b) a deserted shipyard; (c) a military warehouse; or (d) some kind of urban hell. Your architecture critic seemed most enthusiastic about the design, but would he send one of his children there?

I saw very little difference between the two examples presented. But at least the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy is converted from an abandoned shopping mall. I consider this to be progress. However, it too appears to be devoid of any plants or trees. Children, in particular, need nature.


Los Angeles


Adaptive reuse and combining schools with existing educational facilities, such as museums and research institutes, is a brilliant use of existing resources. The adaptive reuse of a mini-mall in MacArthur Park, and an elementary school adjacent to a cluster of science museums, certainly seems to be evidence of these great ideas in action. They are excellent strategies deserving support and credit.

I found Thom Mayne's science center design disturbing. What was even more disturbing than Mayne's design (architects often make mistakes) was Ouroussoff's accolades. Since when is self-effacement the goal of architecture, or a mark of its distinction? Since when do "machismo" and "stealth" signify an appropriate stylistic language for elementary school architecture?


Pacific Palisades


The only value in such a school design might be as an ironic comment on the current condition of education in California. In a state that allocates so little of its vast resources for its children's education, perhaps a school that looks like a prison is strangely appropriate. Why not, the architect seems to be saying, prepare these kids for their future now?

A clever social comment, no doubt, but hardly a strong basis for good school design.



Los Angeles Times Articles