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BREATHING ROOM

A calming courtyard leaves the city behind

August 14, 2003|Lisa Boone

Only yards away from crowded parking lots, busy sidewalks and traffic moving in every direction, the elegant courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown L.A. offers an unexpected reprieve from Grand Avenue street life.

Beneath the stone silhouette of Arata Isozaki's exotic terra-cotta and teal geometry and flanked by rows of magnolia trees, two long pools of running water provide shade and quiet for visitors. During the week, office dwellers find refuge here, curling up or often lying down on benches on either side of the marble-encased pools. Here, people eat, nap and read, read, read.

Diversity is a large part of what makes the courtyard so compelling. On a recent visit, poker-faced Europeans posed for pictures in front of Nancy Rubins' sculpture composed of used airplane parts. Giggling children raced up and down a sloping lawn near the adjacent Colburn School. Hipsters clutching copies of the art magazine Domus -- bought at the MOCA store, no doubt -- sat at a bubbling six-tiered fountain. Brightly colored boxes coated with heavy tempera lay scattered on a tarp, the remains of a summer art camp for kids. The space remains diverse and inclusive -- just like the works of art in the galleries below.

In the fall, a flower market is promised for Thursdays. Call it a lovely welcome-to-the-neighborhood gift for the new beauty on the block: Disney Hall.

-- Lisa Boone

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