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An F in functionality

June 15, 2003

Nicolai Ouroussoff manages to perpetuate a shortcoming in L.A. architecture by praising the newest design for the Los Angeles Unified School District's High School No. 9, now to be the Performing and Visual Arts Academy at 450 Grand Ave. ("The Bold School Try," June 8). One must wonder if the increased cost of the redesign of this public school is justified when the reviewer's comments include semiotic comparisons between the auditorium's fly tower and a famous modernist church campanile in La Tourette, France. Ouroussoff states, "In evoking such precedents, Coop Himmelblau is asserting art's spiritual value. Art now occupies a central social role; the students are its missionaries."

Give me a break. Whom is this building truly for? This is not public architecture or public architecture criticism created for the public good. This is a proliferation and aggrandizement of an architecture based on egoism and vacuous broad-brushed design gestures. Southern California's history of free-spirited individuality has created many noteworthy iconic structures, but the trend has amplified into an increasing "King Kong" heavy-handedness of design. What has followed seems to be attempts to generate greater and greater oohs and ahs from the public like the constant yearly one-upmanship of bloated Hollywood special effects summer movie blockbusters. How do you think these buildings will stand the test of time?

John Theeuwes

Santa Monica

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