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Fall Arts Preview | ARCHITECTURE

So, Disney Hall isn't the last word in design

A Parade Of Notable New Structures In The Region Also Is Changing The Urban Landscape.

September 19, 2004|Diane Haithman | Times Staff Writer

Last autumn, downtown L.A.'s most visible architectural splash came in the form of Walt Disney Concert Hall, that shiny paean to orchestral music -- sometimes too shiny, as nearby condo and apartment dwellers pointed out when the sun's reflection off Frank Gehry's signature curves caused temperatures, and tempers, to rise inside their high-rise homes.

This fall, downtown's most striking contribution to the architectural scene is somewhat more populist, focusing not on high art but mass transit: Caltrans District 7 headquarters. On Sept. 27, opening ceremonies will be held for the 716,200-square-foot state office building, designed by architect Thom Mayne of Santa Monica's Morphosis firm.

The Caltrans building will take its place on an international list of high-profile architectural projects making their debut this season, including Washington, D.C.'s National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian, opening Tuesday on the Washington Mall; Yoshio Taniguchi's design for the renovation and expansion of New York City's Museum of Modern Art, opening Nov. 20, and the Clinton presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., set to open Nov. 18. That structure, designed by the Polshek Partnership of New York, will reportedly hold Clinton's memorabilia and 80 million pages of papers from his two terms, more than any other president's, and includes a full-scale replica of the Oval Office.

Not quite as high-profile as Caltrans, but also downtown, the Japanese American National Museum is on track with plans to expand into new quarters in a former Buddhist temple. The new space, designed by L.A. architect Brenda Levin, is scheduled to open its doors in April 2005, next door to its 4-year-old building in Little Tokyo. The structure will house the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, a recently founded institution funded by a $10-million federal grant, to open under the museum's sponsorship.

Also downtown, near the shiny Disney Hall, and as part of downtown's growing "cultural corridor" effort on Grand Avenue, Colburn School of Performing Arts plans an Oct. 7 groundbreaking ceremony for a new building adjacent to its existing facility alongside the Museum of Contemporary Art. The new facility, designed by Pfeiffer Partners (formerly Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates) will include academic spaces and student housing.

Last week, the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino dedicated its new Munger Research Center, the first expansion of its research library in more than 20 years. The 90,000-square-foot addition, instigated by a lead gift of $21 million from philanthropists Nancy and Charles Munger, will provide space for the Huntington's growing collection of rare books and manuscripts, as well as expanded facilities for study, conservation, education, technology, photography and digital imaging. The expansion was done by Pasadena's Earl Corp., with Bert England as designer.

The Huntington also has big plans for 2005: The May opening of the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery, named in honor of trustee emeritus Robert Erburu and his wife. The gallery, designed by California architect Frederick Fisher, will add 20,000 square feet to the existing Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The new wing will temporarily house the Huntington's British art holdings while the 95-year-old Huntington Gallery undergoes a major renovation, and later will serve to provide expanded space for the American collection.

The Orange County Museum of Art will show off the results of a five-month renovation project beginning Oct. 10 with a gala celebration and the opening of the 2004 California Biennial, which will take place throughout the facility. The redesign, by the Newport Beach firm Bauer and Wiley Architects, includes a complete reconfiguration of the main entry pavilion for expanded exhibition space and a transformation of the outdoor sculpture court to provide a venue for live performances, large-scale installations and film screenings.

The Museum of Natural History in Exposition Park is holding off on announcing details of a planned reconstruction and renovation of its aging facilities -- but the surprise may be mitigated by the fact that the proposed project design from Steven Holl Architects is currently on display at the Venice Biennale's International Architecture Exhibition.

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