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Once-proud facade gets a saving grace

October 08, 2006|Lynne Heffley

THE leaden stucco structure at Wilshire Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, home to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Customer Center, was notoriously difficult to find. Artist Jim Isermann's signature makeover, finished just days ago, has made it hard to miss.

Working with Carlson & Co., a San Fernando-based engineering and fabrication company, Isermann wrapped the Metro building with 500 panels of folded aluminum sunscreens, coated in three shades of blue and set against a new paint job of avocado-ish "GI green." Attached from the roof to a height 8 feet above the ground, the panels are oriented to create the illusion of three-dimensional cubes skimming the building's exterior.

The $120,000 installation, a public art project commissioned by the Metro Art Program, is the latest transformation of what was originally the Welton Becket-designed Tilfords Restaurant, which was entombed by utilitarian stucco when the Metro moved in.

Isermann, based in Palm Springs and well known for bold decorative designs, has created site-specific installations for a number of public spaces. His concept for the Metro building was inspired by metal sunscreens that were part of the Southern California vernacular architecture of the 1950s and '60s, often used to give older buildings a cosmetic update.

"It's too late to bring back the Welton Becket coffee shop, but I think this is the next best thing," Isermann said.

-- Lynne Heffley

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