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More drama on the horizon

Now rising, a new arts high school promises students an inspiring setting and the city some extra skyline intrigue.

October 29, 2006|Christopher Reynolds

SINCE March, a strange skeletal figure has been scrambling to its feet at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Grand avenues. And even though this emergent creature won't be complete until August 2008 (by the current estimate), it's already clear this downtown-adjacent neighborhood of fast food and scruffy low-rise offices will never be the same.

For now the new site, bristling with rebar and heaped with dirt piles, is called Central Los Angeles Area New High School No. 9. When finished, this high school for the arts will wear a skin of metal, glass, stucco and concrete and sport a vaguely aeronautical 140-foot tower. It will not look like your father's high school, but it may resemble the spaceships he sketched on his Pee-Chee folder.

The school will cover 10 acres, and the most recent cost estimate is a cool $208 million. Clad in steel, that 140-foot tower (which will be inaccessible) will mirror the 156-foot bell tower at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels across the 101 Freeway. The school library, also clad in steel, will be cone-shaped. Many of the windows will be round, like portholes. A pair of cranes will raise the tower and library in the next two months.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday October 29, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Outdated design: A rendering of the LAUSD's new downtown arts high school on the cover of today's Arts & Music section depicts an outdated concept for the school. A current rendering is shown on Page F4 of the section.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 05, 2006 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part E Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Outdated design: A rendering of the LAUSD's new downtown arts high school on the cover of last Sunday's Arts & Music section depicted an outdated concept for the school. A current rendering was shown on Page F4 of the section.

"Once the steel starts going up, it becomes very dramatic," said Gary Gidcumb, project manager for Pasadena-based executive architects HMC Architects.

The principal architect is Wolf Prix, a founding partner in Vienna-based Coop Himmelb(l)au, whose other projects include a museum in Cairo and an opera house in Guangzhou, China. And about now you're entitled to wonder: What matchmaker paired this globally fashionable firm with the Los Angeles Unified School District?

As is so often the case with cultural questions in Los Angeles, the answer is Eli Broad. The same Eli Broad, as it happens, who acted as donor and promoter to two other steel-skinned downtown behemoths of recent vintage: Walt Disney Concert Hall (also on Grand) and the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters building on Main Street. Broad, who has donated $1.9 million to the campus, persuaded the school board to go with Coop Himmelb(l)au in 2002, even though another architecture firm, AC Martin Partners, had already completed a less edgy design for the site.

As for the school itself, it will include separate "learning communities" in music, dance, theater arts and visual arts, along with a 950-seat theater, dance and art studios, music rehearsal rooms and a north-facing grand stairway at the entrance with about 50 steps. Of the projected 1,728 students, a school district spokeswoman said, about 500 will be drawn from around the district, and the rest will come from the neighborhood.

-- Christopher Reynolds

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