Friday, June 10, 2005

can't we all just get along?

christopher hawthorne, who I generally really like and respect as an architecture critic and writer (particularly when he was at Slate), seems to have taken one too many hits off the crazy pipe. ok, maybe not crazy. maybe wildly optimistic and highly unlikely. in his attempt to kill two birds with one stone (I'm mixing as many metaphors as I can today), he suggest a way for sci-arc to get a new space (since they're likely losing their current one) - have the grand ave redevelopment peeps give away one of the publicly owned parcels to the school and have an "emerging, experimentally minded architecture firm based in Los Angeles." (doesn't that describe almost every architecture firm in LA?)

the way he sees it, sci-arc gets a buliding, related companies gets positive PR, and suddenly a conservative commercial project gets the sheen of design respectability and youthful exuberance.

sounds great, right? he even (briefly) lays out how the process would work - the land would be donated by the city or county depending on location, sci-arc would pay for the bulding itself - and hawthorne assumes the cost would be two to three times more than the $12.8 million it currently has budgeted to buy its current home should it prevail in court.

hawthorne admits there are other problems besides raising the money (which is indeed is a big one). context is one - will a new sci-arc work in the middle of what is looking more and more like a mall? another is filling the gap in sci-arc's current space.

admittedly, I am not an expert on the inner workings of related companies, sci-arc, LA's community redevelopment agency or eli broad's mind. but it seems there would be other problems to contend with. for one, sci-arc is a private, for-profit institution and not part of the cal state or UC system. I would assume those institutions might object to a sweetheart deal given to a private university.

second, hawthorne may be underestimating the space and design needs of sci-arc. sci-arc has always utilized raw warehouse space - both in marina del ray and downtown. the rawness and openness contributes to sci-arc's sense of identity - its hard to imagine sci-arc in some shiny new blobitecture.

third, mayne has already dropped out of the grand ave project as a potential architect. would this simply be a back-door way to get mayne back on board? hawthorne doesn't really address that. no one seems to know why mayne dropped out, and I don't know the personalities involved, but will mayne be that eager to get back in the proverbial bed with broad?

yup, its an interesting idea but one fraught with conflict and contentious constituencies. (I like alliteration).


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