Not Your Average High School Auditorium

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By Luke Hopping and Dwell / Photos by Julius Shulman
A renovation doubles down on the value of live performance at a midcentury Los Angeles venue.

To teens accustomed to getting their entertainment from brightly pixelated screens, the swooping 1,300-seat Robert Frost Auditorium at Culver City High School might seem like an antiquity. Yet a coming upgrade by Hodgetts + Fung promises to make the postwar performance space, which has hosted everyone from the Los Angeles Philharmonic to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, more relevant than ever.

Flewelling & Moody designed the building in 1962, when thin-shell concrete structures were the reigning style for expressing national strength. Now the auditorium, which has hosted student performing arts continously since 1964, is due for a $6 million fix-up.

The funds, raised mostly by a bond measure, will go toward addressing light and air quality, improving the black box theater, and making technical upgrades in time for fall of 2017. Since Hodgetts + Fung didn’t find a single leak or crack, the iconic exterior will go unaltered, its endurance a reminder that certain achievements never age. 

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Photo by Julius Shulman ©J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10) 

Photo by Julius Shulman ©J. Paul Getty Trust, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10)