L.A.'s Newest High School

L.A.'s Newest High School

I was serving on jury duty a few months ago, gazing out the window during an interminable discussion about the definition of "vehicle tampering," when I noticed something new on the downtown Los Angeles skyline.

Was it a cement factory? An oil derrick? A roller coaster?

No, it was the "inspirational" conning tower on top of the auditorium of L.A.'s new $230 million performing arts high school, formally known as High School #9. Championed by billionaire developer Eli Broad and designed by Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au, High School #9 is a far more interesting architectural gambit than Renzo Piano's sedate LACMA expansion, yet it has gotten far less press.

This attempt at building a public Julliard-style arts academy in L.A., and so close to Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall (and Eli Broad's Grand Avenue Civic Center development, also designed by Gehry) should be huge news, on both architectural and civic levels–tax money being spent on art!–but the latest headlines are all about troubles inside the building. Since the school is a Los Angeles Unified School District property, it's not immune to the bureaucratic goo that tends to gum up interesting ideas, and the financial pressures that undermine them. Still, the outside sure looks cool. Flickr user La Citta Vita has some great pictures of the as-yet unfinished campus.

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