Hodgetts and Fung addressed both stylistic and acoustic demands, conceiving an ultra-industrial cement-and-steel core surrounded by a serpentine structure that rises up out of the ground and cantilevers over to one side, appearing ready to strike. Dubbed the Wild Beast by lead financial donor Abby Sher after an essay by avant-garde composer Morton Feldman (who wrote, "I am interested in how the wild beast lives in the jungle, not in the zoo"), the building has been likened to the body of a violin by Hodgetts, and even called a mini–Hollywood Bowl, perhaps because the firm also just completed a massive renovation of the latter.
Fung and Hodgetts (left) point out that the Wild Beast’s curves were meant to temper CalArts’ five-level, 500,000-square-foot behemoth of a main instructional building. As a recital hall, the new 3,200-square-foot building can hold 140 for an intimate performance; with the large main doors rolled open, up to 1,000 people can fill the courtyard for a concert. Acoustically, the building incorporates all kinds of dynamics, including mostly convex panels (that almost read as the scales of a cobra’s neck) to bounce sound around appropriately, and a row of mechanical clerestory windows that hold sound in when shut and allow it out for the larger concerts when opened. The beast—which, all told, will be a $4 million undertaking—will soon have its own garden courtesy of landscape designer and CalArts alumnus Allen Compton, who will flesh out the surrounding landscape (currently a tabula rasa of dirt).
Fung offered her insights into the Wild Beast, which she and Hodgetts conceptualized with Sher, the school of music dean David Rosenboom, and CalArts president Steven Lavine, in a recent Q & A about the project.
Erika Heet has been working in publishing for more than 20 years, including years spent as a senior editor at Architectural Digest and Robb Report. She has written for Architectural Digest, Robb Report, Interiors, Bon Appétit, Sierra Magazine, and The Berkeley Fiction Review. She recently wrote the foreword to New Tropical Classics: Hawaiian Homes by Shay Zak. She lives in a Topanga cabin with her artist husband and two children.