High school #9 | The Plan
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High school #9

Coop Himmelb(l)au

The Viennese practice Coop Himmelb(l)au - in particular its charismatic founding partner, Wolf Prix - has long been enamored with Los Angeles. From the legendary Open House proposed for Malibu in the mid-1980s to art installations at the city’s most important museums, to teaching studios at SCI-Arc and UCLA, both progressive architecture schools,
Himmelb(l)au thrives on the energy, climate and experimental culture of the sprawling Californian metropolis. Yet, despite maintaining a presence in Los Angeles for almost a quarter century and having excellent fraternal alliances within the LA art and architecture scene, it is only now, with High School #9, that Himmelb(l)au has achieved a significant building in this often fickle City of Angels.
The site is on Grand Avenue, an important axis linking Bunker Hill (a residential neighborhood scalped and replaced some decades ago by corporate towers), a 1960s cultural acropolis (Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre), and a low-rise jumble of houses and commercial properties to the north. In recent years, the boulevard has been reactivated: first by Arata Isozaki’s sandstone-clad Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA); then by Frank Gehry’s swirling metallic Walt Disney Concert Hall and Rafael Moneo’s stereometric Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels; and now by Himmelb(l)au’s assemblage of fair-faced concrete, stainless steel, and gauzy metal mesh through which blue skies play games of perception. The school is the most public of these new institutions, a filter or crossroads between Downtown and immediately adjacent communities. The school is also sited on a very different kind of artery, one that disconnects it from Downtown. Perpendicular to Grand Avenue, the Hollywood Freeway is a multi-lane highway often choked with automobiles and sunk several stories into the crust of this elevated section of LA (Architectural cognoscenti may remember this linear trough as the site of Asymptote’s Steel...

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