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Artistic visions for LAPD's new headquarters

October 21, 2009 |  1:49 pm
Ghost_Grove_North_night

Forget about cops and robbers -- how about cops and artists? The lavish new 10-story Police Administration Building on Spring Street, which officially opens Saturday, looks more like a museum gallery than the LAPD headquarters. And it has already drawn some amateur art criticism. 

Last week, the new LAPD memorial wall was unveiled. Brass plates on the nearly 11,000-pound structure bear the names of 202 officers killed in the line of duty.  The more than 2,000 brass plaques that comprise the structure are removable so that the names of additional fallen officers can be added. The architecture firm Gensler donated its services to design the sculpture. 

More than 30 concepts were separated into four general categories for development, said a spokesman for Gensler. Four proposals were developed and the final design was a later iteration of one of the four.

LAPD_oblique The $725,000 memorial was built with private funding from the Los Angeles Police Foundation.

Sprinkled along Spring Street are Peter Shelton’s cast bronze pieces -- or "some kind of cow splat," as Police Chief William J. Bratton refers to them. Six rotund masses, part of the sculptural installation called “animaline,” rest on pedestals and are flanked by two elongated creatures on either end.

"I'd like to think he'd leave his post more graciously," Shelton said in response to Bratton's comments as he did the finishing touches on the pieces Wednesday afternoon. "He doesn't need to bad-mouth something intended to be enjoyed by the city.  I'm disappointed he thinks he's an art expert."

When he was approached by the Department of Cultural Affairs to produce an art piece, Shelton said he thought a series of forms that went up the length of the street would make the art more part of the urban landscape.

"I didn't want it to be connected to a civic theme or anything," Shelton said. "My work is more abstract. I've lived in L.A. for 40 years. This was my chance to give the city something  playful, provocative, serious, thought-provoking ... I wanted it to make people stop and think.

"Mission accomplished, right?" he said.

Peter_sheltonThe Department of Cultural Affairs, whose public art budget for the new building was $1 million, also commissioned a piece by Catherine Wagner of San Francisco.

Wagner’s “Ghost Grove,” located at the Ronald F. Deaton Civic Auditorium connected to the new headquarters, will be unveiled Saturday. The project pays tribute to downtown L.A.’s lush orange grove history.

Her inspiration stemmed from the lone citrus tree that remains in the plaza of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo, which continues to blossom in the midst of the concrete chaos.

"I hope that there’s a magical feeling when you enter it," Wagner said. "And that there’s a thinking of the history and past of downtown Los Angeles."

"Ghost Grove" includes images of an orange grove, laser-etched on anodized aluminum, which spans along the north and east facades of the interior corridor of the auditorium building. It presents a ghost-like image of trees that can be seen from the exterior plaza and while traveling to and from the theater. 

On the northwest corner and the plaza side of the building, semitransparent orange mylar circles cascade down the exterior windows, creating the illusion of falling oranges.  And, depending on the time of day, the illuminated laminated oranges will cast shadows onto the floors and walls of the corridor.

Visitors to the northern plaza entrance will see a sandblasted image of a lone orange tree on limestone.

“I didn’t feel the need to do anything to affiliate with imagery that had to do with the police department," Wagner said.  "I felt more inclined to address the site it was in. Civic buildings have a whole history of uninspired architectural presence. With this new building, it’s kind of announcing a new beginning. Just look at the architecture of the building; it’s beautiful.”

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photos: At top, view of northwest corner where Catherine Wagner's orange mylar circles cascade. Credit: Phil Bond. Center, memorial wall on West 1st Street.  Credit: Gensler. Bottom, one of Shelton's cast bronze pieces. Credit: Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times

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