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Times architecture critic finds much not to like at L.A. Live

December 2, 2008 |  5:49 pm

La live Los Angeles, city of enclaves, is methodically, unapologetically building itself one more.

The massive $2.5-billion, 4-million-square-foot L.A. Live project on the southern edge of downtown won't be complete for another year and a half or so. But its extensive second phase, much of which will open to the public this weekend, seems to rule out for good the prospect that L.A. Live might bring a fresh, forward-looking model of mega-development to downtown.

Even by the rather forgiving standards of a city whose leaders -- and whose public, for that matter -- demand little from developers when it comes to civic-minded design, the project is relentlessly focused on creating its own wholly separate commercial universe: a brighter, more strategically frenzied place than the world outside its doors.

The second phase is where L.A. Live, developed by the Denver company AEG, meets the city. A pair of new buildings along Figueroa Street -- one holding an ESPN Zone restaurant and broadcast facilities for the cable-sports giant, the other one containing the Grammy Museum and Club Nokia along with restaurants, a bowling alley and office space -- forms an important urban linchpin between the development's condo and hotel tower near the freeway, which will open in early 2010, and the adjacent South Park neighborhood.

The trouble is that the new buildings -- designed by RTKL, a Baltimore-based firm that also created the master plan for L.A. Live -- have almost nothing to say to or about downtown Los Angeles. Clad in glass and panels of metal and limestone, they are adamant in their sleek placelessness.

Read the rest of the architecture review here.

--Christopher Hawthorne, Times Architecture Critic