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How to design a lightning rod

May 30, 2009 | 12:00 pm

Highschool 

The new arts high school on Grand Avenue, designed by Wolf D. Prix of the Austrian firm Coop Himmelblau, has been a lightning rod for criticism like no other Los Angeles building in recent memory.

Its construction cost soared well past a 2003 estimate of $87 million and eventually hit $232 million. The LAUSD had seemingly endless trouble finding a principal and an executive director to run it. Eli Broad, its most visible patron, angled unsuccessfully earlier this year to persuade the district to allow it to be run as a charter.

Not to mention that Steve Lopez had a field day with the place.

School gallery To what extent does the dramatic design of the school have any relationship to those controversies? Would choosing a different architect have helped the LAUSD avoid PR headaches, save money or better protect the school's mission? Was Prix's aggressively virtuosic style the best fit for this particular commission?

Find out in my review of the high school, appearing here and in Sunday's Arts & Books section.

-- Christopher Hawthorne

Photo credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times