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Remembering L.A.'s Steel Cloud: Public art 'stressful just to look at'

July 11, 2010 |  9:18 am

Remember the "Steel Cloud"?

Back in the 1980s, it was Mayor Tom Bradley's answer to the Statue of Liberty -- L.A.'s own icon. But as Then and Now columnist Steve Harvey recalls, many didn't like New York architect Hani Rashid's vision for public art, which was to rise above the Hollywood Freeway in downtown.

The Times described it as an "avant-garde series of geometrical metal shapes housing theaters, museum, cafes, walkways, a genealogy library and other cultural amenities … all growing out of the median strip of the Hollywood Freeway."

The working model looked "as if it were built with an erector set."

Some likened the design to a freeway crash scene — or Los Angeles after the Big One.

Gloria Molina, then a councilwoman, commented, "It's stressful just to look at the drawings."

Times columnist Jack Smith wondered if it was a joke being played on L.A. "The architect is a New Yorker," he pointed out. "Ten of the 15 jurors who chose him are foreigners. How can we be sure it isn't a Trojan horse?"

Read Steve Harvey's full column here.

Image: Artist handout / Los Angeles Times file photo