Sunday, August 22, 2004


In Roger Vincent's excellent (as usual) article in today's LAT's Sunday business section, he mentions the until now only rumored details about the final selection of Related over Forest City in the Grand Avenue 'competition'.

While one member of the Forest City team told me their not trying to compete with the massive retail complex being built at Staples as the main reason they were not selected, Eli Broad instead posited in the article that the proposals were essentially tied with the deciding factor being Related's agreeing to pay more ground rent and to put forth more subsidies for low and moderate income housing on the site. However, of course, the building of far more high-end retail would enable them to pay higher rents and subsidies, so there could be some correlation there.

The one part of the article that should worry anyone concerned about the future of Los Angeles, though, was that statement that the head of Related - former tax attorney Steve Ross - is intensely involved in every detail of his projects - down to the art work and the lighting fixtures.

The only problem is that as one who has seen many of their projects, I have not seen any art or a lighting fixtures in their projects that would be particularly suitable for any place in Los Angeles (and this is - alas - especially true of theIr one built project in downtown LA), much less on Grand Avenue.

Now this is not to say that their projects are tacky or in bad taste, for they are not. They are generally quite tasteful - if your taste is 1960's corporate modernism (though their lead architecture David Childs prefers a very heavy handed 1930's Art Deco style 'updated' to the 1960's) - modernism after modernism has lost its edge and its nerve - or an inoffensive shopping center Taco Bell type of Spanish revival pastiche architecture such as their highly suburban Florida shopping mall with apartments on the roofs of the stores in West Palm Beach.

They are highly efficient machines with which to make money and have it shipped back to their corporate headquarters in New York. Nothing less and nothing more.

In short - it is the kind of taste that is antithetical to true urbanism, antithetical to quality design - and inappropriate for a great street even during the middle to late 20th Century, much less what is needed to redefine what is necessary to create a great urban center in the 21st Century.

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