Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Building of Los Angeles, Four, Five, Six

As a comment to my last entry, Patrick wrote:

The Disney Concert Hall and the Westin Bonaventure are both eye-popping implants unrelated to the rest of the city, each a world unto itself in a city with too many self-contained worlds. The Westin is especially typical, its round towers like so many middle fingers raised to its neighborhood.

And so I have to respond, although suggesting LA is the home to implants is so fitting I almost shouldn't say anything at all. First, you have to look at the two buildings quite separately. Rickey Henderson was concerned that I liked Disney Hall for he distrusts anything Disney, but of course this building is really just Disney money. Frank Gehry wouldn't make it in the Magic Kingdom, which offers cartoony versions of the past (Main Street, Frontierland, Adventureland, Toonland) and a version of the future (Tomorrowland) they have to rennovate constantly to keep it from turning into bad sci-fi the MST3K gang would make delicious mincemeat out of. It has no room for the modern or the post-modern; indeed, folks might be so comforted by the park because it ignores most of the 20th century.

Disney Hall, on the other hand, actually literally reflects what's around it, to the point where its shiniest component (the Founder's Room area--donors have their privileges) reflected so much southern California sun that neighbors complained. What's more, while the building is massive--a whole city block--it comes with lots of pedestrian access and gardens. It's one of the few spots in its area where stuff grows. Plus, its undulating skin allows for people to "pierce" the building without ever entering it. Sure, that's illusion, but it's also not so far from metaphysical and physical Hollywood. And, I have yet to mention in any of my writing that it sits atop the very cool REDCAT space, with a coffee shop-book store, gallery, and a black box theatre that can do performance or film, and tends to do stuff out on the edge (Stephin Merritt writing Chinese operetta, say). REDCAT, short for Roy and Edna Disney/Cal Arts Theater, has to be the least Disneyesque thing to bear the Disney name--the current website is pushing short films of Harry Smith (now there's a corrective for Main Street USA), Degenerate Art Ensemble/Cuckoo Crow, and LAPD--Los Angeles Poverty Department: Utopia/Dystopia. Disney, the degenerate dystopia. Walt must be turning over in his freezer.

The Bonaventure is much more problematic, and its five towers with a taller middle do sort of give downtown the finger. Yet, downtown around it is so much bigger, it probably doesn't notice. Not that it excuses the building, but it's the other plazas that make the area foreboding on a human scale. We tried walking around, and until we got to Broadway, which is now sort of scary if for no other reason than as a very white person you have to realize the world normally isn't very white, that was hard to do. You'd cut under roads in passageways dark at 3:30, not see any other pedestrians, not really see the street, either. It's sort of like being in the subway tunnel but you've lost your train. Then you end up in buildings, guess which door to pop out of, wind up in a fountain-dominated plaza, but realize it only leads to other doors to the building. Escher had nothing on these architects.

This might be an involved way to say something banal like LA is built for cars. Of course, modern downtowns weren't meant for habitation, just the making of lucre--they even leveled Bunker Hill and its Victorians to make LA's. Of course, having a metropolis of millions in a land that should be desert [ed. note--typo corrected, so Averageman comment no longer makes sense] is a sort of folly on its own, and thereby begs for each of us to live in our own controlled-comfort bubble, our automobile. But as a place to sleep with a view, as a place to drink and drink in kitsch, the Bonaventure has its charms as it embodies one type of LA with open towers.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Rickey Henderson said...

Having now taken a peek at the picture of the building, Rickey recants his earlier suspicions. Yes, as you pointed out, the Gehry design is a tad cliche, but it looks goddamned cool nonetheless. The Museum Bilbao in Spain looks like a run down brothel compared to that.

But just so we're perfectly clear: Rickey still totally despises that fucking mouse.

8:39 AM  
Blogger regina said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:45 AM  
Blogger regina said...

I've found myself staying at the Bonaventure twice in the past 5 months. (That's what happened when Pricelining Downtown LA at the highest available rating.) Other than the rotating bar with its frou frou drinks served in fabulously cheesy drinking vessels you get to take home (think ceramic replicas of the hotel, of the state of California, or of a movie camera), the best thing about the place is the unaffiliated restaurant, Ciudad directly across the street.

8:47 AM  
Blogger theaverageman said...

"in a land that should be dessert"

a simple misspelling or brilliantly abstract poetry? I never know with you, G.

9:01 AM  
Blogger George said...

Averageman--just means bloggers need proofreaders sometimes.

But we could have a contest--if LA were a dessert, what dessert would it be?

I think this post has now birthed another post.

Regina, we've been to Ciudad, owned by the 2 Hot Tamales women better known for the Border Grill, and liked it, but it was Sunday tapas night and things seemed inconsistent. One dish would be great, another just good. Maybe we need to give it another try.

Rickey, I'm no huge Mouse fan myself--perhaps reason #136 not to have kids, so you don't have to Disney indoctrinate them. But I do sort of like Disneyland, even though I know I shouldn't.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Queen Whackamole said...

If you really want to sock it to Disney, buy an annual pass! That way, they lose money every time you visit (after the first two times)...

Rockin' the Fast Pass,
Q

10:54 AM  

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