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Los Angeles High School #9

Los Angeles, USA
1 of 19 Tom Bonner

The school located on a central location in downtown Los Angeles was part of state sponsored plan to build 155 new schools in the district. The School for the Visual and Performing Arts is a comprehensive High School and in addition will offer courses in the Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music and Dance. The school structure is part of a Central Los Angeles "cultural corridor" which includes the Disney Concert Hall, the Music Center, the Colburn School of Music, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. The school also houses a professional performing arts theater for just below 1,000 visitors.

Design Concept

The school was designed by the Austrian practice Coop Himmelb(l)au in 2008. Their design concept consists of three distinctively shaped buildings resembling giant chess figures. They are aimed to accomodate the entire programme while spatially redefining the context of Central Los Angeles.

The central figure is a tower with a spiraling ramp in the shape of the number 9. It is located on top of the theater's fly-loft and serves as a widely visible and a point of identification for the building. Inside the tower, an event, conference and exhibition space with a view across the city is planned. The theater complex is placed at the corner of Grand Avenue and the 101 Freeway.

The tower connects the school visually and formally with downtown Los Angeles and together with the Cathedral's toer the twin towers will become a new landmark for the city.

In addition to the tower a representational Lobby on Grand Avenue serves as the public entrance and integrates the school with the Grand Avenue corridor. Like a bridgehead the Lobby connects the site with the cultural facilities on the other side of the freeway. It is envisioned that the theater with all its amenities can additional revenue for the school.

As the symbol for learning and education the Library, or the Space of Knowledge, is formally expressed through a slanted, truncated cone and placed in the center of the school courtyard. Inside, the cone provides a large open space illuminated from above by a circular skylight thus offering an open, dynamic, but introverted and concentrated space for contemplation and focused learning. Through its diagonal position in relationship to the other buildings and slanted form, the dynamic, circular building directs views and flows of people through the school courtyards, changes the perception of the courtyard space and provides a point of orientation for the students within the campus.

The four classroom buildings form the orthogonal perimeter of the school's interior courtyards. The functional box beam buildings house one academy each as well as other shared educational and administrative spaces. Each building is organised with a central corridor which doubles as an exhibition gallery, generous open public stairways with lookout points to the exterior and expressive entrances, which serve as transition spaces between the exterior and interior. Each academy building houses its general classrooms, art studios, workrooms and satellite administration spaces.

Along Grand Avenue and at strategic viewpoints around the site large round windows are placed to create a distinct and lively exterior and to allow passers by a glimpse of the activities within the school. Likewise, students inside the buildings will have visual contact with the city with constantly changing perspectives and frames. From the outside the round windows are means to attract attention and enhance communication between the school and the city. From the inside the circular windows are an element for creating a lively atmosphere through distinct k´light conditions within the classrooms.

In addition to the public entrance on Grand Avenue the seven buildings frame a second representational entrance, the main school entrance, located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street and facing the community. The main school entrance is formally expressed through an 80' wide grand open stair, which leads directly into the main school courtyard with the conical library in its center and theater and tower in the background. The main entrance symbolically sets the stage for the students to experience this school as a decisive stage in their life and education.