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Creative Artists Agency Headquarters Exhibits ‘Money at Work’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Aaron Betsky, a Venice resident, teaches and writes extensively about architecture. He is the author of "Violated Perfection: Architecture and the Fragmentation of the Modern" (Rizzoli Books).

Everything about the year-old Creative Artists Agency headquarters in Beverly Hills--from its curved marble-and-glass facade to the way it asserts its presence at the chaotic intersection of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards--exudes confidence, wealth, sophistication and finesse.

This is a signature office building that is also a landmark of sorts. When you drive past it, you know you are in Beverly Hills. Though neither architect nor client will disclose the cost of the building, you can see the money at work in the way it is made.

The curved marble wall, for instance. Most architects have to make do with setting straight pieces of stone in a curved pattern. Here, each piece of stone has been individually cut and smoothed to create a continuous surface. The result is a sensuous skin that is highlighted by the knife-edged cantilevered corner of the glass screen that faces this wall across the entrance.

Then there are the elaborately scalloped window sills, each carved out of a single stone of a slightly different hue. Notice that all the grains on the stone match.

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There is no ostentatious signage, ground-floor retail use or any other element that would bring both clutter and revenue. There’s no need for flash or cash here. The building is the ultimate piece of corporate custom-tailoring. Project Architect Sandy Pei (son of I. M. Pei), said his goal was to make a “responsive and responsible building, without imitating what was already there.”

On the front, the building gestures boldly across the intersection. Its curved wall does not face one street, but curves across all the different angles coming into the busy intersection, catching the views down the long boulevards and creating an abstract face for Beverly Hills.

The building also works from the one place where you usually see it: the car. It is not a solid, monumental object. Its geometric shapes are incomplete and hidden as you zoom past them.

It is these fragmentary, purely visual and highly visceral qualities that make this building an icon that sums up the best of Beverly Hills power in a way neither the elaborate new City Hall nor the garish Two Rodeo Drive manage.

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In the end, this is a building that, like a good agent, moves with style, hints at everything, knows how to negotiate through the rules, uses the power of imagery, and comes out of the world of artifice with a powerful wallop.

* Creative Artists Agency headquarters, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.

* Year completed: 1989.

* Architect: New York-based I.M. Pei & Partners.

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* Size: Three stories, 70,000 sq. ft.

* The building is not open to the public.


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