The Spirit of Los Angeles

Nicolai Ouroussoff name-dropped every major architect of the moment in his piece about the transformation of Los Angeles' skyline underway due to several current and pending construction projects ("Postcards From a City in Progress," Aug. 19). Yet he omitted the most important architect and, I would argue, the best: Paul Williams.

Williams' indoor/outdoor designs perfectly capture the spirit of Los Angeles and take best advantage or our wonderful climate. Further, they exemplify understatement at its best. And when Williams did design something whimsical, it became an icon: the sweeping arches and "Jetsons"-like futurism of the LAX central restaurant.

Ouroussoff favors flash over substance. The mere fact that he had anything kind to say about Richard Meier's Getty Center--a great showcase for buildings that look like a community college campus circa 1975, but a lousy one for art--bespeaks his woeful lack of taste.

That Ouroussoff is not outraged and fighting LACMA's plans to raze the William Pereira-designed Ahmanson building, and that he has anything kind to say about Jose Rafael Moneo's series of large boxes masquerading as the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels further reflect his fascination with transitory and ephemeral architecture trends at the expense of that which is truly inspired and timeless.

That Ouroussoff even included the words "lasting architectural value" in his piece negates it as clearly an oxymoron.


West Hollywood


Ouroussoff's essay refers to the architectural firm of Welton Becket & Associates, which was selected to design the Los Angeles Music Center, as "a competent local firm, but one that proved unable to create a visionary design."

I strongly disagree. The Becket firm's first version of what became the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion utilized the then-current series of precast concrete arches. But Becket himself rejected this concept, claiming that it would date the pavilion as a design of the late 1950s. Instead, Becket came up with the concept of what he called a "more classical timeless design."

Today, nearly 40 years after the pavilion's completion, I believe it has stood the test of time, as it will in 40 more years, when Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall will be regarded as reminiscent of the urban chaos architecture that was popular around the turn of the 21st century.


Corona del Mar


As the granddaughter of Welton Becket, I feel the need to respond. In Ouroussoff's article, the rich architectural developments of the early modern period were criticized and devalued, specifically targeting the Music Center and LACMA.

Welton Becket & Associates takes credit for many of L.A.'s cultural masterpieces, among them the Pan Pacific Auditorium; Capitol Records; the geodesic Cinerama Dome, with Buckminster Fuller; the Theme Building at LAX, with Williams, and Pereira & Luckman; and the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Many of these buildings have been granted cultural and historic landmark status.

It is in the best interest of the city of Los Angeles to stop overlooking the landmarks of its past, and understand the importance of keeping them alive and in good standing. ALEXANDRA BECKET

Beverly Hills

I'm surprised that Ouroussoff ignored Griffith Observatory. Its magnificent Art Deco architecture, prime location and visibility for miles around have led to its rightful designation as a civic, cultural and architectural icon.

Built at the same time as Hayden Planetarium in New York and Adler Planetarium in Chicago, and distinct from them as it is also an observatory, it has no equal as a civic monument. Recently, Adler has undergone major expansion, and the now Hayden-Rose has been reconceived.

Now it is Griffith's turn to undergo major renovation and expansion, and no one proposes to tamper with its splendid exterior.


Woodland Hills


Ouroussoff has a penchant for putting down a wonderful building and indirectly one of the greatest institutions of musical training for children ever developed in the world: the Colburn School. The building is as good as any in the world for the purpose of educating children in music. I am incredulous that Ouroussoff equates it with Staples Center.



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