Maybe I’ve been wrong about Farmers Field being the worst thing that could happen to downtown L.A., a giant domed stadium plastered with digital billboards lighting up the night sky from the Hollywood Hills to the ocean.
Maybe turning the core of the city into a prop for the TV cameras and a visual back drop for the movies is just what we deserve.
After all, this is Hollywood. It’s all make believe. It’s not like we are real people living real lives. L.A. is just a stage and we the people are just bit players, bystanders who have seen billions of our tax dollars flow into downtown like a river into the sea for no other purpose than to enrich the rich.
The latest design put forward by AEG for its NFL stadium is just another in a long line of bait-and-switches. It doesn’t have a dome or a retractable roof’; it’s got plastic wings like it’s ready to fly off somewhere far away, which truly would be the best thing that could happen. Plastic panels that supposedly will take hours to haul out from beneath the stadium can be put over the top for events like the Auto Show and conventions to preserve the myth that there is a public benefit because Farmers Field is an “events center,” not a stadium.
There never was a doubt that Tim Leiweke’s claim the stadium would cost $1.2 billion was a blatant lie when enclosed stadiums cost closer to $2 billion even if they don’t need a lot of reinforced steel because of the earthquake danger.
The newest concept from the architect Gensler — the firm that got $1 million in federal poverty funds and a three-year business tax holiday among other gratuities to move downtown from Santa Monica to be closer to this boondoggle — may have the same problems.
Given that AEG somehow expects to have its environmental impact report finished for review in two months, even before the architectural and engineering plans are complete, is sure to make the CEQA review process a battleground, which explains why the company spent so heavily and passed out so many chits to politicians for free tickets in the future in order to limit the legal process.
Now, AEG is proposing to provide us with multi-colored light shows reflecting off the translucent wings, adding to the surreal glow from dozens of flashing digital billbaords inside and outside the stadium and rebuilt Convention Center and the artificiality of LA Live.
“The after-dark renderings AEG released Tuesday showing the stadium as a canvas for showy light effects are a particularly depressing reflection of AEG’s design priorities and its interest in using the project to extend the permabright placelessness of its corner of downtown,” wrote LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne
who condemned the first version of the stadium over what it would do to the downtown streetscrape and found the latest incarnation only slightly better.
“The only way to rescue this design is for the architects
to display the courage of their convictions (or to convince AEG to let them do
so), ditching the wings and trimming back the structure to a far more dramatic
degree. This is a moment when light, efficient, minimal gestures make a great
deal of sense in stadium design. They match our economic realities and the
larger cultural mood. More than a few young architects are looking back for
inspiration at Frei Otto’s light, tensile designs for the 1972 Munich Olympics, a
project whose combination of innovation and modesty seems increasingly timely
in our era of the Occupy movement’s tent cities and other examples of
makeshift, micro-budget architecture.”
Hawthorne’s judgment: “The result is an odd and unsuccessful amalgam: overscaled, grandiose wings above, light and transparent touches below.”
Maybe he’s wrong, too.
Gaudy, gauche, grandiose — what could better reflect mentality of the business, civic and political leadership of L.A. than a made for TV stadium that symbolizes the only value they understand: naked greed.
That’s what it’s all about, that’s what it has always been about.