You’d think that a simpatico of sorts might naturally have developed between classical architecture and the city of Los Angeles, home of Hollywood and its beautiful stars. Doesn’t beauty love beauty? Apparently not. I suspect many celloid beauties like to boost confidence in their appearance by surrounding themselves with ugly buildings. How else to explain … ah, well, let’s just jump to the nut graf here.
(I hasten to add that the nut graf in a piece of journalism is where the correspondent briefly explains the matter at hand. A nut graf and a nut case are two different things.)
The University of Southern California recently opened a new campus that embraces the Collegiate Gothic style. C.L. Max Nikias, the university’s president, said at a dedication ceremony last week: “And let’s always remember, the looks of the University Village give us 1,000 years of history we don’t have. Thank you, and fight on!”
Well, maybe. But the event generated a critique by L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne, who was bound and determined to misunderstand the new campus. Read his “Call it Collegeland: The new USC Village feels like a Disneyland-Hogwarts mashup.” And prepare to roll your eyes. Granted, the college president’s remarks opened a hole you could drive a truck through, but Hawthorne (predictably, I might add) has no intention of assessing the architecture objectively.
Indeed, it does not compare well with Yale’s new pair of Collegiate Gothic campuses in New Haven, by Robert A.M. Stern Architects. Still, the work at USC by Harley Ellis Deveroux is to be commended for its startling audacity, bringing classicism to La-La Land. Now that new classical architecture has a new major beachhead in California, maybe its influence will spread eastward in the usual manner.