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Eyeing LA Edifices

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LA Observed reports that The Los Angeles Times has lured away Slate's Christopher Hawthorne to become the paper's new architecture critic, filling a vacancy left open when Nicolai Ouroussoff joined the staff of The New York Times several months ago.Is it a coincidence that Hawthorne's recent piece in Slate focuses on new architecture in Los Angeles?...Hmmm, we smell a tryout.

At any rate, Hawthorne thoughtfully reviews the new district headquarters for the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), designed by architect Thom Mayne and his Santa Monica-based firm, Morphosis.

Hawthorne informs readers, "The mammoth scale and monolithic cast of the main facades are emphasized (you could say exacerbated) by the fact that they are entirely covered by perforated aluminum screens, behind which is hidden a straightforward glass-curtain wall. The screens themselves are opened and closed by a computerized system to let sunlight into the building during the day...

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But do Angelenos want such a mountainous presence simply dropped down into their midst? Judging from the modest sample of locals I talked to before and after I toured the building last week, the answer is a resounding no. People already have cynical nicknames for the design. Some call it the Death Star, though so far the most popular seems to be the Battleship..."

Funny, the northern face of the new CalTrans building reminds us of a huge totalitarian Advent Christmas Calendar, with little gray doors revealing the hostile and unhappy faces of CalTrans workers or photographs of particularly hellacious traffic jams clogging SoCal highways.

Therefore, we think the building should have a more Teutonic sounding nickname like "Der Verrückter Weihnachtsaufkommenkalender."