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LAUSD's Costliest Campus Gets an 'F' for its Architecture

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Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools Campus, chain link included. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Called one of the Los Angeles Unified School District's "Taj Majal" schools due to its size, opulence, and $578M price tag, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus is open for the school year. Now, however, architectural experts are weighing in on the form and function of the buildings on the property where the famous Ambassador Hotel once stood, as detailed in The Architect's Newspaper.

Conflict between wants and what could be built are evident tangibly on the campus. There are green areas, but they are more closed off than open, particularly in the case of the Kennedy memorial park area, which is blocked to the public "with an ugly chain link fence for apparent budgetary reasons."

Outside success, like the grade and levels of the landscape, try to balance with the "institutional" interiors, for which the district's myriad of prohibitive regulations can be blamed. Looking at the building, say its critics, one can't tell what era it reflects, or even what its purpose is--office building, maybe? "[T]he overall design is not really rooted in anything except maybe the city’s obsession with loosely recreating the past."

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Baffled by the uncomfortable tangle between past and future, the Architect's Newspaper's Sam Lubell calls the school's architecture an "awkward oddball," and "a strange, even campy hybrid of futurism and historicism."

Aside from what the students are yet to accomplish academically, what's already been accomplished architecturally since the demolition of the Myron Hunt-designed Ambassador is leaving many troubled, and at a pretty penny from the LAUSD.

For Lubell, this isn't the new math, it's a classic fail: "[N]o matter what external circumstances drove up the final price tag, for the staggering cost, the students, and the city of LA, should be getting something better."