Old meets new in Pasadena

Fix up a classic house, fix up a great city — that's what they do in this LA suburb

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In the hills along the upper arroyo, there's another famous bridge. This glass-and-steel design by Craig Ellwood Associates is as stark and modern as the Colorado Street Bridge is romantic. Since 1976, it has housed classrooms, studios, and offices for the Hillside Campus of Art Center College of Design, one of the country's leading institutions for automotive design, among 11 other disciplines.

Along with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, where Albert Einstein worked in the early 1930s, Art Center adds a forward-thinking dimension to the city's cultural life. Its new South Campus has converted an old aerospace plant into a 100,000-square-foot facility, notable for its dramatic skylights, sculptural staircase, and a gallery housed in the factory's old wind tunnel.

The reminders of the city's rich legacy of invention are everywhere, whether you're walking in Einstein's steps through a CalTech courtyard or catching a glimpse of Frank Lloyd Wright's La Miniatura hidden in the woods near the arroyo. This is a city of ideas and culture, where neighbors come together at a world-class museum like the Norton Simon, at the venerable Pasadena Playhouse theater, and in bookstores, most notably the 111-year-old Vroman's Bookstore. That said, today's Pasadena is not without its divides, whether economic, cultural, or simply physical ― such as Interstate 210, which roughly cuts the city in half.

One of the key challenges facing Pasadena is figuring out how to promote the city's highest ideals and make them accessible and real for the entire community. That effort is taking many forms.

After losing its previous space, the innovative Furious Theatre Company found a new home when the Pasadena Playhouse reached out and offered use of its Balcony Theater. Side Street Projects, an arts organization, has worked with more than 1,000 artists to help them both thrive creatively and be better businesspeople, so the city can hold on to its community of working artists. The organization also extends a hand to kids with a program called Alternate Routes, in which colorful buses equipped with workbenches are sent into city neighborhoods to teach children the basics of woodworking. Greene and Greene would no doubt approve.

 

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