Mayne man

After Thom Mayne won the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the designworld's answer to the Nobel, I revisited his most recent LosAngeles work: the Caltrans District 7 Headquarters (above).

Across from the towering Los Angeles City Hall, the Caltransbuilding sends a direct message: Transportation looms large overLos Angeles. It's as cuddly as an intergalactic troop transport,menacing too. Martians famously destroyed city hall in 1953's TheWar of the Worlds, and, given the headquarters' futuristic styling,I imagined a phalanx of gigantic robotic aliens ― maybewearing orange safety vests ― emerging from the Caltransbuilding's armored flanks.

Close up, the Caltrans building is less intimidating. Theplaza's canopy is reminiscent of exit ramps, while the lightinstallation's red neon details reminded me of lines of brakelights, perhaps because I had just driven in on the HollywoodFreeway. The building's skin of perforated aluminum screens openand close to control temperature and light, creating a sense oflife and movement. After dark, the panels seem to vanish: Thebuilding glows and the humanity within is revealed. It's a buildingwhose beauty is not immediately apparent. Caltrans may be thetenant, but this is hardly drive-by architecture. The Caltransbuilding is at 100 S. Main St. in L.A. Visit www.morphosis.net for moreinformation on Thom Mayne.

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