Zoom Zoom Zoom
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 5/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
It's fitting that a city with some of the world's busiest freeways has one of the most dynamic transportation headquarters. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) District 7 opened in downtown Los Angeles in September to rave reviews.
The work of Morphosis, the 1.2 million-square-foot complex consolidates four offices scattered throughout the city and serves 1,900 employees. Among the site's remarkable features—ecologically sensitive design, an ever-changing perforated-aluminum skin—is the 3,000-square-foot lobby plaza.
It's the plaza that intrinsically ties Caltrans to the fabric of L.A. Essentially an outdoor room accommodating 1,000, café tables and overscale benches are shared among employees and the public. Exposed structural elements in concrete, metal, and glass suggest a feeling of being near the freeways themselves.
Keith Sonnier's Motordom, a 240-foot-long, four-story-high kinetic sculpture, evokes an even stronger roadway reference. The city's largest public art installation, the half mile of neon and argon tubes creates horizontal bands of red and blue light, akin to the flash of speeding headlights.
Catty-corner to historic City Hall, the city-block site is steps away from Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall and Rafael Moneo's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. "It's an interesting time to build in L.A.," says Morphosis principal Thom Mayne, this year's Pritzker Prize winner and a founder of SCI-Arc. "Caltrans's light and lines allude to the future."