The Ramón C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts or Grand Arts as many call it is located in downtown Los Angeles, next to China Town.
Designed by Austrian architect Wolf Prix and his firm Coop Himmelb(l)au the school, with its spiral ramp and tower that stretch up to the sky, is meant to symbolize the artistic spirit.
Architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne describes the building as follows:
What…the school has taught [its students] about the architecture is not so much what they like and dislike about the design, or about what works and what doesn’t, but rather the surprising and ultimately thrilling ways in which their high school campus reminds them of themselves and their peers. Like them it is something of a proud outcast: gangly, dreamy, and beautiful at the same time, trying to make its way in a culture that prizes familiarity over strangeness and sameness over individuality. For a teenager who dreams of becoming an artist or a dancer, and has maybe not always found that ambition popular or easily understood by others in his family or neighborhood, what kind of campus could be better?
Some people didn’t see it that way, as reported by the LA Times, a ski jump, waterslide, toboggan run, and roller coaster were among some of the guesses for the ramp’s purpose. Originally, the ramp was meant to be accessible to the public and allow visitors to reach the observation deck at the top. This plan was not realized due to protests from the school.
Grand Arts is home to approximately 1,700 students and opened on September 9, 2009. Among the list of facilities on campus are a 927-seat professional concert hall with a Broadway-sized stage; professional scene shop; photography and broadcast studios; 4 dance studios; and specialized spaces equipped for art, music and theatre classes.
The school is controversial, not only due to the unusual design but also due to the budget. Originally proposed at $30 million, at that time the design was more of a standard academic style building. The design was later revamped to what you see today at a cost of $232 million.
Despite any differences of opinion, aesthetic or budgetary, the school’s main focus is on the students. Their goal is to include 70% disadvantaged students from the local area.
Click here to watch a music video featuring the students called “Dream it, Do it!” Choreographed by Emmy award winner Debbie Allen, and conceived and produced by Kim Bruno, Grand Art’s Executive Artistic Director.