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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Glitz, Glamour Find Unlikely New Home in the Wilshire District

Los Angeles' New Ambassadors   
Six Schools on a Campus Like  no  Other

   a RoLA                          S                   e               r          i       e   s   

The Architecturally Acclaimed Auditorium at
Ambassador/RFK Campus' Los Angeles High School for the Arts (LAHSA): 

Witness:  A reinterpretation of the aesthetic of  the iconic nightlife venue that helped define what was probably Hollywood's most glamorous period--from the 1920s to the early 1950s, when Harlow, Hughes and Hepburn graced the Ambassador Hotel's own Cocoanut Grove night club.  

One neighbor of RFK Community Schools said the auditorium by itself is the best thing that's happened to youth in this inner-city part of Southern California in decades, and that it shows.  The woman, who lives within visual distance of the RFK campus, says she raised two of her own now grown and "very successful" children in L.A.'s pulbic school system.  She also said, after years of apathy and neglect regarding public schools in Los Angeles, she can now sees students who seem proud of where they go to school.  When walking her dog some mornings, the longtime Wilshire District resident has recently noted a new excitement in the eyes of the students she sees walking to toward the six RFK schools located at the former Ambassador Hotel site.    (Watch for video of RoLA's interview with the neighbor and others with school officials and students--all in coming installmentsot of our special series on the Ambassador/RFK site.  Meantime, here are some interior shots of the schools' auditorium inspired by, and built at the former site of the old Cocoanut Grove.)
Though not all who lamented, and still mourn, the demolition of the Ambassador in 2005 are completely satisfied with the outcome of their failed battle to completely  preserve the property, some concede that the new schools' auditorium (which actually retains much Cocoanut Grove building's construction in its last incarnation before the closure of the Ambassador for good in 1989); succeeds in some measure invoking the spirit of the original Grove.

The faculty-staff-and their-guests-only lounge at RFK Community Schools is a faithfully restored original 1950s diner designed by Paul R. Williams, a pioneering African-American architect whose work (Beverly Wilshire Hotel [major redesign]; Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills; Chasens Restaurant; Theme building at LAX (the sweeping, swoopy structure at the center of the airport's terminals area);  helped define the classical Los Angeles architecture asthetic. 


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