It’s dark, winglike and it’s hidden in plain sight but otherwise this “League of Shadows” has nothing to do with Batman. Instead, it is an experiment in form created in the parking lot of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) by LA architecture duo to watch: Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich, of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S. Guy Horton visits the structure and ponders its future use.
If you have been down to the Arts District lately you may have noticed a giant black structure jumping out of one corner of SCI-Arc’s parking lot by the Fourth Street Bridge at Merrick Street (see photo above, courtesy of SCI-Arc). This, ladies and gentlemen, is League of Shadows, SCI-Arc’s new “permanent” event pavilion and the Arts District’s answer to the Hollywood Bowl…with folding chairs and cheaper parking.
Or, even better, with the tenth anniversary of the Walt Disney Concert Hall this year, maybe this is the edgier counterpoint to the more sanitized Grand Avenue axis of wealth. Down here in the Arts District, things are done…differently.
Well, why not? Isn’t it about time this perennially “up-and-coming” area of the city finally get a performance space that befits its rough and creative character? Would you expect an average band shell? That would not do with Lebbeus Woods, the Geffen Contemporary, the murals, the artists’ lofts, Michael Maltzan’s behemoth One Santa Fe, the uneven sidewalks. And let’s not forget that Skid Row is just a couple blocks away. The Arts District fosters intense economic and cultural friction, and now has an intense space to mark it as an incubator.
Designed by experimental LA firm P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, League of Shadows was always intended to be transformative. Winners of a competition sponsored by SCI-Arc, Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich, partners in life and work, set out to create a striking structure that would attract the staging of public events from the surrounding community and the city at large. “We see it as activating an important node within the downtown area,” says Spina, a teacher at SCI-Arc whose firm also created one of the three commissioned pavilions in the MOCA “New Sculpturalism” exhibition (above, in photo by Monica Nouwens.)
The vaulting superstructure, fabricated out of steel sections to form three rectilinear volumes, features carved concave surfaces on the audience side to produce favorable acoustic and visual conditions for events. Delicately touching down at four points, the structure is like a giant bird taking off from the site. “It has a simple outline from far away but at close range its radiating surface texture is more complex,” says Huljich.
The covering is built up by a weaving and layering of fabric strips, which act together as projection and lighting surfaces, further activating the space at night, making it the new beacon for the school and the district as a whole.
Constructed with the support of a prestigious ArtPlace America grant, League is now in a league of its own because it is the district’s only dedicated event space—and punk institution – Al’s Bar closed in 2001 and is now a quiet yoga studio.
The space was intended for both school and public events but the school has not yet released details about how the public can use it. We await with anticipation to see how it is used.