ARCHITECTURAL CONCEPTProgram and SiteThe Central Los Angeles Public High School for the Visual and Performing Arts of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is part of phase II of LAUSD's rigorous state bond funded plan to have 155 new schools built in its district by 2012. It is located on a 9.8 acre site on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. The school will be a comprehensive High School and in addition will offer courses in the Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Music and Dance. Due to its central location on Grand Avenue the High School will be a part of the cultural facilities along the Grand Avenue cultural corridor, joining the Disney Concert Hall, Music Center, Colburn School of Music, Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. To fulfill its mandate to be a public facility in keeping with the spirit of the other facilities on Grand Avenue the school campus will include a professional performing arts theater for just below 1,000 visitors, a venue, which so far has been missing in the spectrum of performance facilities downtown Los Angeles. The theater will be used for educational purposes, will be open to the public and for use by other institutions, and is equipped with a full stage, orchestra pit, back stage and fly-loft. The school will house approximately 1,800 students organized in four academies, one for each discipline in the Arts. Accordingly, the campus is comprised of seven buildings, the theater building, four classroom buildings, the library and the cafeteria.The unique central location of the site downtown, separated from the Grand Avenue corridor by the 101 freeway and thus visually exposed along the edge of one of the most widely used thoroughfares in downtown Los Angeles, was a determining factor in the decision to use this site to create LAUSD's flagship high school for the Visual and Performing Arts and together with the program served as the point of departure for the architectural concept for the school.Architectural Signs - Chess ConceptCOOP HIMMELB(L)AU's design concept is to use architectural signs as symbols to communicate the commitment of the Los Angeles community to Art. Like chess figures three sculptural buildings, which relate to the context of downtown Los Angeles and the program, re-define spatially and energetically the otherwise orthogonal arrangement of the master plan. A Tower figure with spiraling ramp in the shape of the number 9 located on top of the theater's fly-loft serves as a widely visible sign for the Arts in the city and a point of identification for the students. Inside the tower, an event, conference and exhibition space with a view across the city is planned to be located. The theater complex is placed at the corner of Grand Avenue and the 101 Freeway. The tower connects the school visually and formally with downtown Los Angeles, and together with the Cathedral's tower the twin towers will become a new landmark for the city. In addition to the tower a representational Lobby on Grand Avenue serves as the public entrance and integrates the school with the Grand Avenue corridor. Like a bridgehead the Lobby connects the site with the cultural facilities on the other side of the freeway. It is envisioned that the theater with all its amenities can be made available for public and commercial events to create additional revenue for the school.As the symbol for learning and education the Library, or the Space of Knowledge, is formally expressed through a slanted, truncated cone and placed in the center of the school courtyard. Inside, the cone provides a large open space illuminated from above by a circular skylight thus offering an open, dynamic, but introverted and concentrated space for contemplation and focused learning. Through its diagonal position in relationship to the other buildings and its slanted form, the dynamic, circular building directs views and flows of people through the school courtyards, changes the perception of the courtyard space and provides a point of orientation for the students within the campus.The four classroom buildings form the orthogonal perimeter of the school's interior courtyards. The functional box beam buildings house one academy each as well as other shared educational and administrative spaces. Each building is organized with a central corridor which doubles as an exhibition gallery, generous open public stairways with lookout points to the exterior and expressive entrances, which serve as transition spaces between the exterior and interior. Each academy building houses its general classrooms, art studios, workrooms and satellite administration spaces.Along Grand Avenue and at strategic viewpoints around the site large round windows are placed to create a distinct and lively exterior and to allow passers by a glimpse of the activities within the school. Likewise, students inside the buildings will have visual contact with the city with constantly changing perspectives and frames. From the outside the round windows are a means to attract attention and enhance communication between the school and the city. From the inside the circular windows are an element for creating a lively atmosphere through distinct light conditions within the classrooms.In addition to the public entrance on Grand Avenue the seven buildings frame a second representational entrance, the main school entrance, located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Cesar Chavez Street and facing the community. The main school entrance is formally expressed through an 80' wide grand open stair, which leads directly into the main school courtyard with the conical library in its center and theater and tower in the background. The main entrance symbolically sets the stage for the students to experience this school as a decisive stage in their life and education.To provide opportunities for public spaces within a high school through the architecture and supported by the performing arts program is one of the main contributions of this project to education and the community, and unique in contemporary public school buildings in Los Angeles.