Inspired by Yeats, Wagner and French realist painting, the (W)rapper tower was meant to reawaken the city skyline. But is this monstrous erection just a monument to its designer’s ego?
A chunky grey staircase thrusts out from the side of a new office tower in Los Angeles, lunging towards a rail line before jerking back on itself and lurching up the building in jagged twists and turns. It crashes into a warped lattice of bands that wrap around the glassy hulk, swooping past corner windows that jut in and out like broken teeth. This is (W)rapper, “an outrageous creative office tower”, in the words of its leasing agents, set to “reawaken the Los Angeles skyline”. It is also the bombastic tombstone of a bygone era, a carbon-guzzling monument to a time when architectural ego trumped the interests of people and planet.
It is the first vertical element to sprout from an eccentric district of low-rise creative workspace that has been developing here in Culver City, on LA’s west side, over the last few decades. This 60-acre swath of former warehouses, known as the Hayden Tract, is an exhibition of architectural experimentation, a place where windows slant, columns convulse and globular protuberances burst out of walls. Rippling glass canopies erupt through rooftops, held on mangled knots of steel, while other structures are flayed open or gnawed down to their bones, their exposed skeletons mutilated beyond recognition. It looks like the buildings have been attacked by some flesh-eating bacteria or succumbed to a violent parasitic invasion.