Coop, Rafael. Rafael, Coop

What looked like a cement plant or oil refinery–but what obviously was neither–on a jet-lag-early walk through downtown Los Angeles turned out to be Coop Himmelblau’s High School for the Performing Arts, an aggressively industrial design that will serve as the eastern gateway to a massive cultural redevelopment plan in the works for Grand Avenue.

The original workaday design for a much-needed high school was given the boot, replaced by the PA school, with a huge event space, at the behest of Eli Broad, noted philanthropist.

Recently, Broad has been noted for not giving away quite enough of his billions of dollars or contemporary artworks as others think he should. The Coop school is significantly over budget and behind schedule, and critics complain that the LA School District is stuck footing the bill. [The project has already blown through the figures in Nicolai Ouroussoff’s 2003 article on the project, supposedly reaching over $200 million.]

That prow-like tower will be sweet, though, no doubt an inspiration to thousands of future kings of the world. My favorite part about the building is the perforated, skeletal tower’s dramatic contrast/challenge to the cliff-like solidity of Rafael Moneo’s LA Cathedral and its bell tower. I’m not sure if freeway appeal is the most important priority for LA’s high schools, but this one sure has it.