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New Rampart Station is a City-Minded Step

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, September 09, 2008, at 03:18PM
IMGP4513.JPG Ed Fuentes

Last week LAPD's Rampart Division moved into its new $37 million home at 1401 W. 6th.

Last week saw the opening of a new $37 million station for LAPD's Rampart Division, located just west of Downtown. Chief William Bratton introduced the station by speaking of its design as a symbol of LAPD openness.

Current events have long played a heavy role in shaping the civic architecture of Los Angeles. On a slight hill with grass and plenty of glass to allow in the light, Rampart's new station is architecturally night-and-day different from the fortress-like home of Central Division, located just to the east. It's a small step toward reshaping how government buildings interact with the city.

The new Rampart station at 1401 W. 6th is designed with the neighborhood in mind. It features a community room and a patio equipped with a kitchen, offering a setting for neighborhood meetings. This is a building designed for the purpose of law enforcement to be sure -- the 54,000 square foot station has its requisite holding cells, interview rooms and a control room that will monitor cameras in MacArthur Park -- but Councilman Ed Reyes and his staff helped ensure that the theme is that of engaging the community rather than isolating from it.

Downtown Los Angeles and MacArthur Park have certainly had their share of events that left planners and the populace wary of openness. The response was inward-facing private structures like the Little Tokyo Mall and Macy's Plaza, along with public choices like the design of Central Division. That mindset was seeded during the Watts Riots, and was reinforced in 1992.

This week marks the 7th anniversary of September 11th, and many Downtown structures still bear the scars of the response to those attacks and to the earlier bombing in Oklahoma City. Multiple structures still have temporary concrete barriers crowding the sidewalks and altering their look. While those barriers may have been a sensible response initially, their presence so many years later speaks to a continued disinterest in the way the structures interact with the neighborhood.

Rampart's community-minded design is a step in the right direction. Though its siting wasn't popular, the design of LAPD's new headquarters looks to be the same, with its slender profile and incorporated open space. After many steps in the wrong direction, Los Angeles may be heading down a better path.

The week of September 11 reminds me of many things. One is that a city becomes more vibrant only when it moves forward with, and not against, those who live and work in it.

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