by Julia Ingalls
Let’s face it: Century City is still not happening. Despite the hilarious CAA building, a glass structure with a giant empty hole in the center that seems almost too perfect a representation of Hollywood intelligence, Century City fails to enliven. This is human brokerage central, the hub of deal-making and commerce, where eating is for slackers and the elevators only work if you have an access-fob. And really, who doesn’t love a motivated professional with shark teeth and the ability to balance both a yogurt and a starlet’s career in one hand?
But is Century City really this simple? If you stand on the pedestrian footbridge that arcs over the Avenue of the Stars and look down at the defeated Charles Schwab building, the first thing you’ll notice is not the dusty windows, but the series of grassy knolls that abut the building, almost like a miniature version of the ancient mud earthworks in Mississippi. It’s beautiful, and takes you away from the jouncing thighs and tightly pressed lips of your fellow pedestrians into something deeper, something perhaps more human, than Century City would ever openly admit to.
The closest thing that Century City has to a soul—in this case, the Hyatt Regency that was formerly host to drunken, high-powered meetings amongst the exclusive in the 60’s and 70’s—is slated for destruction by its new owner and developer, who has high-occupancy, low square foot construction cost dreams of his own. Movie stars have decried the move; cultural advocates have mumbled about historical preservation, and architects have shrugged their shoulders indifferently. One gathers that it’s not a keeper unless you drank yourself into the fountain.
In Century City, the sidewalks are more like wind-tunnels, just as the offices are more like fish tanks. The silence, the security, the circular potted ferns and artfully placed lunch tables, all feel like a tableau. This is less a place of business and more a historical theme park; the walkable version of 1987. Too zen and spaced out to be like New York, and far too corporate to really embody the raw artistic vibe of Los Angeles, Century City is its own zone, carved out of ambition and West-coast adrenalin. God bless it; but it still isn’t happening for me.