Steel Cloud (Los Angeles West Coast Gateway), 1988

In 1989, Asymptote was awarded first prize in the international competition to design the Los Angeles West Coast Gateway, a monument to celebrate American Pacific rim immigration. The Steel Cloud, a project which was never built, was designed as a spectacular “city gateway” above the highway leading to Hollywood. It replaces the typical monolithic vertical forms of architecture with a horizontal sectioned structure without walls. The gigantic Steel Cloud – stretching horizontally for a length of nearly 500 meters – turns the idea of the void above the highway upside down by transforming the 8-meter high dead space into a city above the city. Its cruciform structure is essentially composed of overlapping inclined planes without any parallels. The functions of this vast hanging ensemble where mobility and activity rein (Museum of Immigration, aquariums, gardens, theater, cinemas and a library) correspond to the profile of a city of attractions. But this architectural assemblage constantly overturns every concept of scale and organization. Thus, the two aquariums, like the hanging gardens, swing in the air, oscillating in varied rhythms. The History Museum is a long sloping space slicing the sky; a sculpture park is literally separated from the whole; the cinemas’ roofs open up to the sky; excerpts from books in the Genealogical Library are projected in different languages onto immense electronic screens. An open space filled with air and wind where the proportion of functional spaces is low compared with the whole, this “steel cloud” can be seen from any one of its six sides in 2 different ways: slowly, like the visitors walking along the local paths; or with an overall, high-speed view, like the drivers who, passing by at 70 miles per hour can enjoy it for just 18 seconds.

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