Since the 1980s, the shopping center has been something of a retail prison, an 883,000-square-foot cement gray slab of a fortress with nary a window and a dizzyingly similar layout on each of its four fluorescent-lit sales floors. Earlier this summer, the mall began a $500 million renovation scheme in an attempt to modernize. According to a release, ‘[McFetridge’s] mischievous image is slyly provocative, and evokes the open and civic spirit of Beverly Center’s reimagining – itself, a kind of lifting of skirts.’ Ooh la la indeed – the beige walls are coming down to let the sunlight in. Set to be completed in November 2018, the renovation plans include a ribbon of skylights and windows that engage the views on the top floors, a leveling-up of the heretofore regrettable food court experience including gourmet dining concepts, and a slew of outward-facing shops at street level accommodating a more pedestrian-friendly user experience.
McFetridge’s mural is the first exterior installation in an ongoing art program helmed by Hammer Museum curator Jenelle Porter. Other works will include Artist and Models by Julian Hoeber, Stay by Karen Kimmel, Stanley ‘Tom’ Durrell, Tinsmith by Sharon Lockhart, and Untitled (Beach Day $2 and Hands on Boards) by Catherine Opie. Art on the mall’s façade is meant to reel in passersby – the shopping center will remain open throughout the renovations – while interactive sculptural installations inside will encourage shoppers to sit and stay awhile. It’s a clever form of engagement where the mall’s monolithic, shut-in design was lacking before.
Despite revamped glass escalator corridors that were added in 2006 and some other small improvements over the years, the Beverly Center has long stood as a brow furrowing complex in the middle of the basin, alternately called a white elephant, hideous, the gates of hell and so on. Owners Taubman Centers, a Michigan-based development company with a dozen shopping centers stateside and internationally, is trying to change the tune of the conversation with Italian design firm Studio Fuksas, which conceptualized the light and airy Fiera in Milan. As reported by Curbed LA, on an earnings call earlier this year, CEO Robert Taubman noted that the center is well-positioned to service Angelenos with an ‘incredible central location that sits in a unique and very dense market with enormous affluence and an extremely fashion forward customer.’ For a place that seeks to be a hub of fashionable aesthetic influence, this makeover was long overdue.
The renovation project also marks the latest installment in a sea of change in Los Angeles at large, with big development projects underway in Downtown, Hollywood and beyond, seeking to make good on the failed promise of international commerce that crested in the 1980s and stalled in the 1990s. While a glance at the fashions peddled at the Beverly Center’s shops might have you asking what decade it is, the shiny renewal of LA’s architectural landscape seems to be saying, ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling the ‘90s are dead.’