It's a wonder Steve Cooley gets anything done. The District Attorney's 18th-floor office enjoys a sweeping, hi-def southern exposure — it's impossible to tear yourself away from its view of downtown Los Angeles and beyond, to the peninsula. If it's true the most spectacular views are from the ugliest buildings, then the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center only confirms the obvious. Built in 1971, this 19-story Stalinist behemoth is far more believable as the Hall of Records it once was, or an American replica of Moscow's Rossiya Hotel. The D.A.'s office sits atop floor after floor of courtrooms and holding cells. It's where indictments are planned and trials plotted, but outside the D.A.'s windows is a city tearing itself apart and rebuilding. New edifices include the CalTrans building at 100 North Main and, to the west, Disney Hall, while ancient L.A. is represented by old St. Vibiana's and, down Hill Street, the Eastern Columbia Building. More pointed, however, than individual architectural monuments is the symbolic landscape seen by the D.A. Almost directly below Cooley's windows is the new LAPD headquarters, rising on First Street like a slice of glass cake; the fading L.A. Times, which once ruled the city, sits across from it, and, west on Sixth Street, Good Samaritan Hospital, where many a patient will eventually figure as a crime witness. Closest and perhaps more telling, though, is the leveled footprint of the old California Supreme Court Building, on whose sunbaked concrete skateboarders perform half-cabs and fakies. The foundation floor, enveloped by still-tended flora, stretches like a blank canvas. It's surrounded by streets and offices in which people are being robbed and killed every day, some with guns, some with pens.

—Steven Mikulan

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