We can thank the developers and architects who built the Alessio apartments on Centinela Avenue in Westchester for this one. To all those visitors to L.A. who emerge from LAX's arrival terminal and head north up the 405, this is what greets them: A seven-story-tall, poo-brown colored wall — which almost makes the Promenade at the Howard Hughes Center across the highway look dynamic.

This back wall of the Alessio apartment village's parking structure creates a sheltered place for tenants to park their cars away from the housing, and it clearly forms a sound wall and visual barrier from the 405 freeway and the unsightly flood control channel that lies beneath it. It's the logical place to locate the structured parking for this “resort-style” apartment complex that abuts the nation's busiest highway, but its fugly functionality spans a whopping 800 linear feet, and that's all it does. It's a backside you really don't want to see, but there it is, and it seems to go on forever as you pass.

Surely the Alessio financiers wanted to save every last penny for the finishes, landscaping, pools and Spanish tile shingles (and gallons of brown paint) that adorn the living spaces within its guarded gates, even though Yelp reviewers call it “a dump from top to bottom.” The parking structure's wall was constructed as cheaply as possible and it shows and, at the intersection of the 405 and 90 freeways, it's impossible to ignore.

Credit: Wendy Gilmartin

Credit: Wendy Gilmartin

Hard to believe we've wrung dry every good idea to be implemented in the design of walls that are functional in more than one way, and on more than one side (that's basic building blocks, folks). Humankind has managed to build interesting, multi-functional walls that do more than keep the rain out for thousands and thousands of years — if you can't do something interesting with a wall, and you're an architect, you're pretty much worthless.

What was assumed to be a back-of-house condition here is blatantly front-of-house to thousands of passers-by each day, and a lost opportunity for any number of imaginative solutions, like maybe (in order from most-to-least expensive) a wind turbine wall (it can be done), a pattern that makes cool shadows, a green wall, a mural, a habitat for birds, a decent color of solid paint, ads, tagging, or open portions of the wall, so that from the vantage point of the freeway drivers on the 405 can see Alessio residents getting in and out of their cars, or anything else…because, honestly, anything is better than what's already there now.

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