Keaton fights for hotel with the sexy curves

Hollywood star attacks developer who wants to flatten LA landmark

David Usborne,Us Editor
Sunday 23 October 2011 06:55

Her image is more Manhattan than LA, but the actress Diane Keaton is in no comedy mood as she spearheads a campaign in Los Angeles to save the Century Plaza Hotel, a curving glass and steel memento of American 1960s architecture that may soon be razed by the wrecking ball.

One year after purchasing the Century Plaza, at the heart of Century City in West Hollywood, developer Michael Rosenfeld has unveiled plans to demolish it and replace it with two gleaming towers designed by the prestigious New York firm of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

Mr Rosenfeld insists that he has been encouraged by city authorities keen to reconfigure Century City, a complex of offices, restaurants and residences, making it greener and more pedestrian-friendly. Plucking the Plaza from the map would make that possible.

But like the nearby and still more venerable Ambassador Hotel that was torn down three years ago, the Plaza is an important name in Los Angeles lore as the place where stars, politicians and tycoons would regularly hang out to relax and do their deals, Ronald Reagan among them.

"We need to honour our city's history more than we need two new towers," Ms Keaton, who is a board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in an interview with The New York Times. The hotel's distinctive curving facade made it appear, according to Ms Keaton, like "a sexy woman surrounded by ogling men – Sophia Loren in the 1960s".

Ms Keaton will surely be aware, however, that nostalgia is often a poor match for the march of progress and the lure of the dollar. She was also at the forefront of efforts to save the Ambassador, which could claim historical importance as the place where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

On the day it became clear that the Ambassador was definitively doomed – it was finally blasted to bits in 2006 – Ms Keaton appeared before the microphones to bemoan the complacency of a "confused public who could do nothing more than shrug their shoulders in apathy".

The Plaza's architectural significance is that it was designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the man behind New York's twin towers, destroyed in 2001's terror attacks. But Mr Rosenfeld, who described the hotel as "a jewel" before buying it, seemed unmoved by Ms Keaton's appeal.

In a statement his company said it was "disappointed to see the Century Plaza Hotel politicised... at a time when the city of Los Angeles is suffering from extreme economic hardship and is in dire need of new jobs... This is not considered one of the more significant Minoru Yamasaki buildings and is not characteristic of his style."

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