The 1,200-seat Robert Frost Memorial Auditorium at Culver City High School has long been an iconic landmark of the city and the surrounding area. The futuristic design has been featured in films such as “Gattaca” and “Sleeper” and has been called “one of the most breathtaking Modern buildings ever designed” by the Los Angeles Conservancy.
While the building survived multiple earthquakes, such as the 6.7-magnitude Northridge earthquake in 1994, over the years the auditorium began to show its age, and it was slated for renovation in 2016.
The finished auditorium was beautifully decorated for a gala re-opening celebration on Sept. 29, and it welcomed countless locals and those connected to the building or school’s history, including past and present students, faculty and the original and renovation architects.
Andrew Nasser was recognized at the re-opening gala and stood up to resounding applause. He was the young engineer in the early 1960s who created the daring and innovative leaf or fan like design of the auditorium.
Nasser was fascinated by other thin–shell structures popular throughout the world, but which had not taken hold in the United States, and he convinced his superiors at the Flewelling and Moody architectural firm to support his plans.
Also present were the renovation architects Craig Hodgetts and Hsinming Fung, founders of Hodgetts + Fung. The company is an interdisciplinary design studio based in Culver City, specializing in architectural design, advanced material fabrication, historical restorations, and exhibition design. The same team also renovated Los Angeles’s historic and beloved Hollywood Bowl amphitheater.
The challenge for the renovation team was to keep the integrity of the original building, while adding state of the art technology. The improvements included a new stage structure and the installation of a custom built arch and catwalk system that improved the stage lighting and performance capabilities of the theater.
The building now has a new air conditioning system, new fire sprinkler system, and new accessible seating within the theater. Classrooms located in the building were also renovated, while the make-up, restrooms, and costuming areas were relocated.
Robert Frost’s Legacy
The auditorium received its named back in the 1960’s by the students of Culver City High, who were inspired by the California-born poet, Robert Frost.
The Pulitzer Prize winner’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” was read aloud at the opening presentation, affirming that the sentiment of this poem resonated with the artistic and innovative soul of the community:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The Robert Frost Auditorium initially opened its doors for Culver City High School in 1964. The Auditorium now hosts everyday assemblies as well as dance, music, film and theatrical performances from both CCUSD and the public at large.
Beyond serving as such a venue, it’s also a teaching tool for young performers, technicians and craftspeople attending Culver City Schools and who are involved in the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts.
Since the 1920s, Culver City has also been a center for movie and other entertainment production, including the original home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios, National Public Radio West and Sony Pictures Entertainment headquarters.