Emerson’s LA campus is a satellite that really glows

Emerson College’s stunning new satellite campus in Los Angeles helps to promote arts education in America’s entertainment capital. But the 10-story futuristic structure rising above the sprawl on Sunset Boulevard should also give a boost to America’s academic capital — Boston.

The $110 million development literally cements the arts and communication college’s presence in LA, which should provide extra incentive for aspiring actors, directors, producers, documentary filmmakers, and other artists to follow in the footsteps of Denis Leary, Jay Leno, Maria Menounos, and other celebs and enroll at Emerson. The building — a giant gerbil cage of plazas and walkways — will house 217 undergraduates per semester, and also has classroom space, a screening room, and recording studios. All the undergraduates will be Emerson students from Boston taking a semester in LA. Beginning this summer, the campus will also host graduate classes in fields like entertainment law that will put the college in direct competition with institutions like the University of Southern California. The new campus is not Emerson’s only venture outside the Hub — it also has programs in Washington, DC, and the Netherlands — though none are on the scale of the LA development.

But there’s one rub. The LA campus, designed by Pritzker-winning architect Thom Mayne, is so much more eye-catching than any building Emerson has produced in its 134 years in Boston that it makes the Hub look unnecessarily dowdy by comparison. Maybe Mayne has some good ideas for the Theater District, too.

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