The fourth dimension

The new BMW 4 Series Coupe is the expression of a brand-new style, and Michael Maltzan the force behind a redefinition of Californian architecture. There’s nothing like a high-level meeting of minds.

Kai-Uwe Gundlach
Anne Philippi

Sunday afternoon in Skid Row, downtown—not an area of Los Angeles you visit without good reason. This is a place where the sidewalks are littered with makeshift cardboard houses. But it is also home to Inner-City Arts, an educational project for kids whose parents lack the funds for them to study art. Michael Maltzan, trendsetting West Coast architect du jour, built the school in one of the city's most downtrodden districts. And now the soft light of the California afternoon shines through its bright and airy modern facades from every angle.

Maltzan, looking sharp with his black jeans, vintage shades and "architect-spec" shaved head, pulls up in his BMW. The driver's door slips gently into its lock. "We're trying to change society with this building," he smiles, "and we should leave no stone unturned to make that happen." There is no hint of irony in his voice; Maltzan simply isn't cut out to accept the status quo. Nor is he the type who never leaves Beverly Hills, or whose car has only felt posh asphalt under its wheels. He has a need to experience the rougher edges of real life. "My first architect's office was in downtown, when the neighborhood looked different," he recalls. "I lived there for almost 20 years and nothing bad ever happened to me."

With Inner-City Arts, he has created a microcosm, a perfect city against a decidedly imperfect backdrop. Last year, Prince William and Kate Middleton dropped by to visit the school, much to Maltzan's delight. "Suddenly, everyone was talking about the area—all the barriers melted away." Maltzan refers often to "boundaries." He’s well on the way to becoming a West Coast household name – a rising star who has made his mark across Los Angeles. Some months ago he completed work on the Regen Projects gallery, which followed hot on the heels of the Hammer Museum in Westwood.

Maltzan's smooth, bright surfaces are a perfect fit for L.A. and the West Coast. "I think a lot about the connection between cities, cars and houses," he says. "I want to create buildings that never appear static. Houses can be in motion and dynamic—like a car. I've always been fascinated by the balance in design that BMW espouses. I also want to design buildings that are dynamic on the outside and inside."

Californian architecture has always had room for dreams. Its touchstones through the years have included a style based loosely on Hispanic flavors (the Spanish Colonial Revival) and a modernist approach headed by European emigrants like Richard Neutra. One of the central doctrines of modernism – the opening up of houses and the lifestyles of those who live in them – has found a particularly vivid spotlight in California. The rigid language of Bauhaus has also been sprinkled in with a little extra playfulness and lightness of touch. And Maltzan has stepped up as a 21st-century exponent of this approach.

"I want to create buildings that never appear static."

Michael Maltzan

On the up: Maltzan's buildings epitomize the new Californian cool in their exploration of form and light. "Design," says Maltzan, "should change us."

In many ways, his philosophy mirrors the West Coast’s American dream, where anything is possible and life is there to be improved. Not that Maltzan is a native of these parts – in fact, he was born on Long Island in 1959, but pulled up stakes to L.A. in 1988 to join the office of Frank Gehry. It was while working on the Walt Disney Concert Hall that he was offered a project on Skid Row. This, his first solo venture, was judged a success. More commissions followed, and Maltzan was featured in a MoMA exhibition in 1999. Wunderkind status was fast approaching, a process hastened by subsequent projects, including the Rainbow Apartments complex. Then came the decision by Hollywood “superagent” Michael Ovitz, founder of the renowned CAA talent agency and later president of Disney, to hire Maltzan to design his new residence. Ovitz had been considering Rem Koolhaas for the job, but that was before he saw the brilliance of Maltzan’s work on the Beverly Hills house of art collectors Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard.

Maltzan continues to design by his own rules, one of which is that the same principles apply to projects for rich and poor clients alike. "Architecture is an elastic art," he says—which, in Maltzan-speak, means the suburbs are as interesting, relevant and inspirational as the residences of major Hollywood stars.

Openness and the interest factor lay the foundations for Maltzan's designs, and are fueled by daily drives in his BMW around this open-minded city. Maltzan is leaving his signature all over Los Angeles, and next up is a new bridge. The old 6th Street Bridge—around half a mile in length—links the Latino East Side of L.A. with downtown, and is well past its sell-by date. Maltzan sees the bridge as a "social connection."

He drives his BMW onto the old structure, climbs out and balances on the curb. "This is a magical place," he says. "The open spaces are slowly disappearing, the city is getting denser." Looking out over his adopted home, he adds, "Soon, that will have a major impact on its character." Malton will no doubt enjoy the city’s evolution with its promise of fresh challenges ahead.

Man with a mission: architect Michael Maltzan wants to break boundaries with his creations.

The road to brave new forms: New style meets the new American Dream in a place long ignored even by seasoned Los Angeles watchers. Maltzan chose the heart of downtown L.A. for his Inner-City Arts building, home to a social institution that gives neighborhood kids an education in art. Parked outside is the new BMW 4 Series Coupe.

The road to brave new forms: New style meets the new American Dream in a place long ignored even by seasoned Los Angeles watchers. Maltzan chose the heart of downtown L.A. for his Inner-City Arts building, home to a social institution that gives neighborhood kids an education in art. Parked outside is the new BMW 4 Series Coupe.

The new BMW 4 Series Coupe

The all-new BMW 4 Series Coupe raises the bar in blending refined elegance with dynamic, race-bred performance. Its broad shoulders and powerful proportions confidently merge in a long, sweeping silhouette. Available with both rear-wheel drive and BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel drive, and a choice of TwinPower Turbo engines – inline four-cylinder and six-cylinder –the 4 Series boasts an outstanding balance of performance and efficiency. BMW engineers, in their mission to reduce air resistance, have developed the Air Breather, which teams up with the Air Curtain integrated into the front bumper to guide the flow of air around the front wheels. Inside the beautifully crafted cabin trimmed in rich Dark Burl Walnut wood and pearl gloss chrome, the cockpit wraps around the driver in quintessential BMW fashion, putting all controls easily at hand. In addition to a long list of rich paint finishes and upholstery choices, you can further personalize the 4 Series with optional design Lines – Sport Line, Luxury Line and M Sport – as well as optional packages that enhance the 4 Series’ active safety level, comfort, performance and connectivity.

It's all about the journey: Los Angeles is the City of Dreams—and of legendary roads.

Model facts

BMW 4 Series Coupe



Engine – TwinPower Turbo

Inline 4

Inline 6

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Output (hp@rpm)



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Acceleration 0 – 60 mph (sec)**



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*BMW AG test results. BMW urges you to obey local speed laws and always wear safety belts.
**Top speed limited electronically.