Design Crit: LACMA's Proposal to Bridge Wilshire Boulevard Misreads Los Angeles

The proposed expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently got a major revision—now instead of cantilevering over the La Brea Tar Pits, the building would bridge Wilshire Boulevard.
July 9, 2014, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne examines the merits of the proposed revision for the provocative "ink blot" design by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor. Hawthorne's feelings about the building, in fact, have evolved since his initial, positive review.

According to Hawthorne, "while L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials were quick to praise the updated version, my feelings about Zumthor's LACMA have grown more complicated. The more I think about the plan's newly attenuated form, stretched like a piece of black bubble gum across Wilshire, the more I wonder if the architect's basic reading of Los Angeles could use an update."

"Does the design fetishize car culture? At the very least it celebrates it, in that genuine, often earnest way that Europeans have long viewed our vast grid of boulevards and freeways."

"That enthusiasm is largely if not fundamentally romantic. It has more to do with the Los Angeles of Zumthor's SCI-Arc days, or before that the L.A. of Reyner Banham, Denise Scott Brown and Ed Ruscha, than the 21st century city."

Moreover, Hawthorne states that the museum and the architect have a lot of work left to do in proving how the building will "operate as an urban object," which is the same question asked by Jonathan Nettler, former managing editor of Planetizen, last year.

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Published on Thursday, July 3, 2014 in Los Angeles Times
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