Dear Mr. Menking,
I was stunned to read in the June issue that the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) is planning to demolish part of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s 1996 additions to the museum in La Jolla. When VSBA’s design was completed, architectural critic Paul Goldberger wrote, “This is an exquisite project, overflowing with those qualities that make Mr. Venturi a designer of extraordinary gifts.” Don’t stop the (over)flow! Images of the proposed changes on MCASD’s website seem to call for the demolition of VSBA’s urbane colonnade and pergola—a central feature of this exuberant jewel of postmodern architecture.
Venturi and Scott Brown are world‐historical figures whose buildings, books, and teaching careers changed the course of contemporary architecture. Their built work should be treated with conscientious stewardship, not piecemeal dismantling. The current director of MCASD might be interested to know that Historic England—Britain’s public body responsible for preserving historic buildings—has recently “listed” (that is, protected from demolition) Venturi and Scott Brown’s 1991 extension to the National Gallery in London, which the British characterize as a building “of exceptional interest” by “internationally important architects and theorists, generally considered the founders of Post‐Modernism.” The intelligence and clarity of Historic England’s approach to VSBA’s London gallery could serve as an exemplar for La Jolla. During a moment in which the whole world is watching, does the Museum of Contemporary Art really wish to proceed with what appears to be an act of cultural vandalism?
Thank you for your attention to my letter.
Richard Hayes, AIA