MCASD Saved

Rescued Venturi Scott Brown pergola to rise again in a San Diego garden

Preservation West
The La Jolla Historical Society has created a public garden to help preserve a fragment of VSBA’s MCASD complex in San Diego. (Nick Agelidis)

The La Jolla Historical Society of San Diego, California, has announced final plans for a new public garden it has created that will house repurposed elements of the Venturi Scott Brown Associates’ (VSBA) Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) complex.

Specifically, the garden will contain one of the two fiberglass and aluminum pergola structures that have been removed from the MCASD complex as part of an increasingly controversial renovation and expansion scheme for the museum by New York City–based Selldorf Architects.

The pergola features a dozen rounded, Tuscan-inspired fiberglass columns that support an aluminum trellis designed to evoke a traditional wood pergola. The words “Contemporary Art” are arranged across the horizontal section of the pergola in red capital letters.

Photo of Venturi Scott Brown pergola

The garden formally opens to the public September 15. (Nick Agelidis)

Originally, the paired structures flanked the north side of the Prospect Street entrance to MCASD to create a pedestrian-oriented seating area at the mouth of the museum where visitors could gather.

Only one of the two pergolas was saved from demolition. The pergolas have been cleared away by the Selldorf team in an effort to reorient the building’s main entrance toward a new atrium.

In a statement announcing the planned opening of the garden next month, Heath Fox, executive director for the historical society, highlighted the postmodern stylings of the VSBA addition, saying, “We appreciate the significance of VSBA’s postmodern design of the MCASD entry facade, the importance of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown to the history of postmodern architecture, and the fact that this building was the only VSBA project executed in San Diego.”

Photo of Venturi Scott Brown pergola

The garden formally opens to the public September 15. (Nick Agelidis)

Fox added, “The Society [also] recognizes the important historical relationship between VSBA and the work of early 20th-century architect Irving J. Gill,” the designer behind the original portion of the MCASD campus.

In the statement, Fox explained that the organization he helms recognized “the opportunity to save and historically preserve the ‘Contemporary Art’ pergola as an architectural fragment” and that the Society had relocated and restored the pergola to its original conditions with “original materials and [the] same paint colors, including the red ‘Contemporary Art’ lettering.”

The Society worked with architect Tony Crisafi of Island Architects, structural engineer Matthew Mangano, and landscape architect Greg Hebert to bring the garden to life.

The pergola will now be located in the Society’s lower terrace garden, roughly 300 feet from its original placement and will remain a part of the Scripps-Gill Cultural District.

The garden is set to open to the public September 15, 2018.

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