Dorte Mandrup, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and WEISS/MANFREDI have revealed their concepts as finalists in the effort to reimagine the historic La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. Located within 12 acres of Hancock Park in the city’s Miracle Mile district, the world-famous site contains the only active urban paleontological research facility in the world but it hasn’t been updated since it opened in 1977. Spearheaded by the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County and the County of Los Angeles, the project aims to create a more integrated experience between the surrounding landscape and the George C. Page Museum, a 57,000-square-foot structure with sloping, grass-covered walls. Due to the building’s shape and underground siting—it was designed to take up as little space as possible—it’s proven difficult to expand and make room for more storage, research, education facilities, and exhibitions. The design teams have been tasked with improving all of these elements within the built portion of the site, while also refining access to the contemporary gardens, concessions building, and the observation structure that looks over the active dig site. All three firms partnered with renowned landscape, engineering, and ecology specialists to present the following holistic visions: Dorte Mandrup With Matha Schwartz Partners, Arup, Gruen Associates, and Kontrapunkt According to the Copenhagen-based studio, the museum park should be designed in a way that reflects its status as a living laboratory. “Our proposal interweaves the park and museum, so the moment you step inside the park you become immersed into the story of the Tar Pits,” said Dorte Mandrup-Poulsen, founder and creative director of Dorte Mandrup in a press release. “A visit here should be a journey of curiosity, where senses and imagination are instantly awakened. Our hope is that this will bring visitors much closer to the world of natural science, and in turn heighten their understanding of the past, present, and future of our planet.” The museum itself will remain in its existing footprint, but a square building, or “geometric halo,” standing on stilts will float above the main portion, calling attention to itself via a digital Pleistocene mural on its glass walls. A series of boardwalks will connect all activities in the park while also leading visitors to the new, open foyer inside the museum which will, with ample daylight highlighting the floor and ceiling cutouts, tease the exhibitions above and below. The building will feature a new public roof garden and a "Tar Bar" overlooking the grounds. Diller Scofidio + Renfro With Hood Design Studio, Nabih Yousef Associates, Rana Creek, Arup, and Schwartz/Silver Architects DS+R’s masterplan seeks to make Hancock Park a catalyst for growth in the Miracle Mile community by creating a systematic grid of pathways that inspire people to visit the major cultural locations in the area. “A revitalized Hancock Park is conceived to be the connective tissue between existing and new institutions, public spaces, and urban infrastructure,” said Diller Scofidio + Renfro in a statement. “We have taken a ‘light touch’ approach for the next evolution of the Page Museum, infilling underutilized spaces and reconfiguring what is already there to create a more dynamic and efficient hybrid structure that is both building and landscape." The New York-based design team will expand the museum’s current footprint and create a new forecourt at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Curson Avene. By adding a spiraling landscape of berms around the structure, exterior views of the new, centralized archive block are altered. DS+R designed a floating glass cube that sinks below the ground and is visible from the lobby. The firm has also proposed a mobile “Dig Rig” that can be moved throughout the park to access new dig sites and enhance accessibility. WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism With Mark Dion, Dr. Carole Gee, Michael Bierut, Karin Fong, Michael Steiner, ASLA, and Robert Perry, ASLA WEISS/MANFREDI’s proposal, titled “La Brea Loops and Lenses,” provides a new path for visitors to experience all activities within Hancock Park and around the La Brea Tar Pits as one long, triple Mobius loop. This includes a 3,281-foot-long pedestrian walkway across Lake Pitt that would feature terraced seating areas for lakeside viewing. “The intertwining loops link all the existing site components, enhancing spaces for community and scientific research,” said founders and principals Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi in a press release. “The lenses, as framed views throughout the park and museum, reveal the La Brea collection to visitors, bringing the museum to the park, and the park into the public imagination.” The new museum would sit on two interconnected diamond-shaped plots across from a central lawn space. One would house a stilted canopy structure covering a below-ground Pleistocene Garden and another, situated on the museum’s existing footprint, would open up to the plaza with a glass-clad events space and spiraling frieze. The museum’s lobby would sit partially-underground and in between these main spaces, while an exhibition pit will be visible from the panoramic labs that encircle it. All three designs for the La Brea Tar Pits will be on display at the George C. Page Museum through September 15. Locals can provide feedback on the materials, models, and drawings on view, or visit TarPits.org to comment. After reviewing, a jury will choose a winning design by December. Jury members include Milton Curry, architecture dean at the University of South California; Christopher Hawthorne, L.A.’s chief design officer; Kirk Johnson, director of the National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian; and Barbara Wilkes, founding principal of W Architecture and Landscape Architecture, LLC, among others.
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When hackers broke into Sony Pictures Entertainment’s email server in November 2014 and released stolen messages, the first stories to come out were Hollywood fodder. But buried inside the glut of toxic gossip, star salaries, and Emma Stone’s junior high school pictures are emails that tie together Sony CEO Michael Lynton, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan, LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and Peter Zumthor’s proposed design for the LACMA campus. In stories by ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times reporters reviewed the hacked messages and found that Lynton, a member of LACMA’s board of trustees, directed a $25,000 Sony contribution to a state super PAC—the African American Voter Registration, Education, and Participation Project founded by Ridley-Thomas—in exchange for a key vote on LACMA’s future. According to ProPublica, records and interviews show that although the contribution was made and publicly disclosed after the election, it was promised prior to a major county supervisors vote in November 2014 that backed $125 million dollars in public funds for the museum expansion, the construction of which is estimated at well over $600 million dollars. Ridley-Thomas represents the city’s Second District, an area that covers much of South Los Angeles, including Watts and Compton. The northern edge of the district runs along the south side of Wilshire and Museum Mile. Govan considered the supervisor’s vote pivotal because a portion of the museum crossed into his district. Zumthor’s scheme bridges to the south side of Wilshire Boulevard, ostensibly to avoid disturbing the La Brea Tar Pits and to provide better Metro subway access. Plans for the south side include a high-rise tower. In a July 2014 interview, Govan touted the design of the bridge and tower as essential for increased density and the creation of a cultural corridor along Wilshire. As for an architect for the skyscraper he said, “My dream would be Frank Gehry, it’s as simple as that.” To date, no proposals for such a partnership has come to light. ProPublica and LA Times reports track internal emails between Lynton and Ridley-Thomas’s aides that lead to a luncheon meeting between the CEO and the supervisor. Learning of this meeting, Govan took the opportunity to have trustee Lynton lobby for Board of Supervisor support. A July 17 email from Sony executive Keith E. Weaver spells out the reasons for advancing the proposal in a series of bullet points. One states that the new design crosses in to Ridley-Thomas's district, another ambitiously proposes that “this will be the most significant cultural building built in the US in the coming decade,” while a third point is more strategically ominous: “[T]he buildings are really in need of repair (like the Music Center), and if we don't get going on this, LA could find itself with its museum closed in 2023 while the new subway stop opens (and there's even talk of an Olympic bid).” According to ProPublica and the LA Times, it is this luncheon that initiated the flow of money from Sony to the PAC and influenced the supervisor’s important vote on the museum. ProPublica wrote:
At the lunch, Ridley-Thomas requested the contribution from Sony, according to his chief deputy. In September, the money landed in the coffers of the political action committee he founded to promote candidates and causes such as African-American voter registration. And two months after that, Ridley-Thomas voted for the museum project. All parties involved insist there was no connection between the contribution – far and away Sony's largest in California that year – and the supervisor's vote. Such a link could be a violation of campaign finance law.On November 4, 2014, the museum director sent a post-supervisor’s vote message to Lyndon commenting on a note he received from Ridley-Thomas. “Just got an email from MRT,” he wrote. “I think we're good!” It is uncertain how these email revelations will impact the future of the museum’s redesign. The Architect’s Newspaper reached out to Govan for a comment about the relationship between the vote and Sony’s contribution to the PAC. He responded, “There isn't any tie there.”
Peter Zumthor's $ 600 million plan for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is changing. Again. According to a piece in the Los Angeles Times, the sprawling and curving black form has been angled off, weighted to the south, and outfitted with greyish, double-height galleries poking up above the main mass' roofline. The building still swoops over Wilshire Boulevard to avoid disturbing the La Brea Tar Pits, but it will now have just two entrances (instead of seven), at its north and south ends, and its continuous loop of perimeter hallway galleries has been removed. "Peter hasn't given up the curve. But he's really, really reined it in," LACMA Director Michael Govan told the Times. The latest design will be discussed tonight, Wednesday, March 25 at Occidental College, as part of the school's "3rd Los Angeles Project," a series of public events examining the city's move into a "dramatically new phase in its civic development." Members of the panel will include host Christopher Hawthorne, Govan, journalists Greg Goldin and Carolina Miranda, and architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee. The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors has approved initial funding of $125 million in bonds (pending approval of the project's EIR), but LACMA still needs to raise about $500 million to make Zumthor's in-progress scheme reality.
Today LA Times critic Christopher Hawthorne revealed Peter Zumthor's revisions to his $650 million, blob-like plan for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Instead of hovering over the La Brea Tar Pits, the new design now floats over Wilshire Boulevard, touching down on a former parking lot across the street. According to Hawthorne's story, the plan is being supported by LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, councilman Tom LaBonge (whose district contains LACMA), County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and the Natural History Museum, which oversees the Page Museum and the Tar Pits. But neighbors are skeptical for more practical reasons. "As we’ve painfully learned the devil is in the details," said Ken Hixon, vice president of the Miracle Mile Residential Association (MMRA), which represents around 7,000 people in the area. "We’re not the design police. We want good design. We want good architecture. But it’s all about the connective tissue." For now, he points out, such issues — like the museum's relationship to local housing, available parking, preservation, street life, and, of course, construction—have yet to be specified. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project is still far off. The situation is more pressing considering the coming additions of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum, the renovation of the Petersen Museum, new subway stations on La Brea and Fairfax, and several new mixed use developments, which will all put significant pressure on the neighborhood. "The challenge here is to have a major cultural center in such a densely populated urban corridor," Hixon said. "Everything leans on everything else. This is a big rock in the pond. It's a lot to take in." Hixon did add that the move over Wilshire will bring the museum even closer to local businesses and residences, which could be a concern, considering what's already happening here. “You’re likely going to wind up with major institutions overwhelming single family homes," he noted. But he insisted that the MMRA was still trying to take everything into consideration. One thing is clear, he noted: "The next ten years are gonna be crazy."