With the entire hubbub over the L.A. River non-master plan, Gehry Partner’s new designs for Sunset Boulevard, a medal from the Getty, and critic Paul Goldberger’s hagiographic biography it’s easy to forget that a major retrospective simply entitled Frank Gehry opens LACMA on September 13. The exhibition originated at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and was curated by Frédéric Migayrou and Aurélien Lemonier, LACMA curators Stephanie Barron and Lauren Bergman curated the Los Angeles installment, which is designed by Gehry Partners. The Resnick Pavilion will be filled with over 60 projects, illustrated with dozens of models and drawings, from the 1960s onward. Several projects will be on view for the first time, including Facebook’s new campus and the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s renovation. Touring the exhibition, the LA Times discovered a model of the Jazz Bakery, a non-profit music venue in search of a new home. Gehry’s pro-bono design for a site in Culver City includes 266-seat theater, a 60-seat black-box theater, and a West Coast jazz museum. According to LACMA, the exhibition tracks two threads of Gehry’s career: urbanism and digital technology. While the latter suggests a straightforward trajectory leading to CATIA Digital Project and Gehry Technologies, the first is more impressionistic, focusing on the architect’s use of everyday materials and his sensitivity to context to “create heterogeneous urban landscapes.” With conceptual themes in the exhibition such as “Composition | Assemblage,” “Conflict | Tension,” and “Unity | Singularity,” don’t expect much urban planning in the gallery. Gehry will be in conversation with Goldberger at LACMA’s Bing Theater on Sunday, September 13 at 2:00p.m. The event is free to the public, but tickets are required. More info on LACMA's website.
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And… action. In a unanimous vote the LA City Council approved Renzo Piano’s plans for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The design, which includes a renovation of the AC Martin’s May Company Building on Wilshire and Fairfax avenues and the eye-popping addition of a 140-foot-diameter glass and steel globe sited behind the existing 1939 building, comes with at $300 million estimated construction cost and hopes to open in 2017. Located next to LACMA, the 290,000-square-foot museum is the third Piano project on the block. Its bold, spherical form (which will house a 1,000-seat theater) breaks character from the architect’s more low-key Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) and the Resnick Pavilion on the LACMA campus. “I am thrilled that Los Angeles is gaining another architectural and cultural icon,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement. “My office of economic development has worked directly with the museum’s development team to ensure that the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will create jobs, support tourism, and pay homage to the industry that helped define our identity as the creative capital of the world.” While the City Council’s 13-0 vote ensures that the building moves forward into permitting, the project has seen some bumps in the road. Last year, AN reported that Culver City firm SPF:a, which had been working with Piano on the project since 2012, was removed from the project. The question of traffic and parking in the neighborhood remains a hurdle. The Los Angeles Times reported that activist non-profit Fix the City, is “weighing legal action to stall development.” The organization cites an 860,000 visitor increase to the area as a burden on existing streets and parking lots. When constructed, the sure-to-be iconic Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will compete with the hot-rod facade of the Petersen Automotive Museum designed by KPF, now under construction across the street. Both designs will be trumped if and when Peter Zumthor’s Wilshire-crossing proposal for LACMA takes shape.
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.”
Artist Chris Burden created, among many other things, Urban Light, an installation of 202 antique cast iron street lights outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Metropolis II, a city model inside the same museum immersed with 1,200 matchbox cars. Burden has passed away at age 69, reportedly from a battle with Melanoma. With Urban Light, created in 2008, Burden brought street light art to the masses—it's now one of the most popular pieces of public art in the world. But he was not the first person to explore this medium in Los Angeles. That title would go to artist Sheila Klein, who in 1993 built Vermonica, a sculpture of 25 varying vintage lampposts located in the parking lot of a strip mall on the corner of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. The installation still stands today. LA Weekly called it "an outdoor museum that chronicles the history of street light design while testifying to the poetry and sculptural presence of these ubiquitous objects." A precursor to Burden's Urban Light was also intended for Related Companies' Grand Avenue Project. Frank Gehry and LA art consultant Merry Norris had planned to run Burden's lights down the center of Grand Avenue about a decade ago, but as the project slowed down LACMA stepped in and bought the artist's piece. “What could I do? He had an offer that involved a lot of money," Norris told AN. Last year Burden also brought lamp art to the east coast with Light of Reason, an installation of 24 Victorian-era lampposts outside the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University.
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.
It’s good to see some good old-fashioned roasting, and that’s what the Westside Urban Forum’s WUFFIES awards are all about. This year’s event, held earlier this month at the Los Angeles Times of all places, was full of the usual snipes on botched RFPs and difficult County Supervisors. But it also got in some good jibes at architecture’s expense. Our favorite: the Darth Vader Award, which went both to Peter Zumthor’s foreboding, jet black LACMA expansion and to Renzo Piano’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Museum with its helmet-looking theater bulging out of the old May Company Building.
The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors yesterday approved the contribution of $125 million in bond funds to LACMA's $600 million makeover, which, under the guidance of Peter Zumthor, would tear down most of the campus and snake over Wilshire Boulevard. The new 410,000 square foot building would open in 2023, with the remaining funding coming from private donations. According to the LA Times, LACMA director Michael Govan told the Board of Supervisors that the museum's older buildings “are really ailing. They are not worth saving. The new building will be much more energy efficient and accessible to a broad public.” According to LACMA the campus' existing buildings would need $246 million to $320 million for upgrades. And so in a city of teardowns, the biggest museum in town seems to be clearing the way for one of its own. Meeting their demise would be William Pereira's Ahmanson, Hammer, and Bing buildings, as well as Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer's 1986 addition. Buildings remaining would include Renzo Piano's new BCAM and Resnick buildings and Bruce Goff's Japanese Pavilion. The project is still far from moving ahead. LACMA spokesperson Miranda Carroll recently told AN that there is close to a year remaining before the project's feasibility concludes, and the museum's board still must vote to proceed. The agreement (PDF) with the supervisors also provided about $7.5 million for feasibility and planning studies.
The surprises keep coming at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). After learning that the museum plans to shift its proposed Peter Zumthor–designed building southward (partially bridging Wilshire Boulevard) to avoid damaging the La Brea Tar Pits, now comes news that the museum is hoping to partner with LA's transit agency, METRO, to build a tower across the street. LACMA Director Michael Govan's choice for an architect? Frank Gehry. "That's my dream," Govan told the LA Times' Christopher Hawthorne. "I'm jealous that New York has a Gehry tower and we don't." The tower would be located near Wilshire and Fairfax, near the site of the current A+D Architecture + Design Museum, which is being torn down to make way for a staging ground for Metro's Purple Line expansion. Ironically Govan said he hopes to build his own Architecture and Design wing there. No word on the tower's design or height, or on whether it will even happen. But Gehry has acknowledged discussing the plan with Govan. "I'm open to it," he told Hawthorne. So far Govan and Gehry have been unavailable for comment to AN. There are so many obstacles standing in the way of these grand schemes. But a post on LACMA's blog points out that if they go ahead, one block of LA's Miracle Mile will contain designs by three Pritzker Prize winners— Gehry, Zumthor, and Renzo Piano, who not only designed two new buildings for LACMA, but is designing (now solo) the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum.
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."
Metropolis II Los Angeles County Museum of Art 5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California Ongoing Metropolis II is a kinetic sculpture by American artist Chris Burden, who is probably best known for his 1971 performance piece Shoot, in which an assistant wielding a .22 rifle shot him in the left arm. Part of LACMA’s permanent collection and on view multiple times per week, the sculpture is modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. In it, Burden used steel beams to construct an intricate system of 18 roadways—including one six-lane freeway—and several train tracks. When set in motion, miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour. Every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings. According to Burden, “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars produce in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st century city.”
Peter Zumthor’s design for a new central building at LACMA has some experts concerned with its environmental effects. Critics including John Harris, chief curator of the National History Museum’s Page Museum, worry that the project could disrupt the La Brea tar pits, the same ecological features that inspired the building’s blob-like shape. At a meeting last month the county Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to request a presentation from the Page Museum fleshing out the curator’s concerns. That presentation has not yet been scheduled, according to the Page Museum’s press office. If Harris’s hunch proves correct, the LACMA redesign would join a long list of local architectural-environmental disasters, stretching back decades, to the earliest days of European settlement. For instance, Los Angeles Aqueduct had drained Owens Lake by 1924, and in 1941 began diverting water from Mono Lake. Only last month did the city of Los Angeles and other parties including conservationists reached a tentative settlement that would repair some of the damage done to Mono Lake. So without further ado, below is our list of some of the most significant environmental catastrophes (and near-catastrophes) in LA history. We hope LACMA's issues will be addressed, and that it won't be added to this list: Beginning in the early twentieth century, Los Angeles’s 14,000 acres of wetlands were filled in to make way for tony residential developments like Marina del Rey, dedicated in 1965. An earlier suburban enclave, Surfridge (part of Playa del Rey, developed in 1921 by Dickinson & Gillespie Co.), wiped out 300 acres of sand dunes that were home to the El Segundo Blue Butterfly, an endangered species. When LAX was built in the early 1960s, the airport took over Surfridge and razed the homes there—but not to restore the dunes. Instead, airport authorities bought the neighborhood to appease residents complaining of noise pollution and fenced it off without touching the dunes. Restoration would take another three decades to initiate and is ongoing today. On March 24, 1985, a methane gas leak caused a massive explosion in a Ross Dress-For-Less Department store in the Wilshire-Fairfax District of Los Angeles. Though the cause of the explosion remains the subject of debate, two Stanford professors argued in a 1992 paper that it was a product of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that is once again being debated in the city. In any case, the disaster prompted Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) ban on tunneling under Wilshire Boulevard, which in turn rerouted the subway’s Red Line. In recent years, Playa Vista, a giant development located just south of Marina del Rey, has been the site of a high-profile contest between architecture and ecology. The original plan for Playa Vista, initiated by Howard Hughes’ heirs after his death, would have destroyed 94 percent of the Ballona wetlands’ remaining acreage. After the plan was approved, the Friends of Ballona Wetlands filed a lawsuit. Following a period of inaction, the development was sold to Maguire Thomas Partners in 1990. The new developers agreed to rededicate a portion of the land to conservation and pay millions for restoration. Rounding out the list is the infamous Belmont Learning Center, now known as the Edward R. Roybal Learning Center. The high school, the nation’s most expensive at over $400 million, was built on top of the Los Angeles City Oil Field. Concerns over methane gas below the site resulted in an almost 20-year delay in the building process. The revision of state and local policy regarding school construction, and the installation of a $17 million gas-mitigation system, allowed construction to go forward, with a completely new architectural plan. Operating the system costs the school, which finally opened in 2008, between $250,000 and $500,000 annually.
The rumor-mill has been churning non-stop over LACMA director Michael Govan’s and architect Peter Zumthor’s plans for the museum. Basically it looks like they are planning to take LACMA apart and start over; an effort that failed when attempted by Rem Koolhaas and OMA back in the early 2000s. The full scope of the plans will be unveiled in June, with LACMA’s exhibition The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA. But for now we’ve gleaned that under Zumthor’s plan, not only would there be a new indoor/outdoor art park, but four of the museum’s midcentury structures would be replaced by “curvaceous modern glass structures.” That basically includes everything but the Bruce Goff pavilion and Renzo Piano’s new structures. Let’s see if the second time’s the charm.