While the exhibits continue to engage, a dark cloud still hovers over the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as I comment on my weekly City Observed on 97.5 KBU and everywhere on radiomalibu.net and select websites.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art – LACMA for short – continues to be one of the city’s more iconic cultural institutions, for me always enlightening if not educational, a place where I return to regularly to find something of interest.

Most recently it was the very different and diverting Rain Room, a site specific installation melding science and technology to create an art work , that is if you can call a large darkened room where water falls constantly, except not on you, thanks to sensors. you walk over.

It’s a captivating and communal experience, the stuff of selfies and sharing with others a wonderous 15 minutes which is what each group of about two dozen are allowed to stand between the rain drops in a steady downfall. Everyone exits smiling, if a little damp..

No wonder the installation created by the artist collective Random International has sold out when first exhibited in the group’s base in London, then in New York Museum of Modern Art, and now in Los Angeles for an extended tour through the Summer.

It is such exhibits that lend attending a museum as LACMA a memorable moment. And this in turn is what lends institutions a sense of place and history, and need to be cherished and protected.

To enhance their stature, and better serve a wide a population as possible., I also think they should not charge admission, to their regular and special exhibits.

That is why I applaud such museums as the Hammer in Westwood, the Broad downtown and the Getty above Brentwood being free , and why I have urged LACMA to also be, especially since it is partially supported by county funds.

This is also why I am opposed to the audacious plans of director Michael Govan to replace the LA County Museum, yes, demolishing the existing core buildings, replacing them  with a biomorphic blub sprawling over Wilshire Boulevard. Aside from the questionable design by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, is the price tag—now $600 million, but sure to rise to a billion when all costs are calculated –and there construction of at least five years.

To be sure, there are problems with the existing museum: it is a fractured clutter of galleries. It needs better maintenance, better connections and graphics. And patched together as it is, it is not pretty. But it can and does work viewing for the art. And that ultimately is what a museum is about.

I raise these arguments again because it seems Govan is becoming even more persistent in satisfying his edifice complex, and continues to spare no expense promoting his vision.   At present the black model is on display in Italy, at the Venice Architecture Biennale , which this year I thought was to focus on “social housing.”

Commenting on this might be discursive, but for me it is urgent, for I consider the Zumthor and Govan conceit a dark cloud over LACMA. I am very much concerned over its threatened future, and you should be, too.



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Parallel careers as an urban planner and a journalist, principally at present airing commentaries on pubic radio 99.1 KBU.FM The many arrows in my quiver have included Emmy award winning reporter/ producer for local Fox Television News, design critic for the Los Angeles Times, urban affairs reporter for The New York Times, an editor of The New York Post, contributor to various popular and professional publications, news services and broadcast outlets, including Reuters, NET, NBC, CBS, NPR and the BBC. Founding editor of the East Harlem (NY) Independent. A diversity of professional positions and consultancies in the private and public sectors, (Metro, Disney Imagineering, Howard Hughes, M. Milken, NYC Educational Construction Fund, US Comptroller of the Currency etc,) assorted academic appointments (UCLA, USC, CCNY, Art Center etc.), and always open to new challenge. And let us not forget fashioning sand castles and acting on 90210, crafting TV docs, design reviews, master plans. Books: "The Dream Deferred: People, Politics and Planning in Suburbia," "L.A. Lost and Found," an architectural history of Los Angeles, "L.A. Follies," a collection of essays, and co-author of "The New York City Handbook." Writings have appeared in academic texts, commentaries on the web, scripts for TV, and wherever, latest the Architects Newspaper, The Planning Report and Planetizen.

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