BEYOND THE PCH: THE LACMA CALAMITY

A calamity perhaps is the word to describe the design process our Los Angeles County Museum of Art has been suffering for the last half dozen years, and let me stress that is “our” taxpayer supported museum.

A catastrophe certainly will be the word to describe the museum if the $600 million plus design becomes as feared the nightmare construct and a failed Southern California conceit, orchestrated by a self aggrandizing art crowd.

Putting on my battered hat as the former architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times, and several other professional publications, I join the chorus of critics and tax payers to urge the County Board of Supervisors to stop feeding funds to what will be by the time it is built a one billion dollar mistake. That total includes the private donations by art patrons that could have gone elsewhere.

The Board including that usual clear headed Sheila Kuehl who represents my Malibu is poised to release $117.5 million for the calamity, having to date been wined and dined, and their egos massaged, by wily museum director Michael Govan. Talk about an edifice complex of a star struck arts administrator, and of what is ostensibly a public institution.

Meanwhile, the clearly over-whelmed Govan and over-his-head architect, Switzerland-based Peter Zumthor, have been putzing around with the design for what seems like dog years, the latest study inexplicably reducing the proposed gallery space, when obviously needed is more to house the collection. Less in this case is less.

It appears the design process has been a cozy, closed closet exercise, involving numerous commutes between Zurich and Los Angeles. Not bad when you are punching the clock at a non profit sinecure, but sad when considering those funds could be used for arts education in our culturally starved public schools.

And talk about being environmentally insensitive, it is hard to rationalize the demolition of the nearly half a million square feet of the existing landmark museum, and the chaos of the years of construction

As for the proposed design, it is no longer colored black as the muck in the adjacent tar pits, but it is still a biomorphic blob sprawling across Wilshire Boulevard. The galleries might be one floor, as Govan wanted, but the structure is ugly and awkward.

Time for the County Supervisors to bring this farce of a design process to a screeching halt.

4,4.19

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hallkaplan

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.