LA TIMES: LACMA DESIGN A CALAMITY

Regarding Carolina A. Miranda’s “Remaking the Miracle Mile” [July 14]: 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.

I join the chorus of critics and taxpayers to urge the c ounty Board of Supervisors to stop feeding funds to what will be, by the time it is built, a one-billion-dollar mistake.

The board 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 overwhelmed 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 more is needed to house the collection. Less in this case is less.

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.

It is time for the county supervisors to bring this farce of a design process to a screeching halt.

Sam Hall Kaplan

Malibu 7.20.2019

The writer is a former Los Angeles Times architecture and design critic

MALIBU’S MYOPIC GOVERNANCE

The willful ignorance of Malibu’s governance is exasperating, exposed recently by the ill considered search to curb mansionization, the fumbling of the rebuild effort  in the wake of the disastrous Woolsey Fire and city hall’s false front.

Putting this into a  larger perspective, the muddle in Malibu can be sadly considered a local manifestation of what select pundits have described as a rupture of the link between the governing and the governed globally that has exacerbated no less than the crisis of climate change, the continued deterioration of the environment and the dispiriting economic disparity. I fear for my children and grandchildren.

However, there is a faint hope in our bubble of Malibu that we can do something to modestly begin to mend the rupture, specifically at the moment to pressure the conflicted City Council to kill the proposed square foot reduction ordinance approved last week by a confused City Planning Commission. That if you recall was despite the strong reservations by concerned residents who packed City Hall. You had to be impressed by the turnout and the heartfelt comments.

To be sure, many as myself are opposed and repulsed by mansionization, concerned that it would invite blatant commercial use as unwanted rehabs or obnoxious AirBnBs. But they also clearly recognize you can’t really codify  (8500 sq ft ?) what constitutes mansionization or a “McMansion,” as I can’t as a design critic immodestly cited by Wikipedia as a reference. I literally coined the phrase 30 years ago in a book review for the L.A. Times entitled ‘Out of Place: Restoring Identity to the Regional Landscape.’

In search of a measure rather than an arbitrary square footage that incidentally can be hid by good landscaping, I suggest the colloquial expression, “I know it when I see it.” That subjective phrase parenthetically was used in 1964 by United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in attempting to define what exactly, constitutes hard-core pornography.

Of course, what the council should be doing, as it has repeatedly promised, is provide some needed oversight and light a fire under a sluggish city hall, and its bloated bureaucracy and cadre of consultants, manipulated by crafty city manager manager Reva Feldman. All else could be considered broadly as pornography.

MALIBU PLAN COMISSION CONFUSED

It was heartening to witness the public turnout at City Hall Monday night for the hearing on a proposed ordinance capping residential development.  

Though there was some understandable confusion concerning the flawed attempt to codify “neighborhood character,” most all speaking late into the evening expressed an obvious heart felt affection for Malibu.

But that made it all the more disheartening to witness, as the night wore on, the genuine homeowner concerns to be mostly ignored by a confused and at times contentious, supercilious Planning Commission.

The nit picking majority of commission eventually did painfully vote for a watered down version of the ordinance, exempting lots of less than an acre while demonstrating their embarrassing lack of planning knowledge, making several ad hoc additions.

Of course, what they should have done was simply hose down the ordinance, and tell the also neophyte compromised City Council to bury it, and instead direct the city’s planning staff to bolster its rebuild effort.

Despite its overblown PR effort, the city’s under achieving governance and over stuffed city hall staff is a muddle, suffering from a hardening of the bureaucratic arteries and in desperate need of surgery.