TO SIGN THE LACMA LOVERS LEAGUE PETITION, click here.
For several years, through our Pereira in Peril campaign, we have been part of a small and disparate collection of preservationists, architecture critics and Miracle Mile community members concerned about the proposed demolition of the historic campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to clear the way for a new building by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.
In the days following the release of LACMA’s Final Environmental Impact Report on March 22, and a rash of highly critical reporting addressing the project’s decreased square footage, unusually high building costs and radical changes to the curatorial program, suddenly it appeared that our concerns were shared by many people. A number of them used social media to encourage citizens to contact their County supervisor in advance of their April 9 meeting, when they would decide on certifying the FEIR and approving demolition of the historic campus. At that meeting, the supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with the LACMA project.
Curious about how much public comment the supervisors had received in response to the critical reporting, and if the weight of these comments justified their voting unanimously without addressing the criticism, we made a request to the County for all emails received about LACMA from April 1-10. We are appreciative of Lev Levon and Joe Walcek from the BOS Executive Office for their prompt and courteous response.
If you counted the people who spoke at the board meeting, you might have thought that public sentiment was essentially mixed: that while some people questioned spending $117.5 Million in public funds on the proposal to close the museum for years, demolish the historic campus, shrink and restructure the curatorial departments and bridge Wilshire, all for a physically smaller museum, others were thrilled about getting a building by Pritzker-winning architect Peter Zumthor in Los Angeles. At least Brad Pitt and Diane Keaton were suitably awed.
But the emails received by the County supervisors, and reviewed by Esotouric, tell a far less two-sided tale. 226 are opposed to the project, 48 in favor—about 83% against, 17% for.
The emails come from architects and professors, historians and decorators, curators and donors, city planners and arts commissioners, museum directors and professors, art collectors and building plant managers, gallery owners and neighbors, school teachers and builders, LACMA volunteers, employees and trustees. Some who support the Zumthor plan do so in language so passionate it cannot fail to impress. But the vast majority beg the supervisors to hit the pause button and ensure that the proposed project is actually in the best interests of the community, serves the museum’s mission and is fiscally responsible.
We feel that it is objectively terrible that such engaged and informed citizens have been disenfranchised, by LACMA and by their elected representatives. These Angelenos love and support their museum, and seem to care more about its future than the five County supervisors, who blithely voted unanimously to shrink it.
We believe that these community voices need to be heard, so we are publishing the emails.
Because many of the authors may not have realized they were creating a public document, and in more than one case expressed concern that if their identity were known it might impede their activity as a LACMA staff member and/or volunteer, we are not identifying private citizens by name. We are identifying the professionals who included their affiliations and specific expertise. (If you recognize your words in this blog post and wish to be credited by name, just email us and we will be happy to do so.)
This is a large document, even with many emails in excerpted form, and we don’t expect everyone who clicks on this page to read all of it, though we think all of it is worth reading. We do expect our elected officials to show respect for their constituents and to be willing to admit when they are wrong. Such strong criticism of a proposed building project and associated fundamental change to the curatorial functions of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art merits further discussion, and requires answers.
Is it still possible that the County supervisors might reverse their decision and at least consider adaptive reuse of the existing museum buildings? We hope so, because such a path respects the historic fabric of the institution, is greener and could potentially result in a more interesting building scheme that frees up the valuable Spaulding parking lot for more suitable high-rise development.
Could LACMA be saved, both its historic buildings and its historic curatorial structure? It could. This is after all a golden age for activism and historic preservation. If the digital organizing tools of 2019 had existed in the 1960s, we believe the Bunker Hill neighborhood would have been saved, because the arguments of the city planners were specious and the sense of affective ownership was enormous.
Citizens may not all love the historic Pereira campus, especially in its deliberately decaying demolition-by-neglect state, but they love the museum, its space, the breadth of its collection, concerts and screenings in the Bing, the proximity to the tar pits, the memories they’ve made there. It’s not too much to ask that the County supervisors hear them out, and make a decision that ensures that LACMA will be a central part of the cultural life of Los Angeles for generations to come.
SIGN THE LACMA LOVERS LEAGUE PETITION: We respectfully call on the County supervisors to revisit their April 9 decision, pause approval of LACMA’s FEIR, and engage in the free and open discussion with the community that such an important decision deserves. If you agree, please sign the petition by clicking here, or on the word cloud image below, made from the contents of the emails that follow.
LACMA EIR TIMELINE: PRESS CLIPS & EXCERPTED EMAILS RECEIVED BY LOS ANGELES COUNTY SUPERVISORS (Addressed to Sheila Kuehl, Mark Ridley-Thomas or all supervisors only; emails to Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn or Kathryn Barger have been discarded by the County)
Allyne Winderman, FAIA (architect, urban designer, community advocate and educator)
Anonymous LACMA employee
Anonymous LACMA Volunteer
Consuela G. Metzger (Head UCLA Libra Conservation Center, LACMA member and museum neighbor)
Dale Gluckman (former Curator / Head of LACMA’s Department of Costumes and Textiles)
David Luce (Professor Illustration, Art Center College of Design)
Dorothy Braudy (artist and educator) and Leo Braudy (University Professor and Bing Professor of English at the University of Southern California LACMA members)
Ezrha Jean Black (staff writer, ARTILLERY)
Fred Bernstein (architecture critic)
J. Patrice Marandel (Chief Curator Emeritus, LACMA)
Jack Rutberg (gallerist)
Jeffrey Skorneck (architect and planner, CRA/LA, City of West Hollywood)
John Walsh (Director Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Museum)
Joseph Giovannini (architecture critic and concerned citizen)
Julian Ganz, Jr. (Life Trustee, LACMA)
Lane Barden (photographer with work in LACMA’s Collection and critic)
Laurie Barlow, AIA (architect and planner)
Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA (architect, BROOKS + SCARPA)
Lisa Bloomfield (Los Angeles artist with work in LACMA’s collection)
Lois Neiter (art dealer and collector)
Luca Celada (Hollywood Foreign Press Association)
Margaret Bach (Founding President Los Angeles Conservancy)
Martha Ronk (Professor Emeritus Occidental College)
Robert Nicolais (architect and preservationist)
Sam Hall Kaplan (architecture critic)
Sasha Anawalt (founding director of the Master’s in Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg and LACMA member)
Scott Schaefer (Curator Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Museum and former Curator of European Paintings and Sculpture at LACMA, 1980-1988)
Steve Ross (Professor of History and Director, Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, University of Southern California)
Steve Turner (gallerist)
Stuart and Beverly Denenberg (arts professionals)
Tyler Green (art critic and historian)
William Ezelle Jones (Curator at LACMA for 15 years)
April 1 Emails:
Every aspect of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art project is problematic. Serious questions of planning, design, program, and fiduciary consideration should be sent back to the LACMA leadership. In the meantime the project’s CEQA certification and planning approval should be put on hold. The questions to which LACMA should be accountable:
a) A building bridging and plopping itself over Los Angeles’ iconic boulevard calls up many of our worst public design and city planning mistakes from the mid and late 20th Century.
b) Access and circulation becomes circumscribed reminding us of skybridge, overpasses and underpasses.
c) A building of this nature is has little capacity for adaptation and expansion to correct it’s own mistakes or changing needs in the future.
2) Design & program.
a) Nothing in the design demonstrates subtlety, detail, variation of scale, and primacy of user experience.
b) The design’s strength is it its singularity and in that one move it is it’s greatest failure. This makes it very difficult to correct.
c) It is not clear to me how the design serves program. if anything it defines and sets requirements limiting program.
d) Why must the museum be limited to a single level?
3) Fiduciary failure.
a) One of LACMA’s great assets is the parking lot on the south of Wilshire. At this major METRO station location on the City’s greatest boulevard, this is a prime real estate asset which can be monetized to support LACMA well into the future with uses and scale of development that can also be complimentary to the museum operations and the community. In one fell swoop, this asset is wiped out forever.
b) Continuing on this point, the alternate uses of the parking lot site have not been covered in any official or general publication or reports. It is a failure of leadership and fiduciary management of LACMA to claim justification only in terms of making a big design move.
c) The entire public private financing for the project has proceeded for too long on these faulty assumptions. It would be a further failure of fiduciary responsibility to proceed because this has been the plan and for lack of alternatives.
Please step back. There is not question the LACMA buildings of the 60’s and 80’s need replacement. The museum should be popular and fun. But it needn’t be distopic, a Disney Tomorrowland. -J.G.
Press Clips: April 2, 2019 – Publication of “LACMA, the Incredible Shrinking Museum: A critic’s lament” by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times
April 2 Emails:
I want to add my voice to those opposed to spending millions of tax payer dollars on a museum plan that is inadequate before it is even built. If LACMA is to be torn down and rebuilt at taxpayer expense, please demand a NEW plan with MORE (not less) space for art, for curators, and for visitors. -Steve Ross, Professor of History and Director, Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life, University of Southern California
As an architect and planner, I have long had serious qualms about this Zumthor design that Robert Winter famously derided as “Trumpitecture.” It doesn’t work at all, has no directional walkway axes to organize space and allow branching pathways and places to lounge, and it now looks like some kind of bland, uninspired municipal project from the ’60’s. It fails on many levels, and completely destroys the sense of connectivity and spatial interplay that are successful in the Renzo Piano addition and the original buildings, even with the awkward canopy structure added by the Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates expansion in 1986. And really, a blob of oil as its inspiration in this day and age of revolt against fossil fuels? Please put this project out of its misery and go back to the drafting board. I won’t be coming to this museum at all in the future if this project goes forward, because it would destroy the delightful Ray+Starck Bar outdoor space that I love to lounge in, and look at the Resnick Pavillion building in the sun; it has a wonderful scale and pattern to it. Piano’s vision is right on, the spaces need connections and shared outdoor spaces and light—like a village of experiences, not an isolated, stand-alone blob. Yuck. -Laurie Barlow AIA, architect and planner
I’ve been writing about architecture for more than fifty years and I have rarely encountered a building proposal as beautiful and well-suited to its purpose as Peter Zumthor’s design for LACMA. I urge you to approve this project at your April 9th meeting and allow it to proceed, as a gift to LA and to every visitor. -Michael Webb, architecture writer
I’ve been a staunch supporter of Govan and Zumthor throughout this six year process, but it’s beginning to look like the masterpiece we were originally promised is instead being replaced by a value-engineered carbuncle. Many of the most refined details of the design seemed to have been lost (curved glass walls, double height galleries), and instead we’re left with a very boring-looking concrete monolith akin to a raised toll booth. Instead of cutting costs in order to get something done, I’d hope that we take a deep breath and look towards the longterm benefits of an exceptional building. -M.N.
A number of people from diverse perspectives have become increasingly alarmed at the proposed changes to the LACMA campus: Music lovers of Sunday Live are now informed that the replacement for the Bing Auditorium will be only 1/2 its present size with seating reduced from 600 seats to 300 seats; Docents at LACMA have seen the loss of their Docent Library, disbanded due to lack of space in the cramped new museum design. The book collection was the product of generations of library docents and volunteers and used for training docents who were leading LA school children through the museum collection; Museum staff and professionals see the organization of the museum collection changing with loss of curatorial control over separate areas of expertise replaced by a more generalized thematic organization…. We who use the museum as an ongoing cultural resource are asked to sacrifice too much. Even at this late date an independent commission should be delegated to explore the options of an extremely complicated programme. Development of the museum should not be in the hands of the museum director who attempts to promote it, fundraise for it, to direct the architectural design of it, all while supervising the current business and operation of the museum itself. – P.M., architect and museum neighbor
I think LACMA’s new building plan for the permanent collection is a bad design for the future of a growing Los Angeles County, and therefore a poor use of our taxpayer dollars. I do not negate that new gallery space at the museum is needed, but with the future in mind, this solution is an extravagant use of taxpayer dollars. – T.B., LACMA member
Losing gallery space just because Mr. Govan feels museums should all be on one level is NOT the solution for the sprawl that is Los Angeles. The design is flawed and I really do not want my taxpayer dollars spent on this poor idea. -L.R.
The recent changes to the design make it unacceptable. A reduction in gallery space? A smaller theater than they have now? Vote against this plan. -Name redacted
It is disheartening to be witness to a plan of renovation and expansion that seems to be devolving. I was alarmed by what I read in the LA Times this week about the continued changes to the Zumthor (or rather, Govan plan) and Christopher Knight’s piece this morning furthered my concern. I’m surprised that no one from county government to the design and arts community hasn’t spoken out sooner. But this is the moment to stop what appears to be irreversible damage. As a tax payer and resident in the Third District, I plead with you to resist voting in favor of a multi-million dollar public investment. -L.K., former LACMA employee
It is not a plan that will benefit Los Angeles or citizens… The present campus is a metaphor for the diversity of Los Angeles, and reflects the architectural history of LA. Speaking to modernist architects, and to engineers who repaired the Hubble telescope, repair of these buildings in Midcity is not that hard. I doubt arguments about the difficulties and relative costs of repairing the existing structures. The unpredictabilities of construction of the project, and the certain obstruction of a major traffic corridor are further arguments against going forward. The proposed design is a “turistico” and soulless, “cosmopolitan,” in contrast to intrinsically and romantically “LA.” All that, and the lost gallery space due to down-sizing, has me believe that the proposed building is a loss for the cultural life of Los Angeles County, and should not be supported by its Board of Supervisors.-M.S., LACMA member for 5 decades
Releasing public funds for this Vanity Project would be a misuse of the County’s money. Yes LACMA needs a new building, but the proposed “folly” does not in any way fit the description of a major museum for a great city. Its scope is narrow and is basically an ego project envisioned by the director and the architect. It does not fit the needs of the curatorial departments nor the vastness of the collection. -R.T.
I have been concerned about the nature and cost of the proposed major redo of the museum for some time. I therefore read with interest and increased concern Christopher Knight’s column about the proposed redo in the LA Times as well as the letter from Margaret Bach, the founding president of the LA Conservancy, in which she suggests a start over. I agree. This has the makings of the LA County bullet train. It is time to stop and rethink before taxpayer money is wasted. The end product MUST BE more exhibition space at the museum and a cost effective design and rebuild cost. -L.T., LACMA member
I am appalled by the latest news about the museum’s rebuilding plans reported in the L.A. Times this past week in columns by Carolina Miranda and Christopher Knight, [which] raise some extremely significant questions not only about the newest version of the museum’s architectural design (rather uninspired in comparison to the one originally proposed), but even more disturbingly about the museum’s reduction rather than expansion of exhibition space for art (its primary function, after all). At this point in the process, I feel that the County Supervisors need to call a time-out and ask some hard and informed questions about the direction of this process and how the taxpayers’ $100 million plus will be spent. For what? Museum Director Michael Govan’s idea of a museum on one floor seems like a foolish one, no more than a hobby-horse of his that has hamstrung the whole project. The space constraints of the current design can only exacerbate the increasing incoherence of the museum’s exhibition program… and make less accessible to the public its inevitably expanding collection of art. Something has gone very wrong here. -R.B., museum neighbor and frequent visitor
It’s the collection that matters, not having a designer building. Having less exhibit space is unacceptable. The disadvantages of Michael Govan’s current proposal so far outweigh any advantages it would be a travesty to go ahead with his plan. NO, NO, NO. -M.W.
The board of supervisors should not release the $117.5 million to help build the new LACMA building. The new building should have more space for the permanent collection no less. -S.M.
I’m writing to urge you not to support any further funding for the misbegotten, freeway overpass of a design for LACMA. It was always ugly, but now that there will be even less space for exhibiting the museum’s holdings, this is completely ridiculous. I recall how appalled I was when the pillowy Mesopotamian 1980s addition was revealed. That was bad enough. I was a kid when the Pereira LACMA was erected. Popular though it now may be to dis it, at the time it felt magical and modern, floating above those pools. It was very much in the spirit of LA. OK, so now we need a new museum. Let’s try to build one worthy of this amazing and diverse city. It’s not too late to stop this tragic waste of money. -L.P.
Thank you for supporting the new LACMA building. -H.S., museum neighbor
I am thrilled about the new expansion plans. I am writing to ask you to please approve the plans, since I do not think there will be any negative impact to the environment. -R.L., LACMA member for many years
This building, if allowed to be built, in the pure, honest and original way it has been designed, will undoubtedly complete the art shift in the world to Los Angeles, and it will give Los Angeles not only the right house for its world class collection but it will allow for the best possible expression of what is truly remarkable about LACMA: the way it exhibits the art; the meaning of the works in a much more creative and original context. Not only will the building itself be a new work of art, (LA’s best sculpture), but it will allow to free the art from the arbitrary and calcified hierarchies of yesterday, and give the LA residents and its visitors a completely new and meaningful way to understand art and cultures and ideas…. Thank you for approving it, voting in favor of it, seeding it with the County’s dollars, and for encouraging the great philanthropists of this city to partner with you and finance the rest. It is an exemplary case of government and citizens working together to realize a worth-while vision. -A.J., LACMA patron
Please do not support the demolition of our beautiful museum! Please heed the input from the Los Angeles art community and others—it’s not too late to stop this Govan-Zumther travesty! -L.A., artist and concerned citizen
It is outrageous to spend $650 million for a building that: 1) originally promised 40% more space, but now is 50% smaller than promised (10% smaller than the existing facility) with less space for a growing collection, 2) has no space for staff; requiring the county pay for leased offices in an adjacent building, 3) is not designed be flexible and expandable, 4) was never very inspiring architecturally, but is now been reduced to a bland beige blob…. It is not the project that was originally proposed to the Supervisors and the people of Los Angeles. Instead, we were promised a museum with over 40% more space—not less. This is absurd. As a life-long supporter of LACMA, a third-generation resident of Los Angeles, a property owner and a voter, it pains me to not support this project. But taxpayers and visitors deserve a larger museum, with offices for its staff, a design worthy of a world-class museum and city, and a design that can grow and serve us for decades to come. LACMA must grow, not shrink. LACMA must have a world-class building, not the bland blob currently proposed. This disastrous, ill-conceived design should be abandoned and a more compelling, experienced and responsive architect brought in to design the larger, better LACMA that we all deserve. -P.P.
April 3 Emails:
I am writing to express my enthusiastic support for the work of Peter Zumthor and Michael Govan at LACMA. Peter Zumthor is an architect of singular importance in the world today. His buildings are artistic works in their own right that open profound experiences for the people who encounter them. I have personally visited sixteen of his projects in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, most on a regular basis. I visit his Kolumba Museum in Cologne and his Field Chapel (Bruder Klaus Kapelle) in Mechemich Wachendorf, Germany every three months and have taken more than 40 people to experience these sites, just because I believe it is important for humanity to have access to such inspiring work. LACMA will be Peter Zumthor’s first major work in the United States. Please seize this opportunity for what it is: A GIFT of a quality that will not come again within any of our lifetimes. The gift is of a double nature: Los Angeles is blessed with the architect. And the architect is blessed to have an incomparable facilitator in Michael Govan. The work process and development of the project over the past several years has provided an astonishing view into a visionary architect’s mind as he organically refines and hones his building to achieve just the right connection to the program, the collection, and the city. The masterful dialogue between Zumthor and Govan allowed all who were following to see the best possible creative process carried out in full view. This is a sign of their compassion, intelligence, conviction, and courage. Only masters can work in this way. Los Angeles stands to benefit from a historic collaboration that has brought the best architect to the table and allowed him to develop his work in an optimal way. Not all are sensitive to the gift that is being offered. There are critics who would like to believe that architecture is a conceptual formula. It is important to consider that architectural criticism and architecture are two different and somewhat unrelated fields, especially when the architect in question is Peter Zumthor. Zumthor’s work comes from a hard-won experience with materials and a deep historical and practical knowledge of craftsmanship and building. His buildings communicate with the visitor through their materials, proportions, weight, light, shadow, texture, tempo, and spatial unfolding. These buildings are personal works that spring from a single person, and they speak just as personally to each individual visitor. Long after the architectural critics are dead, forgotten, and irrelevant, Zumthor’s buildings will be enriching and speaking to their visitors. No model can capture this experience. No schematic drawing. No 3D rendering. Those have nothing to do with Zumthor’s architecture. It is only the building that speaks and that matters. I would pose only one question to the critics who have voiced their opinions prominently in the Los Angeles Times: “Have you ever visited a building by Peter Zumthor? Do you have any direct experience of the architect’s work?” I have no doubts that the answer would be: no. Is this a disqualification when one is writing about a material architecture? Well, yes it is. We wouldn’t accept a review of a restaurant from a critic who only looks at pictures of the food. On the topic of program and the adequacy of the museum to house the program, again the architecture critics are of no help. Again they have no relevant experience to contribute to the discussion. This is the indispensible expertise that Michael Govan brings, and I would like to support his insights. He has earned my confidence. His creativity and conviction produced one of the best museums in the world: Dia Beacon. The project drew from his expertise as a facilitator of artistic work, and to this day the museum is a rare example of a mutually enriching dialogue between building and collection. Govan and his curatorial staff should be leading the discussion of scale, scope, and viability. This is a matter of vision, not bureaucratic technicalities. They will be presenting the collection, and they have done their work with Zumthor. There are hundreds of ways to present a collection. The important issue is to have a space that creates a sensitive and welcoming viewing environment for the artist and the visitor. This space should itself play a role in enticing and inspiring the visitor to engage in an experience with the collection. A curator can do more in a smaller, well-designed and beautifully articulated space than in a poorly designed and distracting space with more square footage. LACMA’s collection may very well be expanding, but it does not follow that the exhibition space must also expand to be effective. On the topic of funding, Michael Govan deserves nothing short of a BRAVISSIMO! I am a native of Los Angeles and have lived for the past eight years in Germany, where I work as an art publisher and printer. I can appreciate the distance that separates the European context in which most of Zumthor’s works have been built and the United States, where Zumthor is forging his first relationship with the public. Please allow me to tell you a story that can perhaps bridge this distance and give you the courage to give this architect your confidence and support: I commissioned an architectural work from Peter Zumthor in 2012: a publishing house to be built in the city of Gottingen, Germany. The project will one day be realized, but Zumthor has other priorities in Los Angeles at the moment! Zumthor presented the model of our project to the citizens of Gottingen and its city council in 2014. This medieval city with a famous university but no cultural or architectural program to speak of was a bit of a wild card. We really didn’t know what kind of reception our project would receive, and we suspected it might be a difficult, uphill climb. Zumthor’s presentation was overflowing with guests not only from Gottingen, but from all corners of Germany. I quickly learned that I had settled in a city in which a large number of residents were not only fans of Zumthor’s work, but had travelled to all the accessible as well as the nearly inaccessible sites to experience the works in person. I met a couple that makes an annual pilgrimage to the Barents Sea to see Zumthor’s collaboration with Louise Bourgeois. I met a 97 year old woman who had visited Zumthor’s Field Chapel in Mechernich Wachendorf 25 times, and as travel had become impossible, she carried with her at all times an ipad with a picture of this architectural work. She informed the city officials that if GOttingen did not approve our project, she would have to move out of the city. Following Zumthor’s presentation, the city council reported that its members had received the most letters in support of the project than at any other point in the history of the city. And they were not short notes, but were typically 3-4 pages long. The community voiced not only its support but its deep personal awareness of the work. As public officials, you certainly know that people will write letters against a project more often than for it. These letters were uniformly in support of the project. In the end, we received a rare unanimous vote for our project in an otherwise fiercely divided city council. Everyone and all the political parties could come together around Peter Zumthor. One year after our presentation of the model, I decided to take down the information we had posted about Zumthor’s project on our website. I was stopped two days later in the street by someone I did not know who told me that I had to put the site back up. The Zumthor project, he told me, is not just mine, it belongs to everyone, and I had no right to take down the information about the project. When people experience Zumthor’s buildings, they are moved. They are inspired. They hold a deep value for these projects in their hearts over a lifetime. There are some excellent architects in the world, but their work does not speak personally to people in this way. There is only one Zumthor. This is your one chance! -Nina Holland, Little Steidl Publishers, Germany
I am in full support of Michael Govan and Peter Zumthor and what they propose. The slightly smaller size of the museum is perfect. It should be intimate. What matters is showing the best things—not the most things. Like the Getty—LACMA could always have another location someday; in LA people tend to stay in their part of town. Spreading out is good. The proposed museum looks absolutely amazing. Ii have visited all the Zumthor buildings in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. We are so lucky to have him here. Govan is a great visionary. I hope you will give 100% support to this project. -J.S.
I’m writing to support the approval of the final environmental impact report for LACMA’s new building. The museum is a gem in our world class city. Please support the development of this important milestone. -W.S.
We live in a democracy. This means that decisions are made by the public or in the public interest. The county museum is not the personal property of Eli Broad and friends. The fiasco that is LACMA puts at risk every future county bond and request to raise taxes for worthwhile county projects. Now can a county that closes health centers and other county resource justify the new LACMA spending. -M.E., government/history teacher
Removing exhibit and potential community programming space and squandering any possibility of future development to meet evolving needs is a disastrous approach. Please encourage the Supervisors to reject this proposal and take a very active role in a new one. The huge commitment of public funds demands no less. -D.D., middle school teacher
I think of LACMA as a second home in the city, with deep emotional roots. It also has a world class collection that honors our city and its evolution as a center for the arts. The Peter Zumthor building proposed to replace the older buildings at LACMA has always been a disaster waiting to happen, so disliked by many that public fundraising has failed to meet its goal. Due to Michael Govan’s ego and shortsightedness, the LACMA campus has lost the May Co. building to the museum for cinematic history and with it, all room for future expansion at its current site. Now, due to reporting in the LA Times and NOT because Mr. Govan has informed members or the public, we find that the Zumthor building has shrunk from its already inadequate design (which was so specific and self-contained that it would never have allowed for future expansion in the first place) and will not be able to house and display the museum’s collection as planned. Mr. Govan now proposes “satellite campuses” in other parts of the city, ignoring the purpose of the Metro stop going in immediately across the street to allow museum access from all parts of the city while avoiding driving. He also proposes paying rent in perpetuity to house curators and staff in an office building across the street…. but he still wants the Board of Supervisors to approve the vast amount of money allocated for the larger building to build the smaller one, one that no one has seen or approved. In the strongest terms, I urge the Board of Supervisors not to do so. This is a flawed plan made more so and a dupe to the Board of Supervisors, to the public, to members, and to the collectors who have so generously donated their works of art. The current plan should not go forward. – S.H., LACMA member for decades
Please vote against the destruction of the LACMA buildings and the reduction of display space. The destruction merely plays into the L.A. stereotype that new is better than functional or cost‐effective. -C.H.
Possibly most disturbing to me is what I gleaned from Michael Govan’s op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. That was an attitude he exhibited front and center. The attitude was that since most of the money was private money, they get to do what they want. Oh no, I say. This is a public piece of land, a public museum and our County’s museum. It is not just your little toy for you and your rich friends…. The renderings are misleading at best. The transparency of the raised single level is not how glass looks in the daylight unless it has a curtain, shade or other lighter surface behind it…. So what will the building really look like? – A.Z., architect
One story? Less exhibition space? Let’s get this right. Examine the existing assumptions instead of just proceeding with this latest compromised plan. -M.T.
As you know, we have a huge homeless problem in this County and I think taxpayer funds should go towards solving that problem first. The art work isn’t going anywhere and doesn’t need a new home nearly as badly as the homeless do. -A.P.
In advance of the Metro and the 2028 Olympic Games, let’s not squander the opportunity to update the heart of LA with stunning new architecture that is architecturally DIVERSE, representative of the diversity LA represents to its residents and the rest of the world. Let’s embrace the future! I first had reservations about the Peterson Auto Museum, but now with the Academy Museum, I’m starting to see an urban landscape that is architecturally as diverse as LA is and I think is wonderful! I hope you will support the plans to updating LACMA into the world class development it is destined to be! -T.T., museum neighbor and LACMA member
I would like to voice my enthusiastic support for the certification and taking all steps necessary to get the new LACMA plan going forward at full speed. Every neighbor and business associate I know and speak with is excited about being nearby to such an exciting and much needed transformation. -C.L., realtor
I am in full support of the museum’s renovation. -R.S., museum neighbor
You are s00000 lucky to have this project in LA! I can’t believe it and can’t wait to hopefully hear the positive news soon that this building is in best progress! -J.D., Berlin
Please stay the course and do [not] waiver from Zumthor and Michael Govan’s vision. About ten years ago I had the pleasure of spending a week at Zumthor’s Therme Vals Spa in Switzerland The intensity of the building, its emotional and spiritual impact, its grandeur and integration with nature, was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced within a man-made structure. When this LACMA project is completed, I promise you Zumthor’s building will draw international crowds, acclaim, and stimulate deep, meaningful engagement within the space. It will be the crown jewel of our fair city.The building will be here long after we’re all gone, a reminder to our ancestors that Los Angeles is one of the greatest cities in the world. The architect, Daniel Libeskind wrote, “Architecture is the biggest unwritten document of history.” You, dear Board of Supervisors, will become part of that history. Bold, brilliant ideas can make people uncomfortable. Visionaries make people uncomfortable, but you must take the long view. I don’t see any of Christopher Knight’s criticisms as problems, only noise. Please rise above that noise and follow your hearts. Release the funds for LACMA’s new home and allow Zumthor and Govan to complete their vision! -M.D.
April 4 Emails:
“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. -Sam Hall Kaplan, architecture critic
I am writing to beg you not to vote for the destruction of the current LACMA campus, including its historically significant William Pereira buildings, in favor of a proposed structure that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, that will require the closing of LACMA for years, and that is architecturally impractical, unsuitable and incoherent. -Fred Bernstein, architecture critic
I fully support LACMA’s new building and its investment in our community and Los Angeles’ future. Our business and community organization has worked and continues to work to ensure that Miracle Mile remains a neighborhood of innovation and advancement of new approaches to culture and commerce. LACMA’s latest plans for its east campus not only continues that tradition, it strengthens the area’s credentials as the cultural center of the region. With the coming of the Purple Line extension at Wilshire & Fairfax, Miracle Mile will become a more accessible and attractive destination for all of our museums and businesses…. -Stephen Kramer, President, Greater Miracle Mile Chamber of Commerce
Do it for LACMA, Do it for us! You have the opportunity to make history and be part of the movement that will change the way “We” the citizens and residents of the Los Angeles County will see and appreciate art for the rest of our lives. I am writing to you in a effort to show my support and ask for yours as well, to a project that will change the way we are seen in the world, that will change the appreciation for art and architecture, a project that will attract the new generations some of them disconnected from art and culture, and will bring them back to an intelligent and spiritual appreciation of art. Please, support the LACMA project and help us reach the goal for financing what will be the most amazing transformation the County has ever seen. -G.C., realtor
I want to show my support for the new LACMA proposed building, this will be a great asset to our city and the City and County of Los Angeles. Please support this great new County Asset on par with the architectural recognition of the Disney Concert Hall. -A.G.
The Museum does need more gallery space for its permanent collection. To cut both the gallery space and replace the current Bing Auditorium with a hall that will have substantially fewer seats is a travesty and a serious misuse of taxpayer money. – B.V., LACMA member for three decades
Starchitecture is “nice to have” but not absolutely necessary. Curators and display space are absolutely necessary… LA is a multi-cultural place that belongs to North America and Latin America and the Pacific Rim. LACMA has fantastic collections of art from around the world, but especially from places where we have significant immigrant populations. I love going to the museum and watching kids looking at well-curated objects from their grandparents’ cultures. This is a really important function of a public museum. Families should be able to see something from all cultures at all times. Display space for the permanent collection is important for our LA culture. I donated to the LACMA expansion effort in the 1990s but not the amoeba because the blocky 1990s proposal would have displayed all world regions equally. It would have put time along the long axis, and then grouped objects by world region along the cross axis. It would have been a fantastic learning experience to explore regions or times, or both. The blocky building would also have been cheaper and provided more staff and storage space. The second reason why I believe you should withhold funds from LACMA is because of the curious decision to fold the American art department inside the European art department and to lay off or reassign the staff. This decision reinforces white supremacy. We are a multi-cultural nation and city. We are not all European! This is an insult to non-European Angelenos. (My husband, who is European American, says it’s insulting to his intelligence to suggest that America is part of Europe.) LACMA used to have many wonderful curators that highlighted art and educated the public about art and makers that represented all the cultures that make up our city. We need to support the curators and staff that are the heart of LACMA. Tell LACMA to draw up a plan that works and is cheaper. Then, and only then, can they have our tax money. If we get a new director that respects their staff and spends time with Angelenos that are not white and aren’t billionaires, I may donate to them again. -G.P., LACMA donor
You have the opportunity to allow more time for review and discussion before irreversible demolition occurs and replaced by a smaller museum space. -G.D.
I recognize the tremendous benefits this project will bring to our community. I very much look forward to the improved park space, the unique architecture by Peter Zumthor, and all of the new museum programs and exhibit we can visit when the project receives approval to move forward. -K.C., museum neighbor
I am writing to express my firm support of the new museum. I moved to this location in part because of the new expansion. 10 years ago, I lived nearby and had no idea that there was a big museum where LACMA is because the current buildings are so non-descript and boring. Once I moved across the street I can see how the older buildings are literally falling apart with parts of the outside wall breaking off. I would have liked the museum to be bigger, but I still am in firm support of the current proposal because I think it will be an iconic building and it will do wonders for the neighborhood. And more than anything else, it is better than what is there. -J.A., museum neighbor
Press Clips: April 5, 2019 – Publication of “LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini, Los Angeles Review of Books
April 5 Emails:
I am the author of “LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” published online today in the Los Angeles Review of Books. I am a former architecture critic of The New York Times and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. Numerous people suggested I send you a copy of my piece, including curators working within LACMA, who are all very concerned about the impending possibility that the Board of Supervisors might vote to fund the project. I urge you to read the article to learn a story that has not otherwise been told in its full complexity. I mention you in the piece. I would be happy to discuss the issues. I pay taxes in Los Angeles County; I am a native Angeleno; and I care deeply about what happens to our premier museum. -Joseph Giovannini, architecture critic and concerned citizen
Please delay any action on the LACMA project until all questions about the wisdom and financial feasibility of this public project have been satisfied. I am writing to you today to express my deep concern about the Los Angeles County Museum of Art project, an extravagant and ill-conceived project from the start. And as it “evolves”, it seems increasingly problematic. The article in the LA Times yesterday details many of the changes to the plan, which involves a $125 million public investment. First, from a design perspective—a freeway-like bridge spanning Wilshire Blvd., hovering above the landscape in a particularly unfriendly way, seems like a severe design misjudgment—a gifted architect who has somehow lost his way in a process that has had no public input. Secondly, from a museum and program perspective, the building reduces the amount of gallery space — and is configured in such a way that it cannot be expanded to meet future needs. Thirdly, the assumption that a museum must be on a single level—a particular obsession of Director Govan—cannot be supported if one has any experience visiting the great museums of the world. Fourthly, the appropriation of museum property on the south side of Wilshire for the museum building, a site that could otherwise be used for income-producing purposes to help support the operational and capital needs of LACMA. Is the current plan financially responsible and sustainable? As a taxpayer and resident of the Third District, I urge you to ask hard questions before irreversible damage is done to one of most cherished public cultural institutions. I am a long-time supporter of LACMA and its mission—but not of the current project at hand. – Margaret Bach, founding President LA Conservancy
I hope the supervisor will oppose releasing any funds to LACMA’s building plan until the museum is committed to expanding in response to a routine assessment of LACMA’s institutional needs. How can LACMA more meaningfully address the fullness of art history—and better include the histories of long-marginalized peoples—when it hasn’t conducted even the vaguest internal process to assess how it might do so. When a museum is asking for once-in-a-generation funds, those funds should go toward growing the institution’s ability to fulfill its mission. Instead, LACMA is proposing we pay for it to become, as Knight called it, the Incredible Shrinking Museum. – Tyler Green, art critic and historian
This major step for LACMA and the community has my full support and its my hope that you and your Colleagues share my enthusiasm and approve the project. The current plan has evolved over many years and represents the best and most creative solution to displaying the museum’s highly regarded permanent collection. Best practices for museum design have been incorporated throughout, enabling visitors to have an accessible, horizontal pathway through the exhibit space, and to view and experience cultural narratives in new and valuable ways. This is an ambitious, iconic, and transformational step for the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art that will enable the Museum to continue to serve the varied tapestry of cultures and communities in Los Angeles County… Our future expansion might be best pursued not on our Wilshire campus, but rather in the communities throughout Los Angeles where we intend to bring our art collection to future satellite locations. The new building will put LACMA in the forefront of museum design and operation, and together with planned spaces in regional communities, will bring the experience of arts and culture to a new level for visitors from Southern California and the world. LACMA’s campus has evolved over time to accommodate changing needs, and the new building will be another step toward achieving the museum’s objectives. We are grateful at LACMA for the longstanding commitment and support of Los Angeles County. All of us at LACMA look forward to working together to achieve this next major milestone in our growth and ability to serve the Citizens of Los Angeles County. – David Bohnett, LACMA Trustee
While the Times critics may have doubts about LACMA’s new building project, I have nothing but confidence in the museum’s plan and its potential to enrich the lives of all Angelenos. Having seen the evolution of LACMA since its establishment, it breaks my heart to see the condition of the buildings on the east campus, which do not do justice to the museum’s extraordinary collection. Michael Govan’s vision for the new galleries, as well as our plans for satellite locations, are the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that an institution as vital as LACMA needs; and the generosity that has been shown to realize this project is unprecedented. I look forward to the day LACMA’s new galleries open, and the public experiences one of the world’s great museum collections in the kind of home it—and Los Angeles—deserves. – Janet Dreisen Rappaport, LACMA trustee
LACMA’s new building will be a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, and it reflects a decade of very careful thought and planning. The museum’s mission will be advanced through the design and activation of both interior and exterior space, and I expect the museum to achieve its wholistic vision as a result. -Kerry Brougher, Academy Museum Director
We in the Building Trades are proud of our highly skilled workforce and our ability to meet any building challenge. As you may know, we are also building the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the nearby Metro Purple Line extension. The LACMA project will contribute to investment in and the revitalization of the Miracle Mile area. This area, and the museum will be served by a new public transit system that benefits all in reducing car trips. The project will also provide an opportunity to create many new careers in the construction industry for men and women who live in the local community and contribute to the local economy. This project is a great investment in Los Angeles’ future and deserves your support. -Ron Miller, Exec. Secretary, LA/OC Building Trades Council
As an architect, I believe the building will enhance the experience of visitors and make a powerful statement on the relationship between use and design. I understand the concern some may have about the loss of existing buildings, but it is important to remember that they have deteriorated over time and would demand greater funding than a new building to upgrade. Most importantly, the existing buildings are no longer attuned to the museum’s mission. Architecture, as with other schools of creative thought, has evolved, and the proposed new building reflects changes in thinking about design as well as the theory behind museum exhibitions. The new building will permit visitors to absorb and understand cultural and artistic concepts in a linear fashion, providing greater access and greater flexibility. The new building site planning will powerfully change the La Brea Tar pits campus. It will, in my view, open the park to Wilshire boulevard and encourage connectivity between LACMA, The Natural History and its newest neighbor AMPAS. The building will become a remarkable statement for museum design and will position Los Angeles as a leader. I hope you will approve the project and help to keep Los Angeles among the leaders in areas willing to embrace creativity and expand cultural resources in new and exciting ways. -Scott P. Kelsey, architect and museum neighbor
The gallery spaces are in desperate need of refurbishment, this is undeniable. As a former employee of the museum, it is no exaggeration to say that the place is falling apart. However, demolition by neglect is a false crisis produced by years of mismanagement. Offering a solution to a self-inflicted problem should not be mistaken for good leadership. -O.P., former LACMA employee
I fear that this plan will saddle Los Angeles with an unsustainable white elephant that will damage the cultural community forever. LACMA is the city’s public museum, but they have not acted in a way that feels remotely democratic or transparent. This architect was announced with no input and the way details are being released show that the museum is not interested in having a conversation with the public. We should not spend this vast amount of money for a design we had no input in and is anything less than excellent. As our public museum, they need to be held accountable to us and this is our one opportunity to do so. I urge the supervisor to reject this scheme and suggest LACMA uses the money they have raised to refurbish their property and develop an alternative proposal. There is no sense in rushing towards mediocrity; we only have one chance to get this right. -C.M., former LACMA employee
I have worked for museums and on cultural projects in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years and am reluctant to see arts-related funding stalled, but the information cited in the recent article by Joseph Giovannini should be reviewed before any county funds are handed over. Mistakes in reports are a common occurrence, but on the surface this seems to be an effort to hide the facts. -D.F., museum professional
I have always considered the museum to be a neighborhood asset. That will no longer be the case if this is built. Many people in this area feel this way. -R.W., museum neighbor
Reducing the size of the exhibition space is unthinkable. It makes no sense. -L.B.
I am deeply opposed to the plan to redo LACMA. It will shrink the museum and limit the gallery spaces to unacceptable sizes. It’s a bad plan for our city’s most important museum. -B.H.
The new LACMA design is an expensive waste of money, buildings and real estate. By the time it’s all done, the County museum will be out of land and very deeply in debt. Scrap this idea and expand LACMA, not shrink it! -J.G.
I also disapprove of the raised single-level design of the museum. Why is the building raised off of the ground? That makes LACMA appear to be elitist—the museum then comes across as being above the people on the street below. As a County museum that is supposed to be for all Angelenos, the building should appear to be inviting and accessible to Angelenos, not a closed-off, raised, inaccessible fortress. I believe this proposed design is completely misguided, and I urge you to vote against it as currently proposed. -J.H., LACMA member
I urge you to oppose Michael Govan’s LACMA Plan which would: 1) REDUCE the total square footage of the museum’s gallery/exhibition space at an enormous cost, 2) DEMOLISH the mid-century modern… buildings by one of the 20th Century’s greatest architects, William Pereira, 3) WASTE museum resources to construct a Wilshire Blvd.-spanning building by Peter Zumthor, who has no experience in projects of this scale, and who seems to place atmospheric architecture at a higher priority than housing the public trust that is the County’s art collection. -D.G.
This project has lost its way. Spending all this money and ending up with fewer square feet of gallery space is a terrible waste of resources. In addition the new building is no better architecturally than the ones proposed to be replaced. Please vote to send them back to the beginning. -A.S., LACMA member
Please read [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] before voting on the LA County appropriation for LACMA. The project needs to be reconsidered. -A.H.
Over the many years of various proposed expansion studies, including the current one, I have never seen any objective analysis or study, indicating what is in the best interest of the taxpayer, not the wealthy donors / supporters of these massive projects. In particular, the current plan seems to ignore the value of the existing Pereira Buildings entirely and does not consider the cost comparison to save, upgrade, rehabilitate the existing, only to tear down and replace with new. How is this process and current plan in the best interest of the taxpayer, without a side by side study to consider best value to the taxpayer?… It appears that what is currently proposed is paying more and getting less. Why can’t saving the existing Pereira buildings be considered again? I urge a NO VOTE on the current incomplete study for the LACMA expansion, until it’s demonstrated what provides the best value to the taxpayer. – A.M., construction project manager
The proposed building will will provide less space at great cost and has been.criticized by many experts. I am sure another solution can be found that will be more successful in addressing LACMA’s future… If built, it will tarnish the reputation of Los Angeles. – M.F.
I had the opportunity to see the building photos, the structure and it is beautiful. Not to mention the addition to the cultural and educational areas our city provides. Please support this initiative and vote Yes for the project. I look forward to see the approval soon and be able to take my daughters and my wife to the new LACMA building. -A.S
Press Clips: April 6, 2019 – Publication of “LACMA director Michael Govan defends revised design for new museum” by Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
April 6, 2019 – Publication of “LACMA’s new building is visionary — and big enough” op-ed by Michael Govan, the museum’s director, Los Angeles Times
April 6 Emails:
I am an architect that has practiced in Los Angeles for 25 years. I am a great admirer of Architect Peter Zumthor, LACMA and a strong supporter for the arts. I am writing to strongly urge you to reconsider your support of the current plan for the new LACMA building. While every museum expansion project has its naysayers and critics, the Michael Govan/Zumthor plan is so fundamentally flawed in its current design, that it is an unjust and unnecessary waste of taxpayer dollars. A new building should improve upon the previous facility. It should be beautiful, but also increase functionality and add value. The proposed design may be beautiful, however, it fails to address the fundamental need for adding more space for the museum’s ever growing collection. In fact, the proposed new building actually reduces the size from the existing LACMA facilities. Having a Zumthor designed building is good for Los Angeles, but not such a extraordinary cost and a reduction in size of the current museum. Spending $650 mil on a project that reduces the size of the current museum is not a good deal for the taxpayers. I urge you to read [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovanni, which] details many of the fundamental flaws of the proposed design. While I am a supporter to improve LACMA facilities, I urge you to vote NO to approve any further taxpayer/County funds for this project in its current form. At a minimum, alternatives need to be explored that better utilize some of the most valuable real estate in Los Angeles County and add much needed area to the current LACMA facilities. – Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, BROOKS + SCARPA
As you have to decide on Peter Zumthor’s design for the new LACMA building I would like to share my experience with Peter’s work. My first contact with his work was, when Peter Zumthor presented his design for the new Therme Vals spa in the Swiss alps, back in 1995. He showed his design during a lecture at the University of Fine Arts in Berlin. His idea was all about working with the local materials—building a space that would perfectly fit into the surrounding mountains and lawns. Later he was commissioned to build the “Topographie des Tenors”—a museum commemorating the Nazi past of Germany in Berlin. It was not built in his design, but it would have been an extraordinary benefit for the city. The concept for the structure was very innovative and artful. I still regret that it isn’t there, now. The museum he built in Cologne, Germany is a milestone of creating space for the arts. Noble and yet very accessible the building is a place where you experience the religious art that is presented there in a welcoming and also intimate surrounding. Walking though there makes you really get in touch with the objects and the idea behind them. I believe Peter always finds a way to match his designs withe local environment and also, most importantly, with the given assignment. He will present the right answer for the task. LA would be very lucky to have one of his extraordinary works.- Lutz Artmann, architect, Berlin
The upcoming vote for the LACMA building should be reviewed with the following grave points of concern considered. This massively expensive project shall reduce gross gallery square space by 37% and linear display footage by 53%. [It] will be a travesty for the future arts and exhibitions in the city and county of Los Angeles. -F.C.
We have wasted enough money developing this proposal & it’s now time to drop it. -F.B.
The new design for LACMA has many serious flaws and the taxpayers of our county should not be burdened with paying for what seems to be a vanity project that does very little to enhance the museum or its collection. -V.D.
I totally support the construction of LACMA Bldg. -B.B.
For over 50 years LACMA has been a part of my entire life. There would be nothing more exciting than to see LACMA get the improvements that would make it one of the most special and important, as well as architecturally significant cultural centers in the world. -S.A., realtor
I hope you will vote against this wrongheaded plan to reduce the gallery space in the new building. This is the wrong approach, and needs to go back to the drawing board. -M.T.
I am opposed to spending a dime on the LACMA proposal, Peter Zumthor design. -C.B., Architect
I love art, do art, etc. But do we really need to spend $$$$$ on a new museum when we need mental hospitals and care for the homeless? It just seems heartless and reckless at this point when the museum building we have is FINE. Did they build a new Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York because it was dated 70 years after it was built? LA wants to be a leader in art institutions. That’s all well and good. But my cultural friends from NYC only comment on the homeless camping near residential streets on the westside. I urge you to vote no. Let’s spend our money on helping those who need it. -C.L.
I respectfully request a “NO” vote on the latest LACMA design — it is architecturally boring, too small (and with no possibility of expansion), without room for Conservation on site, and completely unsuited for a new home for a very fine permanent collection. -J.S.
The plans for the new LACMA are outrageous and financially profligate. We’re getting less space for more money. Govan’s idea for satellite museums idea is absurd. Even more driving in LA to get where we want to go? The glass facade is not workable. It’s a total waste of space and resources. Please stop this madness! Or at the very least ask tougher questions about this mess! -S.J.
We have to figure out why we should demolish our existing buildings and pay big bucks for a smaller museum that looks like a desert airport terminal. -P.D.
Please get involved with stopping the downsizing of LACMA. Exhibition space must be maintained. The architects need to go back to the drawing board. This building is ugly. -R.B.
Considerably less space, tepid architectural design and Mr. Govan’s defensive and inauthentic explanations have made me doubt the project’s merits. Something this important needs more thought. -H.S., LACMA lifetime member
I strongly urge the Supervisors to vote NO on Tuesday! Too little space, too much money, ugly building. – L.M., LACMA lifetime member
I want to register my strong displeasure at “Govan’s Folly”… this ugly ego trip, the new LACMA…. I understand that more room is needed for the vast collections. However, can’t an annex be built elsewhere? The current campus feels wonderful to me, with the outdoor walkways and performance spaces. Tearing down LACMA is, to me, just plain stupid. Amsterdam didn’t tear down the Rikjsmuseum (which I think is an ugly building); they closed it for a couple of years and renovated it… I do not want one penny of my money, as a taxpayer, to go toward this project. -F.S.
PLEASE, PLEASE read [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] before voting on the LACMA funding. I personally am horrified by all this. None of it makes any sense to me. Tearing down what we have to build something smaller? With no plan on expansion? And has anyone thought about how vulnerable a bridge would be over Wilshire? Think of it — a tractor trailer smashes into the side of it and sets the thing on fire…and what about the potential for a bomb? Certainly easier than parking in a garage. -S.S.
April 7 Emails:
Lengthy statement of opposition submitted on behalf of the Miracle Mile Residential Association, excerpted here.
Attached is a cogent and devastating link [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture”] to the shrinking LACMA museum and the ludicrous “design” decisions to arrive at a silly white elephant by now glorified Wilshire Blvd overpass. I knew the overpass design was dumb but the article is tragic. This needs a full time out. A full review before you vote… Please give this insane overpriced vanity obsession a time out! 90 Days minimum! – David Luce, Professor Illustration, Art Center College of Design
Dear Supervisor Kuehl, I am an architect and live in the Los Feliz area in your district. I would first like to thank you for all you have done for the people of Los Angeles, in particular, those who are low income, senior, and/or disabled. We worked together on Rent Control and affordable housing projects when I was the Director of Housing and Rent Control for the City of West Hollywood. I am writing today to express my concern and opposition to the LACMA project as planned. As this project has received a great deal of feedback in recent days, I will be brief and state my three main concerns.
1. The bridge over Wilshire Boulevard will be a huge mistake. The bridge will destroy the most significant thoroughfare in Los Angeles. The street is defined by major buildings such as religious structures, museums, commercial buildings, and residences. It provides a clear path through the City and the region and is characterized by buildings, sidewalks, parkways, and of course, lanes for cars and parking. Nowhere is it broken by overpasses or bridges. The project will create a dark corridor for cars to pass through and will ruin the aesthetic of Wilshire Boulevard. The Final EIR doesn’t adequately address this. You should go once again to the bridge over Olive Street at California Plaza to see the effect this will have. Many have noted that the building looks like a rest stop off a highway in Italy and, indeed, that was my first response. The bridge over Wilshire Boulevard should be removed from the project.
2. The project is lifted up above the ground plane. I believe that this is intended to create more usable open space but, in the end, it will only provide cold, dark space that will not be used.
3. The project destroys the existing buildings. These buildings are important assets. They can easily be reused with some intelligent planning. It would be a shame to tear down buildings that are historic resources and also environmentally unfavorable.
I have great admiration for the architect Peter Zumthor. However, I believe that his response to this project was hasty and the refusal to reconsider the design arrogant. I urge you to vote against the funding for this project in its present form. The people of Los Angeles and the art world deserve better than this. – Allyne Winderman, FAIA, architect, urban designer, community advocate and educator
I urge you to vote “no” on allocating county funds for this project, at least until the project meets standard requirements. These include:
1. an open, transparent competition for architectural proposals by experienced architects;
2. a professional review of the budget and an inquiry into why the architect was paid many millions of dollars for a hazy, ever-changing plan;
3. a plan outlining how the county will subsidize LACMA’s huge debt, estimated at $643 million;
4. how and why the May Company site, a significant asset, was leased at a shocking below-market rate.
The Govan-Zumthor plan has been rammed through without adequate supervision and, alarmingly, with deceptive facts. To shrink the size of the largest encyclopedic museum west of the Mississippi is a grave error and will be a burden to the county and its taxpayers. As an art dealer, I am familiar with the role museums play in the art world and I know many collectors who will think twice before giving any artwork to a museum that has no exhibition space for its permanent collections and sketchy plans for exhibiting its holdings. LACMA depends on generous donations, which will certainly shrink if this senseless plan is implemented. No collector wants his/her collection hidden in storage or shown bit by bit every so often, if at all. Los Angeles deserves a world-class museum, certainly not one that downsizes, and absolutely not one that is based on faulty, unsound ideas about museums and museum-goers. Govan’s insistence on “horizontality” is absurd. He certainly knows that the Musee D’Orsay, one of the greatest in the world, has five floors! The Pompidou Center has ten! The Tate Modern has six! (And of course, other great museums have multiple floors as well.) Escalators and/or elevators have never interfered with museum visitors viewing art on multiple floors. We need a museum that can vie with other world-class museums! The current plan ensures nothing but scorn, criticism and failure. -Steve Turner, gallerist
1). The gallery plan is monotonous
2). The structure only supplies one eye view of gallery spaces
3) the development of this project and architect choice was never made public until after the fact.
4) the architect has no sense of our changing city and has never designed a major art museum and is not in touch with
the vast needs of art display trends or development.
5) most importantly there is no room for expansion upward in this vast space and Los Angeles cannot afford to ignore
the need for vertical expansion any longer.
6) the idea of spreading the artwork to our different areas is great, but this should be done in line with looking at how
the main structure can accommodate growth and centralized research needs.
7) I’m afraid that the current design represents Govan’s desire for a personal legacy which is out of touch with his own city and artist and public community.
8) the project should be stopped and rethought with professional and public insight, It should not be considered a done deal no matter how much money has been spent so far. We need to think of how we navigate in this city now and into the future and not create a time-frozen Palm Springs monolith. -Lisa Bloomfield, Los Angeles artist with work in LACMA’s collection
Right now we have a wonderfully eccentric group of buildings that have organically grown to create intimate open spaces, courtyards and access and ingress both from the park and two major boulevards. Can it be improved? Of course, but don’t knock it down and start again! Govan has lost touch with what a museum should be and instead is hell bent on something to assuage his ego. PLEASE VOTE AGAINST THE NEW LACMA PLAN. – C.M.
Having worked at LACMA for over 16 years, I’m asking you to vote NO on this project. Everyone involved in this project knows this expansion will not befit the people of Los Angeles who will be ultimately footing the bill. The plan is to remove the encyclopedic art program which includes European, Ancient, Asian, pre-Columbian, South and South East Asian. This violates LACMA’s mission in addition to many of the agreements set forth with our donors for these collections. Please do research before casting your vote: LACMA’s mission is to serve the public through the collection, conservation, exhibition, and interpretation of significant works of art from a broad range of cultures and historical periods, and through the translation of these collections into meaningful educational, aesthetic, intellectual, and cultural experiences for the widest array of audiences. [Attached to this email is a copy of MATT Construction’s ebook about planning a museum capital campaign]-LACMA Employee
Please force Michael Govan and the LACMA board of trustees to hold an open meeting for LACMA members who wish to be involved with this crucial… decision about the future of LACMA. We LACMA members would like an open meeting held on some Saturday or Sunday in Bing auditorium starting at 10am and going all day with Michael Govan and LACMA trustees in attendance on stage with two microphones open to enable LACMA members present in the audience to express their concerns… and ask questions of Govan and LACMA trustees. Please force Michael Govan to be inclusive of LACMA members who have been deliberately excluded entirely from participation in plans for the future of LACMA. I have attended all the so-called public meetings held by LACMA. At all of these meetings Michael Govan opened the meeting with a short speech and then literally ran away refusing to take or answer questions from the LACMA members and general public present. We were told to ask questions [of] volunteers sitting at various tables. -E.A., LACMA member
LACMA is wonderful the way it is. This new design is a waste of resources, not attractive, and a generator of greenhouse gasses from the new construction effort. Why do we need a new LACMA building? Do a little maintenance on the existing structure and everything is great. Please. -S.T.
Whether you like their design or not, it is crucial to retain the Pereira buildings at the County Art Museum as they are a significant example of mid-century architecture. -P.M.
The diminution of gallery space in the revised plans are an abomination. Why redesign the museum if you are not going to expand it, especially for more participation by the community that will naturally increase due to the subway expansion and the surrounding museums? Especially questionable is the loss of the Bing Auditorium, with a capacity of 600, which is the center of wonderful music concerts free to the public for over 25 years in the Sundays Live! program (full disclosure: I have been a financial supporter of it for a while now). The replacement auditorium will be HALF that capacity. And I can see with that a frustration for older citizens and those who cannot afford other classical venues in town: 300 seats will mean eventually either using admission to limit the attendance or shutting many people out every week. In short, the museum director and the Board have only their egos and their connection to the developers of the city and county in mind, not the citizens of the county. Please take this into consideration when, as I hope you do, you ask the powers that be to reconsider their plans and keep the community in mind, rather than succumbing to the pressure of the “sunk costs”; nothing has been demolished yet. -T.L., LACMA donor
Please do not vote to give funds to LACMA. I think Mr. Govan is way over his head and has gone astray. -J.Q., journalist, art collector
In 2014 when I first saw the “tar pit” design of the new building I was skeptical – it seemed to make the same mistake that the Guggenheim in NYC didIn 2014 when I first saw the “tar pit” design of the new building I was skeptical – it seemed to make the same mistake that the Guggenheim in NYC did—where is the room for the art, storage, offices? After reading the latest last-ditch articles I am very uncomfortable with the direction the project has taken. If there is any way to pause at this point to reconsider how this cultural gem will be treated let us please take it. -N.O., LACMA memberwhere is the room for the art, storage, offices? After reading the latest last-ditch articles I am very uncomfortable with the direction the project has taken. If there is any way to pause at this point to reconsider how this cultural gem will be treated let us please take it. -N.O., LACMA member
Please take a very long hard look at the LACMA plan for the Ill-suited Zumthor building. It will be an expensive disaster for Los Angeles and for the arts. – C.C.
I write to you to plead that your board turn down the LACMA request. The architectural plan is terrible—and spending millions and getting LESS space in a building that would always be a problem would be just awful. Please don’t make a mistake! -J.N.
The original William Pereira buildings are iconic structures in LA and represent a glorious time of rebirth and expansion in our city…. It is not only a waste to demolish them, but also an unfortunate re-envisioning of the original design. Please vote to save the Pereira buildings and keep LACMA strictly on the North side of Wilshire Blvd. -J.B., concerned citizen
This is a plea from one very concerned museum lover who has spilled tears while watching LACMA put their collection into storage, close one building after another, and raise entrance & parking fees whilst offering less for the visitor. Here is a link to a very significant article [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] of what is really happening and why we all need to pay attention and help STOP this Zumthor designed building NOW! SAVE OUR MUSEUM FROM ANOTHER MISTAKE -K.G.
I remember when the museum first opened, and how beautiful it was. This is just a disastrous plan, and it will probably cost a billion dollars by the time it’s finished. -D.R.
The changes being proposed are not in the best interest of Los Angeles or the larger art world. The museum needs more exhibition space, not LESS. The proposed plan is reckless and shortsighted. – T.C., interior designer
At a time when our communities are requiring developers to build higher to accommodate more housing, how is it that the County is proposing such an epic waste of real estate, gallery space and our hard earned tax dollars? – L.H., West Hollywood Resident
Love you, DO NOT love the new LACMA design. It is an ill-conceived M Govan vanity project that puts the needs of the art too far down the list. Please do not let anymore taxpayer money be wasted on this slow-speed train wreck. -N.P.
The brakes need for now to be put on this project until such time as a full disclosure from Mr. Govan & his Board can show the true impact of what this demolition and replacement will be on the community as well as the security of the LACMA collection. For all the glib press releases, this has not been done. The proposed new building is woefully inadequate not only in terms of whatever Mr. Govan has in mind curatorially but also in such “non-glamorous” practical matters as conservation, transportation, storage and the security of art in the LACMA collection. The Museum curators and staff have never been consulted…. though private equity is purportedly covering the lion’s share, for the remainder, until this debate is held openly and not considered a fait accompli, this will assuredly wind up being a waste of taxpayer’s money. – R.D., arts professional
I hope you will read [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] and think long and hard before you support the LACMA plan. -L.M.
This new plan seems counter to all that the County wants for its citizens. To cut the exhibit space would be a crime. This plan would cut the heart out of the Museum and at tremendous expense. Please take a long and hard look at this proposal before you decide and I hope you will agree with me that this is the wrong plan for our County. – K.S., LACMA patron and museum neighbor
I have attended public hearings and follow the progress of this important project serving the peoples of Southern California. Moreover, I am fortunate to travel and I am especially keen on visiting museums and cultural venues. The project put forth by Mr. Govan and his team is consistent with the level of world class centers. -W.M.
I was stunned to learn that the building that will replace LACMA has never undergone the kind of bidding process that always accompanies important civic construction projects. Surely the plans to build the new LACMA should be open to the same world-class competition as, well, the new bridge that will span the LA River. When the 6th Street Bridge was demolished a few years back, top architectural firms vied for the privilege of replacing it. LACMA deserves no less. Please do your job and send the museum’s director back to the drawing board, to give us the choices our city and the tax payers deserve. -D.B.
Press Clips: April 8, 2019 – Publication of “LACMA should scrap its watered-down redesign” by Alissa Walker and Alexandra Lange, Curbed Los Angeles
April 8, 2019 – Publication of “Zumthor’s Incredibly Shrinking Plan for the LA County Museum of Art” by Joseph Giovannini, Architectural Record
April 8, 2019 – Publication of “Dear L.A. County: Reject the LACMA redesign plan and go back to the drawing board” by Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times
April 8, 2019 – Publication of “What L.A. County Supervisors Should Do on Tuesday (IMHO)” by William Poundstone, Los Angeles County Museum on Fire
April 8, 2019 – Publication of “A train wreck in slow motion? Why LACMA’s new building is an impending disaster” by Joseph Giovannini, The Art Newspaper
April 8, 2019 – Publication of “LACMA: A Museum Locked Out of Its Own Future” by Miracle Mile Residential Association, CityWatch LA
April 8, 2019 – Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the project, tweets link to Michael Govan’s April 6 op-ed.
April 8 Emails:
Lengthy statement of opposition submitted on behalf of Fix The City.
As a retired employee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, I am worried about the plans for its future as outlined in several recent press articles. [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] just published in the online Los Angeles Review of Books seems to be the best informed, and addresses eloquently the reduction in square footage of the proposed building, its extraordinary cost (as well as the costs attached to its running), and more importantly, the negative impact it will have on the cultural life of Angelenos. I hope it will be of interest to you… [Also] Please consider [“LACMA should scrap its watered-down redesign” by Alissa Walker and Alexandra Lange] before voting. – J. Patrice Marandel, Chief Curator Emeritus, LACMA
As a former museum director in Los Angeles, and a member of LACMA, I’ve admired a lot that Michael Govan has accomplished. I have followed the Museum’s expansion plans—to the extent they have been made public—with great interest for the past ten years. But I must tell you that at this juncture, I think you have no justification for approving County funds to pursue the project. As it stand now, the Zumthor scheme has diminished to the point that it falls far short of what LACMA needs to fulfill its responsibilities in the future. Satellite locations are a good idea, but they can’t substitute for what the Wilshire site and the marvelous, growing LACMA collections require: more display space. That is the main thing that new public money ought to be spent for. It is not too late for LACMA to suspend the project and reexamine it, starting with the program they gave the architect. The program is the heart of any successful public building. I believe you would be doing your duty by requiring that they do so. I think it’s certain that a better solution can be found than the one you are being asked to invest in. -John Walsh, Director Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Museum
Could there be anything more foolhardy than building a building to which no additions might be built, which is smaller than the existing buildings, which has no storage or office space and which has little architectural distinction replacing those which have no architectural distinction? Any new building must have the foresight to be designed with the future in mind and should not straight jacket the fashionable ‘now’ for the next generation. I hope that you will have read Giovannini’s impassioned article… and vote for the future and not for the ‘now.’ If this building is built, the gift of real estate made by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to the citizens of LA will have been irretrievably squandered. -Scott Schaefer, Curator Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Museum (and former Curator of European Paintings and Sculpture at LACMA, 1980-1988)
[As a former LACMA curator / department head] I am appalled at the potential destruction of the most prestigious encyclopedic museum in the United States… Mr. Govan’s assertion that people do not visit the permanent collection nor go above the ground floor is specious and flies in the face of ample evidence to the contrary…. LACMA is a treasure that belongs to all the citizens of this county, but creating satellite “venues” with the permanent collection is prohibitively expensive, unrealistic (both logistically and in terms of the time frame required to actually create those venues), and dangerous to the art. They are not a substitute for a central campus…. There are so many things wrong the current plan (and much that is being concealed, distorted or outright lied about) that the approval of contributing our hard-earned tax dollars to this project should be reconsidered. What you see is not what you are going to get. I know that just from an intimate knowledge of the collections, the appropriate functions of a museum and the site.. Please, please reject this proposal as it is seriously flawed, will cost far more than currently projected and will fragment the current encyclopedic collection and ultimately destroy the museum since there is no room for expansion and burden the institution with enormous debt for generations. -Dale Gluckman, former Curator / Head of LACMA’s Department of Costumes and Textiles
We are joining the outcry of suppressed critical voices protesting the profoundly ill-conceived Zumthor-Govan plan for LACMA. We are a couple with professional and scholarly credentials. We have owned a West Hollywood gallery for nearly twenty years. Beverly was on the Arts Commission in WeHo for a dozen years, and a museum Curator and Director; Stuart started his art dealership in Boston over fifty years ago, and has served as a consultant to many museums. In our deeply considered opinion, part of the difficulty Govan has had raising funds comes from the resistance of MANY of our colleagues who are sophisticated professionals, as well as the larger community—all of whom object to Zumthor’s blatantly dysfunctional and inappropriate design. (Moreover, doesn’t it look like a motel on Route 66?!). We endorse Joseph Giovannini’s brilliant long, detailed analysis, and attach it here. PLEASE read it before the vote on Tuesday morning, and PLEASE vote to STOP the Zumthor juggernaut. -Stuart and Beverly Denenberg, arts professionals
I am an architect and planner who dedicated 26 years of his career to public service… I was lucky enough to have been involved in many transformative projects, including Library Square, Disney Hall, and many excellent mixed use and affordable housing developments. In my professional capacity, I was responsible for setting standards for new developments; for reviewing designs prepared by some excellent (and not to excellent) firms to assure that those standards were met; for making sure that any public dollars in these projects were invested wisely; and for assuring that all projects delivered the greatest public benefit. With this background, I am unhappy to report that I have grave concerns about the direction staked out by the director of LACMA for the master plan, whose initial study will be coming for your review tomorrow. Mr. Govan may be a visionary in terms of art and public interaction with it, but the proposal for LACMA would be disastrous for LACMA and the region. Moreover, it would represent a commitment of County funds to a project that would ensnare the County in an ill-advised investment that will add considerable debt while at the same time foreclose opportunities for expansion in the future. I urge you not to approve any further funds for this project until it has been properly peer-reviewed and alternatives explored. -Jeffrey Skorneck, Architect and Planner (CRA/LA, City of West Hollywood)
As a cultural leader in this community for more than 45 years, I can’t help but express my concerns for the well being of LACMA and its future. We owe it to ourselves to be reflective of how a momentary event affects our future. L.A., as you know too well, hasn’t always been forward thinking in some of the biggest decisions in our modern history. I sincerely hope that you’ve read this illuminating report [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] on LACMA’s proposal, as it’s revelatory and the result of considerable research. No vote should be taken until each County Supervisor has had a chance to both read and discuss these clearly stated issues. There are very serious issues raised, not only to the substance of design and impact, but also with the integrity in how this matter has evolved. I might add, that if L.A. is a city of the future, LACMA’s proposed structure is obsolete the day it’s built. There’s no discussion of growth for the future in housing its collection that will continue to expand, while fewer and fewer significant works in its collection have found their way to exhibition space, unseen and merely stored in basements. One other point that isn’t addressed is that the expansive footprint of the proposed museum campus that will almost guarantee that many of the outlying galleries won’t be visited. Try taking someone with limited ability to walk through a huge lateral campus as the one proposed. Building more vertically would offer an opportunity to just take an escalator/elevator or ramp up to see galleries of completely different disciplines. Even now, going from the Broad galleries to the Japanese pavilion is a significant trek. Note the age group of those who are both attendees and benefactors. The current design takes neither the present nor the future into its consideration that this city and its future deserves. – Jack Rutberg, gallerist
Its only purpose seems to be Michael Govan’s effort to mark LACMA with his presence. We acknowledge that he has made some important changes in LACMA in his tenure. But this initiative seems entirely wrong-headed. Please vote against any LA County monetary or other support for it. – Dorothy Braudy (artist and educator) and Leo Braudy (University Professor and Bing Professor of English at the University of Southern California), LACMA members
I have been edified by Michael Govan many times over the years and I watched the LACMA campus grow and attract people in ways unimaginable before Govan. In truth, he transformed our city’s mindset, as well its landscape and flow. But I cannot support the use of County funds for his Zumthor project. His move to take a wrecking ball to certain buildings at LACMA, forcing many paintings and collections into refuge, far from public sight for four years, is shortsighted and from it there is no turning back. Except you do have power right now to say, “hold off.” Let’s reconsider. The Zumthor project has changed. It demands a re-examination. Please do not feel hustled into approving this project. It is not too late. No one will lose face. Above all, Los Angeles will show that it has the mature cultural capacity to seek better solutions. It’s our moment. Your moment. Govan’s moment. Do the right thing. I think Govan is looking for an excuse to delay. -Sasha Anawalt, founding director of the Master’s in Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg and LACMA member
I’m writing in the 11th hour on the eve of the vote on Govan’s re-make of the museum because I believe this an error so serious for the Museum that it calls for last minute review. From the beginning this has been Michael Govan’s idea and no one else’s. It has never been put to a review by the Museum or any external entity because it is based on Govan’s belief that he is a visionary with a sense of entitlement to act alone at a horrendous expense to the Museum. – Lane Barden, photographer with work in LACMA’s Collection, author of The Guerilla in the Room: Govan and Zumthor’s Big Floor plans for LACMA and LACMA Abuses Public Trust in Zumthor Project
I am writing this letter on the eve of what promises to be one of the most momentous and impactful decisions the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will make for many years to come. It is important in both concrete and symbolic terms: concrete because it imposes not simply an expansive, quasi-monumental structure (however spatially limited in physical actuality), upon a critical urban crossroads, but a dramatic restructuring of urban and cultural space on an enormous scale that will impact the lives of everyone who comes within its orbit; symbolic because any decision that impacts the cultural life of a city or region, especially one committed to the collection, preservation, and history of its art and culture carries enormous symbolic value. Beyond issues of taste or aesthetics, it becomes emblematic of our regard and respect for history, of our values, our ethos. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN TRANSPARENCY IN THE DESIGN PROCESS, MUCH LESS
CONSTRUCTION ACCOUNTING OR FUNDRAISING. A FORENSIC ACCOUNTING SHOULD BE
ORDERED. From the onset, the plans being submitted for the demolition of the east campus of LACMA and design and construction of a new enveloping museum edifice have been shrouded in mystery, or more precisely, mystique: Michael Govan’s charismatic appeal to his expanding Board of Trustees and largely captive audience. Mr. Govan was brought to LACMA to be a builder, and after shepherding the Piano designed BCAM to its completion, it was expected that he would begin to tackle the redesign of the east campus. What we didn’t realize was that Mr. Govan brought a Trojan Horse with him. I don’t simply mean his tastes, aesthetic preferences and native design biases; we already had some inkling of that. I mean a flattened-out, hollowed-out space he would somehow persuade Peter Zumthor to design. Then in 2009, Mr. Zumthor was awarded the Pritzker Prize, which was apparently all the confirmation Michael Govan needed to seal his vision. What was initially astonishing about that ‘vision’ was just how backward-looking it was. I was always a fan of The Jetsons as a child (then, too, I was a fan of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Frick); but a single story??? Still I—along with many of my press colleagues both at ARTILLERY, and other publications, were open to considering such a model. We kept waiting for the interior modeling, digital virtual tours of these evolving spaces—but they never came. More importantly, though, we kept waiting for alternatives. But after one or two years, it became increasingly clear that there wasn’t going to be one. We continued to be mystified by Govan’s horizontal, single-story obsession, even though at one point, he had the design punctured by a dozen 2- and 3-story galleries. And then there was the escalating price, which could only go higher over time. (This was clear even before we broke down costs per square foot and infrastructure and new operational charges.) “There can be unintended consequences,” I wrote, in one post for AWOL on the ARTILLERY website. “The bottom line is that with Zumthor,” I wrote, “you don’t know what you’re getting until you’ve gotten it – not necessarily a bad idea in theory, if you compare it, say, to a fashion designer working directly off the body of a fit model. The only difference is that a standing human body takes up two or three square feet. Here we’re talking about six acres of prime urban turf in the middle of L.A.’s Wilshire Boulevard, including infrastructure.” And then there is the cost: another $117 million in County funds, a $300 million bond while the Museum will already be burdened with crushing debt and additional operational costs. Whether it’s $425 million, $650 million, or climbing from a billion dollars—these are staggering costs in the context of a city with a decaying infrastructure and where half the population struggles to pay its bills. Is this wise? There were further hiccups along the way: the Perenchio promised donation was one. Christopher Knight’s reporting in the Los Angeles Times told us all we needed to know about the ethics and transparency of the fundraising process that more or less paralleled the lack of transparency in the design process: “When asked whether the deal included any other provisions — especially any related to the art’s display — Govan declined to answer. The document is private.” So a design process that was begun behind closed doors, continued behind closed doors and was only exhibited to the public as Govan saw fit — a single model; no alternatives; and is apparently intended to be buried in the rubble of a demolished east campus. THE ZUMTHOR DESIGN UNDERMINES THE ESSENTIAL MISSION OF AN ENCYCLOPEDIC
MUSEUM. Then there is the issue of Govan’s gutting of the curatorial mission supporting the Permanent Collection and sufficient space to support it. I do not have sufficient time to address this issue in detail. But it amounts to a death blow to the institution.
The question we’re left with ultimately is whether the monuments we build and leave behind over the coming decade will be for this civilization or the next. I have an analogy in mind to address this, but I will leave you with this thought: It is my sincere hope that, with any luck, if this fragile civilization can survive, if the biosphere of this planet can survive, LACMA and its permanent, encyclopedic collections, will continue “unfinished” for many generations to come.
Please feel free to review the journalism published by Lane Barden and myself over the last five years on ARTILLERY’s website. Thank you for your consideration. – Ezrha Jean Black, Staff Writer, ARTILLERY, awol (art without limits)
I am concerned that the proposed project for the County Museum may not deliver the best exhibition space even as it represents a huge expenditure. In the interest of transparency and given the requested contribution of public money, please consider holding an open design contest for this crucial project. -Luca Celada, Hollywood Foreign Press Association
As I read about the process and about the building itself for the proposed new LACMA construction, I remain concerned about what appears a bland design for so important an LA building, about the size given the needs of the collection itself, about the fixation on a single story, about the lack of input from other experts and the public. I hope that there can be further consideration and review before any construction moves forward and hope that you will vote no on the proposal as it stands. -Martha Ronk, Professor Emeritus Occidental College
Dear Mr. Ridley-Thomas: I met you several years ago when I was working on the National Historic Landmark nomination for Village Green in Baldwin Hills. I am a retired architect and I have concerns about the proposed rebuilding of LACMA. On a radio discussion today, people were talking about the comparative square footage of the old buildings and the new building but it was only about the “footprint” of the building. The pictures I’ve seen of the new building show all or most of the perimeter being glass wall, nothing could easily be hung against the glass wall. I’d be interested in the total amount of wall display space the new building would have compared with the existing buildings. I also think the argument for having all the building on one floor level is nonsense. – Robert Nicolais, architect and preservationist
What is really happening here is a architectural rejection of what a great encyclopedic museum can bring to the citizens of LA and of the world. What is really happening here is an architecture redesign and by the back door an associated curatorial redesign that will make encyclopedic museum shows impossible. This is an architecture that is a rejection of curatorial deep expertise in favor of “themes.” This is architecture that does a deep disservice to anyone who loves the depth and breadth of our amazing LACMA collections, appreciates the curatorial expertise that built this collection, and wants to see a future for LACMA that respects all kinds of shows, not just “theme” shows…. The large floor to ceiling window areas cannot be used to display any light sensitive art, which is almost all most art. These areas are possibly pretty to walk through but a disaster as exhibition space. This is LA. We can just walk outside for more natural light. The facile idea that our permanent collections can be “decentralized” all over the city is expensive and impoverishing for the art and the museum goers. It is no plan at all. You have a chance to speak up against this redesign and propose a plan where the citizens of LA get to look at lots of architectural ideas and hear them defended. The future belongs to those who love art, not to the powerful few who want to design architecture that overdetermines “how” we are supposed to love art. Thank you for thinking beyond a powerful museum director to what is best for the art pieces and the citizens of our city. – Consuela G. Metzger, Head UCLA Libra Conservation Center, LACMA member and museum neighbor
Having followed all of the uproar about the redesign of our art museum, I feel that it is important as an art dealer and collector who has visited most major museums in the world to voice my concern about the decision about to be made by the County Supervisors. The proposed new museum may be innovative in design but a poorly reasoned one…. Please disapprove of this model and let’s work for a product that will be innovative, aesthetically pleasing and work as a major museum should with room for growth. – Lois Neiter, art dealer and collector
I’m writing to urge you to vote against the proposed re-design of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I am actually on staff at LACMA and I can tell you that the proposed design is bad for the museum and the public. It reduces the amount of gallery space, includes no office space for staff, no space for public education or research centers, or Conservation. it transforms what has been a multi-use space for the public into what amounts to a private gallery space. For more information and to see a more truthful interpretation of the numbers listed in the Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) please read [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovanni]. LACMA has a world-class, encyclopedic art collection. We need a building that allows it to be seen in its entirety, not through the lens of one Museum Director. We need a building that fits the collection and the staff that works so hard to care for the collection and educate the public. What we don’t need is a building that results in a long list of “work-arounds” to accommodate it—(long term rental space, off-site storage, cutting back staff). I have long believed in Michael Govan’s vision for LACMA. Now I’m realizing he has been sorely misguided. His decision to go with the Zumthor design is more about his love for Zumthor’s work as an artist and architect than it is in his ability to build a functional, pragmatic space for the collection, staff, and the public. We need a building, not a sculpture. It’s not too late to stop this from happening. Please vote no. Thank you. I must sign this “anonymous” for fear that somehow it would come back to LACMA and negatively impact my position there. I have worked there for over 10 years in a high-level position. The morale at LACMA among staff is the lowest I have ever seen it. We all want what’s best for the museum but this is not it. -Anonymous LACMA employee
[Note: the Supervisors received this copy of a letter sent to Christopher Knight at the Los Angeles Times] I also have a 40+ year background in charge of large institutional buildings—hospitals, university related research settings, large retirement communities, etc.—and the thought of replacing buildings that are 50 years old, and younger, makes no sense. Would you replace the Louvre or MOMA because of age? The buildings in question are “crumbling and inefficient” because of poor maintenance. Elevators that don’t work, bathrooms in need of better ventilation, leaking pipes, etc., can be repaired and maintained; and in fact $117 million would be more than enough to address current issues. I’m there daily and see multitudes of guards, but rarely a maintenance worker. Should a new museum be built, what assurance do we have that maintenance and capital improvement needs won’t, once again, be ignored?… As I’m not desirous of jeopardizing my volunteer position at LACMA, I trust that you will not quote me by name. I would, however, be pleased to provide you further input on this issue should you desire. – Anonymous LACMA Volunteer
As a longtime resident of Los Angeles and as a filmmaker, I’ve had a unique window into the museum’s dreams. From documenting the making of “Levitated Mass” which united our city for 10 glorious nights, to filming architect Peter Zumthor as he sketched designs on a notebook for the new structure, I have witnessed the hard work that has gone into building LACMA’s future. I couldn’t be more supportive of Michael Govan’s vision for change. He has already transformed the museum’s collection, and the dramatic increase in attendance over the last decade proves the impact of his intentions. But, please do not overlook the fact that the existing buildings are a hodgepodge of deteriorated, inefficient, and wasteful structures. LACMA needs a new facility and the current design— despite modifications— will be breathtaking. I believe this structure will enhance visitor’s interaction with the permanent collection. It will be more accessible and encourage longer visits. It will feel more open— more “LA,” if you will. LACMA is LA’s “town center.- And LA is becoming the #1 art city in the world— topping Berlin and New York. We need and deserve a museum that lives up to what this city is creating. LACMA must remain relevant as an international destination, and something that will equally benefit Angelenos as well. Please approve of this project! – Doug Pray, filmmaker
I am writing in enthusiastic support of the architect Peter Zumthor, whose design for the new LACMA is under review. I’ve visited Mr. Zumthor’s Kolumba Museum in Cologne, Germany multiple times, and can confidently say that it is one of the finest designed museums in the world. Zumthor’s design fulfills the complex functional requirements of a building that is home to a diverse collection spanning millennia. The seamless spatial experience draws the viewer toward the art on view without ever overwhelming the art itself. Mr. Zumthor makes sophisticated use of natural light and materials to create an exceptionally humane, intimate environment. The Kolumba Museum gracefully integrates a Romanesque ruin into its core. The building is harmoniously woven into the architectural fabric of the Cologne neighborhood to which it belongs, a magical gift to those that experience it. My visit to Mr. Zumthor’s Bruder Haus Field Chapel in the Cologne environs was also profoundly rewarding. In its use of elemental materials and forms, the chapel stimulates contemplation and an appreciation for the nature from which the building is drawn, and the ancient history that precedes it. Perhaps it bears saying that, for me, as a citizen and an artist, Peter Zumthor is not a mere “star architect,” but a humanist. Please support Peter Zumthor’s architectural vision for the new LACMA. His design will be a gift to Los Angeles and the American cultural landscape. -Mitch Epstein, Artist
I urge you to approve the Environmental Impact Report and support Michael Govan and Peter Zumthor’s new campus plan for LACMA. Having arrived in Los Angeles as a child in 1968 and visited LACMA throughout my life, I have seen the campus go through many changes. As an architect and preservationist, I would normally be the first to vote in favor of keeping a set of historic buildings. However, knowing what the original LACMA buildings were and seeing what remains now, with compromised additions in every direction, it would be difficult and costly to turn back the clock on that history. As at many public institutions, buildings go through transformations. The first change at LACMA was the loss of the fountains. The next major change was the intrusion Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates addition in 1986, disrupting the relationship of the original trio of buildings by William Pereira & Associates. The later building of the Pavilion for Japanese Art in 1988 and reconfiguration of pathways to the pavilion and park, further eroded the integrity of the original buildings. The 2004 winning competition entry by Rem Koolhaas first provided a glimpse into what would be possible by re-imagining the campus without the original buildings. This brilliant project was also ultimately abandoned due to lack of support by people who were swayed by misinformation. Let us not allow that to happen again. Michael Govan and Peter Zumthor’s project is visionary. The concept of presenting all departments of the permanent collection on one platform with equal access is insightful and perceptive to the changing demographics of Los Angeles. No longer would LACMA’s collections of art from Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, be viewed as second position to art from Europe and Anglo-European America. It’s time to start anew and give our county museum the great architecture it deserves. I fully support Michael Govan and Peter Zumthor’s project for LACMA and hope you will do the same.- Ravi GuneWardena, AlA, Architect, Preservationist, and 50-year resident of Los Angeles County
Currently, public opinion seems shaped only by detractors, and it is time that supporters of this project, of which there are many, are heard. Restoring the existing William Pereira buildings makes no sense. LACMA , sadly, has a set of buildings of questionable architectural merit, the costs of a proper restoration would be astronomical, and the best possible outcome would still be a less than ideal facility. Since Michael Govan has been at LACMA he has utterly transformed the institution and with it the Los Angeles art scene. Visitor numbers to the museum have increased dramatically, the Broad and the Resnick have added 100,000 square feet of exhibition spaces. I completely support Govan’s overall vision for LACMA to decentralize the museum, and to rethink how a permanent collection is presented. By extending across Wilshire Boulevard, LACMA places itself visibly at the center of our city. Lofting the building off the ground opens views from Wilshire Boulevard into the park. The large, covered outdoor space this creates is, in Southern California, a very good thing. The space will be unlike anything we have in Los Angeles, and will be teaming with life. Zumthor’s project is architecturally intelligent and elegant: the continuous circulation space, encircling the galleries, will offer views across the city which will orient the visitor within the building and into the galleries. By organizing the collection on one level, art that now exists quietly and ignored on second, third and forth floors of the current buildings, will be more easily discovered. Take, for example, the current Sri Lanka show: 4 of 10 objects come from LACMA’s significant holdings, but have not been properly seen for decades on the 4th floor of the Ahmanson. Twice in its history has LACMA lost out on getting a significant piece of architecture: Mies van der Rohe was considered when the museum was first being planned but was passed over, and the Rem Koolhaas/OMA 2001 project was abandoned after a few years. The Zumthor proposal is bold. Every project like this, from the Eiffel Tower to the Sidney Opera, has had its chorus of critics. Let’s not lose sight of our goal. -Frank Escher, Escher GuneWardena Architecture, Inc.
I have a unique perspective in consulting and helping to have designed “The Jeweled Isle: the Art of Sri Lanka”. I’m writing in full support of LACMA’s new building by Peter Zumthor. I pose this question in earnest. Have you stopped to really evaluate and understand how space is conceived and put together; how it inspires you; how it changes you? Architecture is a wicked problem, which is to say that it is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize let alone stick to any budget. To conflate this issue further it is regressively driven by memory. Take for example phones, tools, even food. We always want the best, the most effective, the healthiest or the best experience. However, architecture escapes these considerations often. We want our “grandmothers” space with those squeaky floorboards, the lack of insulation and don’t forget about the door that won’t fully close. Not recognizing that it’s actually the space and its impact on us as a memory which we cherish. I have been following LACMA’s pioneering proposal throughout my education and career as a designer. A lot of criticism has come from the public, evaluating the proposal as a reduction of the current gallery capacity and as a valid piece of architecture. Firstly, both from my experience from working on the LACMA show and as a frequent visitor, the current building barely works for the staff and fails the public. It’s a convoluted system of passages workspaces and galleries. While it may have a lot of “space”, it is poor quality and difficult to program. The questions you should ask in giving your support to the new building and to any space is, “what is the quality of space that is being provided for the public, the staff and most importantly the art”. Peter Zumthor’s solution to LACMA’s building, whilst radical, is actually the most effective solution and poetic experience to the wicked problem of the museum and its architecture; addressing the future realities of the modern museum and likely to inspire generations of Los Angeleno’s to come. – J.W.
I’m excited to see the new museum coming to life and can’t wait to tour the public when it opens. The idea of touring objects that are not displayed in the traditional hierarchical manner is on trend and should prove very interesting to our visitors. Michael Govan and the Board of Supervisors have work hard over the past few years to ensure a beautiful building design and funding for the building. Your vote will be another key milestone in the plan for our world class museum. -P.H., LACMA docent
Have you ever been in a building build by Peter Zumthor? It’s like breething the first time—like seening the first time — like hearing the first time. After leaving such a building you feel the world in a different way! -S.W., Designer, Germany
The new proposal is beautiful, provides park space and gallery space, and along with the Purple Line wilt draw people in from all over Los Angeles and the world. -M.H., member Miracle Mile Forward
[Our] organization sees the renovation of LACMA as a benefit to our retail business community and for the neighborhood as a whole with potential to generate more local and international cultural opportunities and interest in Los Angeles. -The West 3rd Street Business Association
I believe the museum has an obligation to the public, and this plan fails that obligation by reducing the amount of public resource the museum provides. Reducing gallery and auditorium space from current levels (and at great cost) will make the museum and its events even less accessible to the residents of the County. -D.D.
I am writing to express my objection to the LACMA redesign and my sincere hope that the Board of Supervisors allow for more time to consider the impact of reducing the scope of the museum and proceeding with a flawed design that will clog our neighborhood in chaos and construction for years to come. This plan requires further consideration. -N.D., museum neighbor
Museum Director Michael Govan is asking for a huge commitment of money, land, and faith based on a handful of drawings. No floor plan has been released, and basic questions about the operation of the building remain unanswered .Govan’s last-minute claim that the lost gallery and program space will be made up for at satellite locations in underserved areas should not be taken seriously. There is going to be a Purple Line station across the street from LACMA soon, so why move parts of its collection away from a centralized location accessible by public transit? This is a cynical move to make building a wasteful and indulgent new building seem like outreach. -J.S.
Whoa! There has to be a better idea. There are better ideas (I have one but that is not the point). Issues of cost, size, disruption of traffic, ecology and environment, maintenance cost, potential homeless under the “bridge over Wilshire”, aesthetic appearance, an eye to future growth of the collections (95% of LACMA’s holdings are already in storage); I could go on. For now, just a bit of forbearance and encouragement that the museum look at alternatives. -D.W.
Apart from my deep concern for arts organizations, their curatorial missions, and serving their communities, is the overarching concern for their fiduciary responsibility. Institutions should not risk their futures on unrealistic projects and bad budget decisions. The current project does not honor nor protect LACMA’s permanent collections as it was sworn to do…. We need to think this through for the future of LACMA and generations to come. -C.C., museum professional for 4 decades
By reducing exhibition space, it seems the museum’s leadership is more interested in a heightened business profile than in creating a place for artists and art lovers from all walks of life. If a redesign is truly necessary—which is debatable—there are better ways to address the matter, ones that will make LACMA’s collection more accessible instead of less so. -S.L., LACMA member
How can anyone justify a smaller building, and putting so many of the great artworks in storage?? I think we need a new architect and a new design. This is a county building, built with county funds, and the board should be more involved with how the museum is being managed. -C.W.
This rebuild is NOT NEEDED to make LACMA a world class destination, in fact under the new designs, something as trivial as a rainy day would make it undesirable for any patron and tourist. Our city has so much actual need, there are disease outbreaks in our downtown the likes of which haven’t been seen in the past 100 years. This reconstruction and waste of our tax dollars needs to be stopped, no matter who the land/real estate developer team is behind it. People are starting to notice that our schools and hospitals are crumbling around us, and our ability to walk home alone after 9pm is long gone, yet real estate development has never been more generously sponsored by our local elected officials. Please, divert these funds to something responsible and of need to the city’s health and safety; NOT the LACMA, which is already a splendid experience as it is. -J.J., concerned taxpayer
It is clear that this project creates too many new problems without solving LACMA’s need for more space. Moreover the expense will saddle the institution with unconscionable debt for the foreseeable future. As an architect working on affordable housing solutions for Los Angeles, I feel strongly that not only is this design inadequate for LACMA’s needs but for the design culture of the city as a whole. -D.D. architect
The money could be put to a better use, like fixing the county roads. We celebrate the old museums in Washington DC or New York, but when our museums are around 50 years old, we want to replace them. -G.G.
As an art museum employee myself, and a passionate supporter of the arts in LA, I and my colleagues have been unsettled by the mystery surrounding the exact details of this plan. Moreover, the details that have come out suggest that, to the contrast of director Michael Govan’s public messaging, this has become a vanity project for Govan, one for which he is willing to make sacrifices that significantly hurt LACMA’s ability to fulfill it’s mission as a public museum. As noted critic Christopher Knight wrote in his recent LA Times piece, “1 couldn’t name another art museum anywhere that has ever raised hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on reducing its collection space.” Using taxpayer funds to push this ill-conceived project through would be a mistake at this juncture. Supervisors should refuse to release $117.5 million taxpayer money to or back any more LACMA debt until an independent review of the museum’s proposed project is conducted. Such a review should include an assessment of LACMA’s needs and whether Michael Govan’s plan meets them. As Govan himself admitted, LACMA itself failed to perform this routine step at the outset of this process. It should also evaluate project costs in the context of sector norms, present Govan’s plan to eliminate permanent collection gallery space within the context of national and international museum practice, and evaluate LACMA’s fiscal health. The review should pay special attention to LACMA’s debt, which is the largest debt held by any American art museum. Supervisors should not support any LACMA capital projects with public funding or the issuance of publicly-backed debt until that review is complete. LACMA would be free to continue to raise money toward an eventual building project during this review. My expectation is that such a review would lead to a much stronger LACMA, one that more fully reflects the diversity and interests of the county that funds and supports it. -P.L., art museum employee
Even after reading a few articles I’m having a hard time understanding why LACMA is in need of over half a billion dollars to… reduce the size of the galleries… Please consider the public good in making this decision and not be a slave to real estate developers or architects who don’t use space efficiently. -A.K. art lover and loyal Angeleno
Besides looking like something from the 1960s it reduces the amount of gallery space and is configured so it cannot be expanded for growth. This project required $125 million in public investment! It is completely inadequate for LACMA’s needs in my opinion. -C.Y., LACMA supporter
I am thoroughly dismayed to see that the museum is now smaller with conceivably even less space for art. This concept of the galleries needing to be democratized by having only one floor is beyond belief. And to build with no possibility of expansion? I agree with the current editorials referring to this structure as a glorified toll plaza. This is a complete and utter waste of taxpayer money. The current buildings have been allowed to deteriorate for years, just to make this unfathomably ridiculous “expansion” aka reduction of the museum seem necessary. Additionally, issues of public safety do not seem to have been addressed. As a neighborhood resident for 22 years, I implore you—please do not approve this project as is. -K.S., museum neighbor
I am concerned about the need to radically change something that has worked so well for our city. -J.G., native Angeleno
I oppose reducing the amount of display space for the permanent collection. I also oppose constructing the main building in a manner in which it cannot be expanded. Please let me know what you are going to do in order to prevent each of these problems. -D.F., LACMA member
The hardship on an area that has been bombarded with construction for the past 5 years is untenable, and the reduction of gallery space places more value on form rather than function. Though the plans look lovely, I believe there are better ways to spend $117,000,000. May I suggest building affordable rehabilitative housing for Los Angeles’s ever increasing and dystopian homeless population? -S.D, museum neighbor and frequent patron
I urge you to vote no on approval of the latest coup and collector / donor monetizaton of our LACMA proposed by Michael Govan. As Los Angeles begins its long awaited emergence and recognition as a global art capitol, LACMA’s funding should be focused on the art and artists. Among the multitude of disastrous decisions, the mere fact that the linear wall space for exhibiting fine art will be reduced by a mile and a half is reason enough to stop this charade. Less ego, more art! -M.G.
While there are certainly problems with the existing campus, I was appalled to find out that the current plan proposes spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a new building with significantly less exhibition space. I am also completely baffled by the failure to include offices for staff, including curatorial staff, in the new design. How did this happen? -C.M.
I think the new plan for LACMA is not a good one. Less gallery space! What are they thinking? I would urge you to withhold funds from this project until they come up with a better plan… I feel it is necessary to support our arts but am now seriously thinking about not renewing my membership. -M.F., LACMA member for many years
Dear Supervisor Ridley-Thomas: I gather from your Twitter post of Michael Govan’s LACMA op-ed that you are preparing to vote yes tomorrow and I urge you to reconsider. I am one of many, many individuals who agree with the points articulated by Christopher Knight [in the Los Angeles Times]. In particular, that tax payers are being asked to overpay for shrinking institution that outpaces even its most costly comparative projects. And that this plan will leave LACMA without secure space for its professional staff. First class encyclopedic museums value curators, educators, conservators, and other professionals that ensure their success. They demonstrate this by making sure their workspace is secure and that these costs are as manageable as possible to keep operations going. This plan appears to leave this space hanging in the balance. It is also worth mentioning that the core of Zumthor’s plan has remained the same since its first debut, but our city has changed. There is more traffic on Wilshire Blvd, the Academy Museum is set to open late this year, the Metro stop—it is a different place than when this project started and shouldn’t the design take this into consideration? -K.U., arts professional
I ask you not to spend $117,500,000 of our money on this project. I am dismayed to see a smaller museum, with less room for art, and no possibility for expansion. Los Angeles deserves a world-class center for arts and culture. Please stand-up for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, one of the world’s great encyclopedic museums. Hold back our taxpayer money, and insist an independent review of the project, its costs, and goals. -S.L.
I live in the adjacent neighborhood, actually on Spaulding Avenue where the museum is proposed to “land” on the south side of Wilshire, and we could not be more against this project. It’s a complete WASTE OF TAXPAYER MONEY. It’s not elegant, it’s not spectacular, it’s not up to the standards of Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Getty, or the Broad. It’s not even designed by an architect who has ever done a museum before. This is a Michael Govan ego special… NOT WORTH $650 MILLION DOLLARS!!! We will have to live with this amoeba for the rest of our lives… Los Angeles County deserves better. It really does… Please listen to your constituents, and the taxpayers of Los Angeles County. -J.G., museum neighbor
It’s a terrible plan. Keep the heritage buildings and build across the street. -D.B.
While I love LACMA, I urge you to reject the new plan for a new building. I believe it is a terrible investment to spend millions of dollars to reduce the size of a museum, and especially for a building that Mr. Govan has touted as being impossible to add on to. (Though the add-ons to the current LACMA buildings are pretty terrible, they reflect the fact that museums grow and change.) -E.S.
Please take a very close look at the plans. I am a fan of Mr. Govan. However as we all get a closer look I have reservations. More community involvement should have been a part of the process. A lot at stake. Let’s take a deeper look. -R.L.
It is unconscionable to spend [millions] in public funds for a museum that is smaller than our current museum, and with a design that is ugly. -K.G.
It is so devastating to think that Los Angeles, with its strong history and development of all forms of the visual and fine arts is, after years of hidden plans and non disclosure of design, going to give birth to a non-entity that resembles a large motel as the new LACMA. Less exhibition space, less public space for presentations, destruction of the encyclopedic nature of this museum which was so hard won. There are apparently many creative ways architecturally that different levels can be achieved in a building so why is our city being held hostage to the Director’s demand there be only one level? Why can’t LACMA have a notable silhouette? A place to exhibit more of the pieces locked away in storage? I hope you will vote the proposed design down. Los Angeles deserves better. -Z.P.
Please, please, PLEASE stop the destruction of our birthright and heritage institution LACMA. Look past all the fancy gladhanding and developer glee to see that they are spending a huge amount of money, as well as future debt, to build something that is far too small to house even the existing collection. L.A. is not some little town wanting a pretty building to house a small collection important to local artists. It is an international giant as museums go, with a responsibility both to house AND TO SHOW its wonderful permanent collections, which won’t fit into the new, much smaller, architecturally weak building that has been pushed down our throats by someone who doesn’t understand his role. Please read this very informative, factually based article [“Suicide by Architecture”] before even thinking of approving the funds for this depletion of Los Angeles’ reputation, and theft from future generations unable to see most of the collections, and probably charged a highly elevated fee to even get into the little gallery shows that are proposed. Thank you for saving our wonderful collections from being broken up and stored out of sight, not organized in any way to educate, and from the mess this Motel 6 architecture will create on Wilshire Boulevard. LACMA’s collections are too important to be dribbled away into obscurity and made inaccessible to we who paid to create, preserve and curate these wonderful and inspirational soul-eye-openers. -A.A.
I am concerned that the LACMA redesign plan is ill-conceived, and request that you withhold your approval for this plan until the issues raised by Joseph Giovannini’s spatial audit have been fully and transparently addressed. -S.W., artist/curator
I strongly oppose releasing funds to build the Zumthor design for LACMA. It is ridiculous to tear down the old buildings only to replace them with less exhibition space and not even offices for staff. After reading “LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovanni, I realize Govan is intent on literally tearing down LACMA to replace it with his own architectural folly. I am very upset that there was not even a design competition to choose the architect, who is obviously not qualified for this type of commission. -C.C., LACMA donor and longtime volunteer
Unconscionable…. Design that is so pedestrian. -K.
Two of my close friends have already cancelled their LACMA membership…. I express my deep concern that the Bing Theater replacement would be half its current capacity! -C.N.
As the son of a well-respected artist… with work in the LACMA collection, I respectfully request you vote no on this project… I strongly believe that this design is totally inappropriate to one of our major streets—it destroys the continuity of a grand boulevard. While Mr. Zumthor is a great Architect, this is not his finest design. And losing valuable square footage is silly. The Board of Supervisors is the only group that can stop this poorly thought out venture before it is too late. -D.T., architect
There was never a competition to bid on the job, and it has become a boondoggle. Better to vote no and start over than to approve such a misguided plan. -S.F.
Please please vote against this now, while you still can. This is a huge waste of money and a cultural disaster. For what? Not even enough space for all of the art ? Just to appease someone’s ego? Not to mention the destruction of the mid century architecture. -J.H.
This is your last opportunity to bring closure on an ill-conceived project that is more about ego of the Director than a project of value to Los Angeles. It is a hugely expensive addition to an institution that does not need expansion but rather repair. If you are unable to vote to stop this waste, at least insure in your approval that admission to the museum is free to residents of LA County since they are footing the bill. -P.W.
Please demand LACMA’s demolition and rebuild be revised for more exhibition space without crossing Wilshire and at least as much theater space as in current museum. -C.D.
I think it is great that LACMA gets funding for renovations and remodeling, but this proposed plan is BONKERS! -T.H.
The new plan for the museum is a disaster. Way less space than already exists. Please, please stop it! -K.S.
This is lamentable. I think this is a project that the citizens of L.A. will regret upon completion. -M.H.
It is a disaster in all respects. We need a good plan with more art space and not some ego driven eyesore stretching across Wilshire. Anyone who thinks that building across Wilshire will not be a terrorist target is an idiot. Say NO. – J.N.
The Govan/Zumthor plan addresses neither good design nor function and it portends great financial folly. Please stop this disaster for art and the people of Los Angeles. -R.C., painter and architecture lover
Such a waste! Build a warehouse and use the rest for art! Vanity project for Govan. County has much higher priorities, roads, schools, infrastructure. -C.C
How can Michael Govan propose a smaller building, putting the majority of the collection, many of which were donated by residents, into permanent storage?? I think the whole thing is ridiculous, and that a new architect and plan should be proposed. This is a county building with county funds, and I think the county supervisors should be more involved. -C.W.
The presented plan is totally impractical and unnecessarily expensive. This is the taxpayers’ money and should not be used for a vanity project for the very wealthy group that controls the Board of LACMA and as an ode to the Director. -M.K. and M.K.
There are thousands of homeless on the streets of Los Angeles that need shelter, food, medical assistance, and now the County is going to spend $150 million of tax payers’ dollars towards a $650- million dollar museum that looks like a pathetic airline terminal re-do of Dolores’ drive-in, because LACMA director Michael Govan (to whom the county pays $1,029,921 per year and provides a free annual $126,500 home benefit) gotta have it all on one floor design by purported atelier recluse Peter Zumthor who calls himself an architect even though he never qualified—yes he got a Pritzker, but Trump got to be President. Oooh, the greasy hamburger design spans over Wilshire—the homeless patrons will have coverage over their tents. -M.S.
It’s really too bad that Govan didn’t have a competition or even a selection committee for the architect. Maybe then we would have gotten someone like Santiago Calatrava who built the new Milwaukee Art Museum which draws people for the building as much as for the art. Take a look. Maybe you can help Angelenos to have a Museum that we will love instead of hate. -D.N., LACMA patron of many years, museum neighbor
The Supervisors should step back and consider what they are doing! -J.T., concerned art lover
I don’t know why this single-story of art proposal is still on the board, nor why Peter Zumthor is still the architect. The whole thing seems too much like a work for Michael Govan’s ego, and as a fund-raising venture that somehow reduces the amount of exhibition space for art AND reduces the storage and office space. The building is uninteresting and uninviting, and it seems like a big money drain for an unnecessary project. The money should be used for perhaps one more building out where the rock & its ramp are; no one really cares about that, and they could add lots of on-site storage. Or maybe a different idea. But we must preserve the encyclopedic desire for the museum…. As it is, all that money would be better spent on affordable housing near rail stations; I know that the donated money isn’t available for that, but the county share could be. -A.H. LACMA member
The proposed building would be a travesty as the museum works to cement its central position in the region’s art scene. LA deserves something better. -E.W.
Before you vote on funding LACMA tomorrow I’d like to urge you to read this extremely well-written article by Joseph Giovannini. Yes, it’s lengthy, but $650MM is a large sum of money. It deserves your informed consideration. -B.Y.
I’ve been distressed about the LACMA rebuild from the start, and am worried that the vote tomorrow will result in good money being thrown after bad. This architect with this vision seems to have been way off from the start, better to take more time (and money) to get this right… This project seems like it hasn’t been managed well or efficiently so far, and I encourage you to push back on requests for funds until it seems like those funds will be managed respectfully. -R.T., arts educator and LACMA patron
[Note: the following email in favor of the Zumthor project is one of five nearly identical messages sent by different individuals, several identifying themselves as members of “Miracle Mile Forward”] I’m writing to express my wholehearted support for the proposed new LACMA project. LACMA is the Miracle Mile’s greatest single amenity, and this redesign with is galleries, restaurant space and cafes, and museum store will keep it so. The design’s comprehensive approach to the visitor experience including park space, neighborhood amenities, good circulation and connectivity via public transportation creates a strong sense of place. The museum is part of the community fabric, offering an attractive, walkable environment with both indoor and outdoor art installations and cultural programs. I believe the new design with its transparency along the sides will encourage local residents to unexpectedly drop by and further enhance LACMA as a local meeting spot and neighborhood asset. The reduction of the scale of the building means there will be more park and public space and should be welcomed. I appreciate that the new design was reduced but the amount of exhibit space wasn’t decreased from what currently exists. Additionally, elevating the building over Wilshire Boulevard is a good solution to achieving horizontal exhibition space that provides accessibility, without crowding the LaBrea Tar Pits. Lastly, I should mention that I’m strongly in favor of demolishing what I consider the ugly and uninviting “Art of the Americas” facade on Wilshire, and appreciate the visibility of the new galleries from Wilshire and the visibility of Wilshire from the new galleries. -L.S.
I’m writing you to support the extraordinary and visionary project undertaken by LACMA, to build a cultural space that would change, renovates and democratizes the museums of Los Angeles. The extraordinary effort undertaken by LACMA would definitively reaffirm the leadership of Los Angeles in the fine arts scenario, turning it into the new epicenter of artists and art lovers from all over the country. I join this cultural celebration, convinced that great challenges like this would redefine the face not only of the city, but also of our times. -A.A.
Angelinos deserve a beautiful, well-planned museum that can proudly compete with other world class museums. Not the by-product of a budget cut. -M.B.
I endorse Joseph Giovannini’s brilliant long, detailed analysis, and attach it here. PLEASE read it before the vote on Tuesday morning, and PLEASE vote to STOP the Zumthor juggernaut. -M.R.
Although I support the new LACMA building, I do not support the further downsizing of the museum. LA is in the midst of an arts renaissance and the museum’s collection will only increase dramatically in the coming years. With so much money being spent, it makes no sense that we’ll inevitably be talking about expanding the museum again in 20 years. Please ensure that the museum maintains the size that was originally approved by LA County, even if it means delaying the vote or increasing LA County’s contributions to [subsidizing] an increase in size. -D.T.
It is a gross misuse of land, reducing gallery and overall space when LACMA should be expanding. It is a rebuke of the principles of urbanization that Los Angeles should be embracing. To replace multi-story buildings with effectively a single story museum that cannot be added on to is short-sighted in the extreme. [In my professional work] I coordinate with museums… on exhibits, so I have some understanding of the space it takes to put on an exhibit beyond gallery space. The proposed redesign would severely limit LACMA’s ability to put on world-class exhibits like they have in the past. Please reject the proposal and ask that LACMA send out a request for proposals from architectural firms… I hate to think what will happen to its amazing collections and exhibitions program under the redesign. -H.M., Conservator and museum neighbor
Govan is the wrong man or LACMA is the wrong museum for him to head (can he be removed?). He lost a fortune in his 55-year lease, renewable for another 55 years, of the May Company building to the Academy. Please check the figures. It’s about 10 cents per square foot in an area where rents today range between $4 to $4.50 per square foot…. PLEASE DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN ON YOUR WATCH. The shameful story will never go away. Enough is enough. It’s a joke like Michael Heizer’s “Levitating Mass,” whose costly showboating 2016 transportation through L.A. grabbed headlines, and is now sits, unvisited at LACMA. Wisely, Govan’s 2007 proposed acquisition for Jeff Koons’ 161-foot-tall noisy hanging locomotive Steam Engine, which was planned to sound off every hour, was stopped. It’s not too late to stop Govan’s self memorial, an albatross that will hand like a curse around the taxpayers’ necks in perpetuity. THERE WERE NEVER ANY TRUE PUBLIC MEETINGs, Govan left every meeting without hearing the County taxpayer’s comments. There was never a public meeting for LACMA members, museum goers nor the media. There was never an actual international competition for the building redesign, as is customary in the large public works. I doubt Zumthor would have been chosen in a true, transparent competition. Nor were any American architects considered. THIS ENTIRE PROCES HAS BEEN AN ELITIST SHELL GAME and the County residents’s rights and opinions have been abridged, It is your job to protect those interests, not enable Govan’s polemical grandiosity. – R.M., member of the press
We are not aware of the “politics” that has led to the current confrontation, but it can’t be to the benefit of the museum. Fortunately, there are a large number of people in this town that have the wherewithal to support the arts, including museums. Unfortunately, a small number of those people use the leverage created by their donations to exercise undue influence over artistic decisions. The MOCA financing may be the best current example. But the most important part of this story is that we are very fortunate to have committed officials who will weigh all of the relevant factors and arrive at a decision that they understand to be best for the community. You most certainly are one of those officials… All we ask is that the Board pause and reevaluate the wisdom of the current proposals. -D.T. & N.T., LACMA members for many years
The people of Los Angeles deserve better. -J.S., LACMA patron of 5 decades
The Supervisors must insist the museum have a more thoughtful approach that expands space available to art for L.A. County residents, not restrict it. We have one shot to get this right, and settling for so-so is unacceptable. Please send LACMA back to the drawing board. They’ve gone astray with the proposal they’re bringing to you to review. -A.B. LACMA patron and museum neighbor
Money should not be allocated until there’s more time to research whether this proposal is the right choice for Los Angeles. -S.H., LACMA member
I am sure you have received this article [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] from others, if not I do suggest you and your staff read it before the vote on LACMA. -M.S.
The so-called architect doesn’t even have a degree and his Berlin project had to be demolished. Why can’t we have a competition for the best design from the greatest architects in the world? I live one block from the museum; please save us from this disaster! -D.V., museum neighbor
A comprehensive art museum is a terrible thing to scrap. -M.K.
I hope you will reject Govan’s pleas to redo the museum. He has already performed one folly with the “rock,” but this one promises to be much larger, much costlier, and more damaging…. I wish the focus would be on art and education and not on flashy new buildings that compete with each other… Let’s prioritize what is important and not superfluous stuff. -K.S., Art historian and LACMA member
Please vote no in a museum that proposes to shrink its exhibit space and create a design that is nothing more than an overpass. The price is too high and does nothing to answer how one is to use this new space. What does the museum crossing over Wilshire buy us? There is no plan as the museum is not grounded over park spaces. Michael Govan states this museum replaces the need of stairs and elevators yet this design has no gallery space on its first level. Ask yourself how does one get to the gallery spaces. How does the museum plan look from ground level? The cost of landscape? Loading docks? Mostly how does this unite a disconnected campus? In all honesty, this moves the campus further away from its purpose. -D.E.
I fully support the new design of LACMA. Please vote to make it happen. Thank you! -L.J.
It is urgent that we have a World Class Museum in Los Angeles, where all or our other Cultural institutions are A+. And where we hold the International respect in the domain of Art and Culture. Please do everything in your POWER to make this project go forward smoothly and rapidly—we need and want it for ourselves, our children. And NOT to wait for our grandchildren have the first access. -E.G.
The new building/bridge will frame a view of the city beyond. Being on the LACMA campus will be more like walking from the Tate Modern across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where the view axis is dynamic and carefully planned…. The original LACMA buildings, boxes that turns in on themselves with no connection to the outdoors, feel incredibly witless in comparison. The more recent additions on the west side of the LACMA campus, (including the central canopy, restaurant and “Urban Light” sculpture), have brought a greater degree of engagement from the local community. The spaces between the buildings create beautiful open public areas that seamlessly transition between the building and the street in a way that is very welcoming. On nights when jazz concerts and other events are happening you can see that the open space is an incredible asset to the community. In a similar way, the open space around the new building will create more opportunities for this type of engagement. The design of the new building is incredibly public. You will be able to walk around the building and see the art and everything that is happening inside. Driving under the building and viewing this glass box filled with beauty during a daily commute will bring an entirely new level of interaction, outreach and inspiration. The new building will be an outstanding international attraction for the city of LA. It will give us a space with cultural value that provides an increased sense of dignity. The civic function of this modern building is similar to an ancient Greek temple – the art museum offers an outlet for meaningful dialogue that elevates us as humans. Refining this space will give us the opportunity to reach our full potential as Angelinos. H.L., architect
As an architect and longtime admirer of architect Peter Zumthor’s work, I would like to express my disappointment in his plan for the new LACMA building. It seems absurd to have us (the County) support the construction of a replacement building for the current LACMA buildings that is smaller than the existing building, doesn’t have space for any administrative offices or art storage, and that doesn’t allow for future expansion for the County’s primary art museum. It seems to me that there should be some way to at least adapt and reuse the three original William Pereira buildings and build on that. -V.Y., architect
The Zumthor plan is a huge mistake — better to go back to the drawing board to find a plan that makes sense for the museum and for L.A, and that engages with the street and pedestrian life instead of arrogantly floating above and across it! -J.V., LACMA member and museum neighbor
I feel the new design is outrageously wasteful and does not meet the needs of us the residents and taxpayers. -A.W., artist
By destroying the Ahmanson, the Hammer and the Art of The Americas buildings we will be losing a city center in Los Angeles, a city that doesn’t have one. Their destruction will forever remove two historically significant structures that represent pivotal moments in the careers of two global architecture firms…. I visit the museum about once a week while pushing my father through the galleries in a wheelchair. This has given me clear insight into the museum’s accessibility limitations and flow patterns. There are two main issues: the elevators need to be repaired and updated in the Art of the Americas and Ahmanson buildings and better automatic doors need to be installed in all of the buildings, including the recently built Broad and Resnick. All of the buildings are in need of regular cleaning and maintenance… Even the [new] buildings are dirty, cluttered and have fading paint. Overall the experience exploring all of the buildings and their collections is an utter joy for myself and my Dad. Each building was constructed at a different time for a different reason by different architects with their own unique philosophies on what a museum should be and how people should use it. The cost of the demolition and new building is $650 million… Did they explore an option that would improve the existing buildings and not cost taxpayers anything? – J.P., frequent LACMA visitor
Maybe I’m wrong, but from what I’ve read it seems like the proposed building was designed in a vacuum. I also read that the EIR was released March 22 and you are voting on it tomorrow, that provided little time to really review carefully. A building that will be part of this city for generations should be carefully considered and not only be an innovative design but should also functionally work the needed display areas and the required supporting spaces. Leasing more and more space in the building across the street does not seem like a good long-term solution to remedy the deficiencies in the proposed design. – P.C.
My husband and I have been members of LACMA for over 50 years and strongly oppose this design. Please force the complete rethinking of the LACMA project. The people of L.A. County deserve better design in terms of both form and function for its world‐class encyclopedic museum. – S.D., LACMA member for 5 decades
Supervisor Barger, you were not yet on the Board when the County agreed to provide funding back in 2014. Therefore, you have no vested interest in this unwise project. Please assert your independence to save the County a lot of money and to force the complete rethinking of the LACMA project. As world‐class encyclopedic museum LACMA deserves better. -R.D.
I strongly oppose any LACMA redesign that reduces exhibition space. Should the current plan move forward, sadly I will have to seriously reconsider my support.- S.L., LACMA member for five decades
LACMA is the city’s public museum, but they have not acted in a way that feels remotely democratic or transparent. This architect was announced with no input and the way details are being released show that the museum is not interested in having a conversation with the public. We should not spend this vast amount of money for a design we had no input in and is anything less than excellent. As our public museum, they need to be held accountable to us and this is our one opportunity to do so. I urge the supervisor to reject this scheme and suggest LACMA uses the money they have raised to refurbish their property and develop an alternative proposal. There is no sense in rushing towards mediocrity; we only have one chance to get this right. -C.M., former LACMA employee
In our Woodland Hills neighborhood developers want to build densely packed high rises. I don’t believe it’s good for the community, but a high rise museum, packed with art that is already owned by the county IS good for Los Angeles county and the rest of the nation and perhaps the world. -K.V.
County residents deserve to see the collection — not just rotating shows that will feature small parts of LACMA’s holdings… Residents of the county deserve something better for their money. -M.M., frequent LACMA visitor
It is my utmost pleasure to lend my full support for the creation of an all-new world-class museum at LACMA. As President of one of the nearest Home Owners Association’s to the project site located on the corner of Fairfax and Orange Avenues, I believe I can speak for the majority in my Association that we look forward to all that this new center for arts and culture promises to be. Our residents have perhaps been among the most impacted by the recent and ongoing construction of the adjacent Academy Museum, the Metro’s Purple line, and the Peterson Museum. We are prepared for this next chapter because we understand what it means for our community, Los Angeles and beyond as we look forward to the realization of this remarkable vision for the future. Our community has witnessed first hand and greatly appreciated the renaissance that has already occurred in recent years at the LACMA campus under the excellent stewardship of Michael Govan. This has led to a resurgent pride and prestige along The Miracle Mile can now be seen and felt. I urge you to certify and approve the final EIR for LACMA’s new building for the permanent collection. -D.F., museum neighbor
New design for LACMA is depressing. What a step back. If we are getting a museum it should not be such a compromise. -F.H.
The $650 million dollar price tag has been repeated ad nauseum in the media as the cost of replacing the aging buildings. But it is clearly NOT the cost of replacing those buildings. If you were replacing the existing buildings, the new Zumthor building would at least contain the following: Storage space for the art, offices for the employees, conservation labs, a photography studio, educational classrooms and study areas, a parking lot to replace the Spaulding lot which is being cannibalized, an art library… How much will it cost to build these things out elsewhere because the design intentionally leaves them out? What will be the increase to the museum’s operating budget to support them going into the future? A piece from this week mentions a $3.6M annual cost for the offices alone and that’s just in year one. Has anyone truly examined those figures?… As the museum is supported by our taxpayer dollars, is the County prepared to step in and support the increase in operating expenses that this project will surely cause? If not, where will the funds come from? The EIR itself anticipates no significant increase in attendance, and thus, revenues. As far as I can tell, this $650M capital campaign has no endowment component to support this newly inflated budget. Will taxpayers be on the hook? If so, for how much?… With the $300M of County bonds added to LACMA’s existing $343M of bonds outstanding, our art museum will be $643M in debt as we head into an economic downturn. What happens when the ratings agencies then get more strict as they did with the current bonds, triggering a flash sale of the May Company building to AMPAS—a building that could have accommodated these needs?… Shame on you all for selling our museum out and bankrupting it in the long run – W.H.
I’m not opposed to spending $600‐700 million (or even more) on this project, even if a significant amount of that comes from public funds. After all, the museum houses billions of dollars worth of art. But the current design, with its bland appearance and regrettable shrinkage, has obviously run its course and is no longer a viable plan… Please consider voting to reject LACMA’s misguided redesign project. As much as I hate to see this project delayed by years, it’s necessary. Send LACMA back to the drawing board to come up with something worthy of our great city and region and of the museum’s great art. -J.D., LACMA member
I’m writing you to support the extraordinary and visionary project undertaken by LACMA, to build a cultural space that would change, renovates and democratizes the museums of Los Angeles. The extraordinary effort undertaken by LACMA would definitively reaffirm the leadership of Los Angeles in the fine arts scenario, turning it into the new epicenter of artists and art lovers from all over the county. I join this cultural celebration, convinced that great challenges like this would redefine the face not only of the city, but also of our times. -G.C.
Press Clips: April 9, 2019 – Publication of “Zumthor’s LACMA proposal is an affront to L.A.’s architectural and cultural heritage” by Antonio Pacheco, The Architect’s Newspaper
Vote April 9, 2019 – Los Angeles County Supervisors vote unanimously to approve LACMA redevelopment plan and allocate $117.5 million in public funds toward the $650 million project
April 9 Emails:
PLEASE do not provide public funds for the DISASTROUS Govan project to destroy LACMA. The design does not provide for the Collection!! – Nor for expansion- (which is life for any museum). After fifteen years as a Curator at LACMA working directly with the collections, it is clear to me the plan does not protect nor provide for displaying the collection and It will kill the vital center for education and enlightenment of the world. At a time when there are such needs in the public sector (homelessness). It Is imperative that you vote to WITHHOLD ANY FURTHER FUNDS for the Zumthor building. The Public is watching as are Numerous Collectors in Southern California watching your decision. They have indicated their loss of faith in the future of LACMA if the building is built! Please see fit to end this disaster which will effect generations to come. – William Ezelle Jones, Curator at LACMA for 15 years
Please vote down Govan’s plan for renovating – but really it’s destroying LACMA as it exists. I urge everyone on the Board to OPPOSE this unnecessary expenditure and burden on the people of Los Angeles. -S.F, LACMA member
I’ve read all of Govan’s replies to the recent criticism but find them misleading and unpersuasive. Listen to all the complaints and criticism that have been raised in the last few weeks. Hold off and look into this further! -D.B.
I’ve read and listened to both sides and the proposal going before you tomorrow is an insult to Los Angeles and the art world. If LACMA doe not have the funds it would like and need to re-build the museum—simply say so… I’ve always respected Michael Govan, but having just listened to him on KPCC, I have changed my mind. He is a slick talker, deflects questions with clever sound bites and talking points. -T.C.
I am frankly heartsick about the plans for the “new” museum. To spend the kind of money that this demolition and construction will cost and end up with less square footage of exhibition space just seems criminal to me. -L.G., LACMA member and native Angeleno
Do not waste any more taxpayer money on this design. -B.N.
It’s horrendous, pays no tribute or respect to LA and its past… waste of money. ALL being done for EGO! -L.B.
At least postpone the vote for further study. – A.S.
I find the design offensive. I find the bridge over Wilshire particularly objectionable. It is an unnecessary affront to the public realm. – J.F., LACMA docent, neighbor
If you haven’t seen it already, this article [“LACMA: Suicide by Architecture” by Joseph Giovannini] is a devastating takedown of the proposed design and also points out the downright fraud that has gone into the design. We are losing significant gallery space and spending a fortune on what will be a sub-par museum, not the icon LACMA should be. -A.F.
It’s time to start over again! – D.W.
As a tax payer I never approved the original vision by Govan to rip the collection apart and top making LACMA an encyclopedic museum. I do not want to pay for that…. If you want to see great view go on a hike in our beautiful backyard. I go to a museum to experience art. -E.
I’ve long been skeptical of the redesign, and I think Michael Govan just got locked into his desire to get a “starchitect” to design his legacy building. I don’t think it’s better for the people of the city, or the collections of the museum, or for our neighborhood. – S.F., Museum profession and LACMA neighbor
The Peter Zumthor design is atrocious. With all the resources available to the county of Los Angeles, is this the best that can be done? – L.L., artist and art teacher
Although I am sad that so many buildings are sort of threaded together, I think the idea of tearing them all down at that massive expense is wrong. They should be made historical landmarks instead. There must be other architectural solutions. Furthermore, four years with no museum is also wrong.… Yesterday, I was driving by LACMA… I had a sense of renewed appreciation as I saw the various buildings lined up along Wilshire Boulevard with Chris Burden’s lamp posts standing sentry. All the buildings looked beautiful, intact, historically valid. Let’s leave this alone. The buildings are beautiful. – L.B. artist
It’s time to set the reset button. I realize that is very difficult to be the one to say out loud that “the emperor has no clothes,” that this will not serve Los Angeles well, that it will only be the beginning of a host of further problems of space, offices, theater space, protected light options, etc. It is not respectful of those who donated to what they expected be a world class museum in the City of Los Angeles. We will be cutting off future donors as well. -S.P., schoolteacher and art historian
I am very, very convinced that the current design is fatally flawed, arbitrary, and a dysfunctional design. One can just look at the floor plan and see how the rectilinear galleries are shoe-horned into the amorphous, arbitrary curvilinear forms… [it] that would have gotten a grade of C minus at best, were it a student’s project… Museums are to this era what cathedrals were to Europe: the statement of our times, our culture and, consequently, what we leave behind for future generations. This is a design that should be left behind. It’s much more intelligent and responsible to accept the fact that we have been given a terrible design, one that defines our city, and stop it now before the first shovel turns dirt. There are brilliant architects doing very, very, very fine work out there… work that shows just how awful this is by comparison. A solution would be to have a design competition again to ensure we get great input from leading architects so that you, the Board, and we the citizens have a building we admire and feel grateful for visiting and having had constructed. – J.P., citizen and concerned architect
Please put a stop to this ego-driven project by Mr. Govan and his architect. This plan is NOT in the best interest of Los Angeles (which is not a concern of Mr. Govan, a New Yorker or Mr. Zumthor a Swiss). -K.K., artist and concerned citizen
There is so much to be gained by this addition to LACMA that substantially outweighs arguments surrounding the decrease in square footage of museum space. On behalf of emerging professionals like myself, please let it go through! -J.G.
This is not a project the people of the county of L.A. are interested in funding. Please look closely at the reactions any discussions of this building is generating. This is not alway the case. People were excited by the Lucas Museum, The Getty, The new football stadium… I trust that you will do the right thing and listen to the people who are urging you to not go with the flow in rubber stamping this project that we do not support… This misguided and expensive project is not the solution your constituents are looking for…. We don’t want this. And we don’t want you to fund it. Please remember that Michael Govan is not the only voice in this discussion; the people you represent are trying to make their voices count as well. -D.S.
I urge you to vote against, or at a minimum delay, approving the money for the current version of the plan to demolish three of the current buildings at LACMA and replace them with a single smaller but more expensive building. Once the board approves it, there’s no way to correct it in the future and Los Angeles’ encyclopedic art museum will eventually suffer an expensive death. And the space for movies, music, and lectures will shrink drastically. I love the museum and visit it often. Please keep it safe -S.O., frequent patron
LACMA as it stands is in it self a work of art, please don’t knock it down like what is going on in every neighborhood in the city. – B.B
LACMA must get this right because the consequences of getting it wrong really are catastrophic—and the proposal before you is detrimental on numerous levels… It’s beyond time for the county’s board of supervisors to cease abdicating your responsibility for oversight! From the outset I have been dismayed by staggering indifference with regards to decision making about this proposal!! It appears that your rubber stamp approvals are assumed to be “in the bag” no matter how vague or disingenuous the claims surrounding this proposal are. When I viewed the models of alternate designs at the museum I was shocked—almost all of them were vastly superior to the Zumthor design presented as the “fait accompli” done deal conclusion. Was there even a competition at all or just a designated “winner”—handpicked by a jury of one?… Where in this entire country have unchecked power and decisions by one man gone well? Charisma should not be the basis for actions with far-reaching consequence…. The task before you has broader reach and meaning than those typically facing you. PLEASE Do not allow a terrible idea to continue towards realization. Look past the marketing hype, faux news propaganda and dig deeper. Behind the facade, what are the issues that truly matter?… Beyond [the many] large scale glaring conceptual problems are smaller details also ignored so far. Lighting of the artworks themselves is critical and LACMA has struggled to get this right for years. When art is behind a reflective surface there is glare. All patrons are not of the same height or eye level, so the lighting must be cognizant of this basic fact. Exterior doors, windows & exit signage, as well as other art that has lights aimed at it all cause reflections on other surfaces – obscuring the art on view… There are many varied constituencies who deserve an opportunity to weigh in on these questions BEFORE any design proposal is even requested in the first place! In this case only those few of us who happened upon the scene even knew to weigh in—and it was uninvited at that. Comment cards should have been readily available—and opinions should have been actively invited and welcomed. I was so repelled by the initial lousy design that I had to seek out a means to voice my dismay. When I went to investigate the current scaled down version I was frustrated by the slick, glib and insubstantial ability to adequately address the concerns referenced in this letter and more. The specifics I was able to get were underwhelming (expediency, unacceptable compromises) and reassurances were far too vague to be valid. It is incumbent upon you to know what matters and participate in the process for bringing it about. And to the degree that this has yet to happen and as a result a bad proposal is currently before you, to conclusively reject it. I urge the supervisors to seriously contemplate: what matters to Los Angeles? what matters to residents and visitors (traffic sucks—avoid sending people hither and yon, for example)? What matters for museums? For cultural treasures? What matters for LACMA? Now? Into the future? -C.B., LACMA member
I have never liked the plans for the new building, but now when we find that it will have much less space for the Museum’s collections and no space for staff and will cost significantly more than similar projects throughout the country I wonder why you are considering it at all! I also agree with [Christopher] Knight that rather than establish “satellites” around the county, the museum should work on reducing or eliminating the entrance fee. LACMA’ s collection is a tremendous resource for residents of the county, and and any plan for a revised campus should improve access in every way, not create more high-end restaurants and other perceived “barriers” to its use by all Angelenos. -S.H.
I am writing to request that you not certify the FEIR today for the proposed new LACMA building, and also that you re-take the reins of this process back from a Director and LACMA Board run amok. I object to this FEIR and the terrible proposed new LACMA building on many grounds. There was no architecture design search or contest—the Director handpicked an architect with a checkered background re: successful builds, someone who has never been involved with something of this size, and presented him as a fait accomplit. The design is terrible—it looks to the past, of mid-century modernism, and not to the present or the future. Look at it—do you like it? Does anyone except the LACMA Board? The design doesn’t serve people or art. The design straddling Wilshire is unwieldy, boxy, and adds nothing to the attendees experience. In fact, they’ll have to walk the length of the building if they enter at the “wrong” entrance for what they want to see. As for art, it shrinks the museum and the gallery space—less art will be on display, not more, which is insane when we have the cultural riches available to us of the LACMA collection. The satellite campus idea means LACMA will actually cost more to run in the future, as the other campus(es) will need to be built or renovated, staffed, maintained, etc. The FEIR appears to be incorrect and incomplete—outside journalists have pointed out that the calculations are wrong by a large factor, mis-classify certain outside areas, and that not enough detailed information has been provided on the actual design. In fact, the case hasn’t been made that a new building is needed at all, let alone that it would be worth the expense and the long period of time when the art would be unavailable to the LA public. How about requesting a proposal for renovating LACMA’s older buildings instead, if they need further modernization? -S.B., LACMA member
Please vote NO on the new design for LACMA. It is staggeringly expensive per square foot, has no room for necessary back of the house services, and would make any future expansion impossible. -E.G.
I strongly urge you to vote NO on the badly flawed Zumthor plan for the museum. I fully agree with the arguments against it made by Christopher Knight in today’s LA TIMES. – T.H, urban and architectural historian, LACMA member
I am deeply disappointed in your votes today… Los Angeles is moving backwards… You have given Govan the power to rewrite history in a male Eurocentric view, that does not reflect it community… For your refusal to protect the arts, our cultural identity, and our voices I will not be supporting you in any future endeavors…. You value the voices of Brad Pitt and Diane Keaton, who aren’t a part of the Los Angeles museum community, [more] than the voice of the artist and critics who openly opposed then pleaded to you. You have no respect for us. You have stolen our culture. This will no longer be the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but the Michael Govan and rich donors museum. Even in our public institutions the one percent matters more to politicians. -E.D., former LACMA employee, arts educator
April 10 Emails:
So now how will you reconcile the loss of 309 auditorium seats in the new design? Huh? -T.H., Miracle Mile
I was surprised to read of your support for the LACMA expansion plan. Are you concerned that the published renderings are inaccurate? They show a transparent building with artworks visible from outside, but reflections and glare off the glass will prevent the building from being transparent. And art preservationists recommend shielding artworks from unfiltered daylight, so it is very unlikely that any of the collections will be visible from outside the building, which means that the areas behind the glass will be a vast circulation space. Also, spanning over Wilshire Boulevard would be a dramatic design gesture — if the passage underneath was a dramatic experience. However, as designed it will be no different from driving under a freeway overpass. As a result, the act of spanning Wilshire becomes an expression of wealthy donor arrogance and entitlement. The design as-is is fatally flawed. A second look by the Board of Supervisors is needed. -E.S.
Do not spend a single penny of taxpayer money on the terrible compromised Zumthor LACMA redesign. – R.C.
You have a say in the oversight of LACMA. This institution is integral to the public life of all Angelenos. The new building, morbidly flawed as it is, is not the greater problem. Mr. Govan’s destruction of LACMA as an encyclopedic museum weakens the worldwide framework for the conservation and study of human expression. The trustees have inexplicably relinquished their oversight responsibility; you must step in. Halt the entire project and demand an accounting and a transparent architect selection process. Without these, Los Angeles will be severely crippled for generations. You will be remembered as those that let it happen. -B.K.