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robertogreco : peterzumthor   3

Alexandra Lange: Letter to LACMA
"Letter to LACMA

I’ve only been to LACMA one time. But this is what I did when I was there.

1. Took a photo (not a selfie) of Chris Burden’s Urban Light.
2. Signed up to see the James Turrell on an iPad at an outdoor kiosk.
3. Listened to the jazz band on the plaza.
4. Rode the escalator up and the elevator down inside what will soon be the old Broad.
5. Walked up and down the stairs and through Tony Smith’s Smoke.
6. Rapped on the enamel panels of the Art of Americas Wing.
7. Saw some art.

That motley list of movements and buildings and sights is, it seems to me, the essence of what LACMA is right now, a museum in many parts, a sum of choices, without hierarchy. A place where you can go in and you can go out at will, not when the architecture tells you to.

That’s an experience rare in large urban museums today, where the impulse always seems to be to agglomerate more real estate, connected indoors, around a central atrium or a central staircase. To go out you have to retrace your steps through long sequences of galleries, or pass to and fro past the store, café, coatcheck. There are many layers of architecture between you and the outside, however many slot-like windows the architect has inserted to tell you where you are. There’s a relentlessness to the arrangement that says, You should see it all, rather than, at LACMA, Why don’t you just pop in for a minute?

In fact, the only large museum I’ve been to that has a similar feeling, and was designed all at the same time, is Pedro Ramirez Vasquez’s Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. There, you can also go in and out easily, as each gallery has doors to its own garden as well as a central courtyard. A gap between two galleries becomes an outdoor display space, a level change leads to a shady café. You can skip stops, criss-cross, go up and down, sit by the fountain, and you always know where you are. The courtyard of the Anthropology Museum is shaded by a giant parasol, akin to OMA’s 2001 LACMA plan, which used a transparent roof to unite the parts without tearing so many of them down. [Ed. note: I realized last night I’ve had the details of this plan wrong in my mind for years, having reframed it as a greenhouse of the past and future.)

When I first read Peter Zumthor’s remarks about his plan for LACMA, it seemed like he got this. Liking small museums rather than large museums, creating a series of separate themed entrances to the collection, and pulling back the building to make room for outdoor activities, were all interpretations of the same motley path I followed. I thought the museum could create a tear-off ticket that would let you pay once and experience the museum over days or weeks, one leg at a time. But then I saw the blob or, I later decided to call it, the blot. It was still a giant totalizing figure, even though it looked different from the more mannerly toplit boxes elsewhere – even on other parts of the LACMA site. The fragmentary nature that seems part of LACMA’s DNA – it is #4 on the most Instagrammed museums list, even without a recognizable front door – seemed to disappear into the blackness. Would the LACMA selfie now include the museum as a dark cloud overhead?

Any architectural design has to win fans through suspension of disbelief. The model, the rendering, something has to make you believe that the architect can deliver the experience he or she has in mind. Zumthor’s LACMA hasn’t cleared that bar for me yet. We haven’t been given enough detail about how the parts would work together to knit together a possible experience, or even a good answer to the question: Why is this the best way to accomplish the museum’s goals? When it was a blot I wanted him to take the liquid metaphor further: A liquid should insinuate itself between solids (like the existing buildings) or soak in to the base layer, creating a new landscape. This did neither.

Nothing in his Zumthor’s previous museum work was similar enough to create a mental collage of how the blot might be to visit. The new version, released this week, comes a little closer to reality. What Zumthor seems to have done is embed galleries closer to his previous, petite museums in the inky form, eliminating many of the legs (too bad), and breaking it down into trapezoids as if to find a scale closer to his comfort zone. I’m worried about the circulation (once you go up, how to you get down, or outside?) and the underneath (is it like the underside of a highway?).

The ease of movement between inside and outside is gone once you raise it up on stilts to get over Wilshire Boulevard. And for an architect whose Swiss projects are embedded in the landscape, it seems strange to impose these flat black pancake floors around the galleries. Peter Zumthor is a critics’ darling because his buildings feel like special places and trust me, we’ve been to too many generic art spaces. What kind of place will this be?"
lacma  2015  alexandralange  museums  experience  peterzumthor  art  artmuseums  architecture  design  autonomy  hierarchy  control  choice  freedom  disbelief  architectire  fragmentation  losangeles 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Third Los Angeles Project | Occidental College | The Liberal Arts College in Los Angeles
"A series of public conversations examining a city moving into a dramatically new phase in its civic development.

Los Angeles, as it finally builds a comprehensive public transit system and pays serious attention to its long-neglected civic realm, is in the midst of profound reinvention. Or perhaps it’s better to call it a profound identity crisis. Either way, the old clichés about L.A. clearly no longer apply. This is a city trying, and often struggling, to define a post-suburban identity.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that all of the things that L.A. is aiming to add (and in fact grew infamous around the world for lacking) in the post-war years -- mass transit, places to walk, civic architecture, forward-looking urban planning, innovative multifamily housing -- it actually produced in enviable quantities in the early decades of the 20th century. Contemporary L.A. also shares with that earlier city an anxiety about the environment, in contrast to the confidence about controlling nature that shaped Los Angeles in the post-war decades.

In the most basic sense, that’s why we’re calling the initiative the Third Los Angeles Project. We are not just entering a new phase. We are also rediscovering the virtues and challenges of an earlier one -- and acknowledging the full sweep of L.A.’s modern history.

In the First Los Angeles, stretching roughly from the city’s first population boom in the 1880s through 1940, a city growing at an exponential pace built a major transit network and innovative civic architecture.

In the Second Los Angeles, covering the period from 1940 to the turn of the millennium, we pursued a hugely ambitious experiment in building suburbia –- a privatized, car-dominated landscape –- at a metropolitan scale.

Now we are on the cusp of a new era. In a series of six public events, some on the Occidental College campus and others elsewhere, the Third Los Angeles Project will explore and explain this new city.

The Third Los Angeles Project is a unique collaboration between Occidental College, Southern California Public Radio and Christopher Hawthorne, professor of practice in the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental, as well as architecture critic at the Los Angeles Times since 2004. A corresponding academic course is running concurrent with the public events.

All events are open to the public and free of charge. Register by clicking on any of the events below:

Welcome to the Third Los Angeles - Thursday, Feb. 12, 7:30 PM
The series kicks off with an introduction to the goals and central themes of the Third Los Angeles project.

Post-Immigrant Los Angeles - Wednesday, Feb. 18, 7:30 PM
Immigration to Southern California peaked in 1990, and we’ve now entered a post-immigrant phase, with foreign-born residents likely to be more financially and culturally stable and better connected than they were a generation ago.

City of Quartz at 25 - Wednesday, Mar. 4, 7:30 PM
Arguably the most important book written about Los Angeles in the last four decades -- and easily the most controversial -- City of Quartz is about to turn 25.

A Debate over the New LACMA - Wednesday, Mar. 25, 7:30 PM
Architect Peter Zumthor’s plan to radically redesign the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has divided critics and architects in L.A. like no other proposal in recent memory.

The Future of the Single-Family House: New Housing Models for Los Angeles - Wednesday, Apr. 8, 7:30 PM
At once vulnerable and inviolate, a disappearing architectural species and the most protected building type in the city, the single-family house continues to play an outsize role in debates over architecture, planning and growth in Los Angeles."
losangeles  christopher  hawthorne  events  future  history  occidentalcollege  immigration  socal  urban  urbanism  cities  2015  cityofquartz  mikedavis  peterzumthor  development  transportation  transit  suburbia  housing  infilling  masstransit  architecture  thordlosangeles  futures  lacma 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Peter Zumthor: In pursuit of perfection | Art and design | The Observer
"His interest in craft owes much to the route he took into architecture. "The first 10 years of my professional life had only to do with running away from my father," he says. "He was a wonderful cabinet-maker and me being the eldest son I had to take over his shop, his profession and so on and so on. I tried to escape by going to art school and then going on to industrial design and then interior design. This was going step by step towards architecture." He never qualified, although the Swiss authorities much later awarded him the title of architect, "because they loved my work"."
architecture  architects  self-taught  design  peterzumthor  outsiders  art  generalists  autodidacts  outsider 
june 2011 by robertogreco

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