1. “Only a one-story building will work.”
FACT: The museum has consistently maintained that visitors lose interest when confronted by a staircase. Bald lie: Visit the Louvre, the National Gallery, the Metropolitan Museum, the Chicago Art Institute. See PORTFOLIO section for inviting, incentivizing staircases in multi-story museums.
2. “The museum needs more outdoor acreage.”
FACT: No, with the adjacent Tar Pits park. owned by the County Museum of Natural History, and the former Ogden Drive integrated into the campus, LACMA is already flooded with outdoor space. Any urban planner will tell you the museum needs only well-programmed, well-choreographed outdoor space that brings the pavilions together, not vast prairies piously landscaped with native grasses and trendy succulents that separate the existing pavilions.
3. “Gee, let’s suburbanize the museum with satellite galleries because L.A. is already suburban.”
FACT: Wrong. Traffic is choking Los Angeles, forcing densification and urbanization along major arteries served by public transportation. LACMA on Wilshire is the beneficiary because of the imminent Purple Line. Leave the car at home and hop on a subway. A denser not a more dispersed city is L.A.’s future.
4. “Just drink in the paintings with your eyes and you won’t need labels.”
FACT: No. Contrary to Mr. Zumthor's belief that what you see is what you get when you stand in font of an artwork, the experience of art is not always delivered in one hot second. you often need an explanatory label to enjoy and understand what you are looking at. Spare us the anti-intellectualism. Atmosphere doesn't do it all.
5. “We need to break traditional collections down so we can look at art as art, not class-defined history.”
FACT: There’s lots of talk about abandoning antiquated ways of thinking in favor of a cool democratic floor plan liberated from old social and cultural hierarchies. Actually, the encyclopedic museum, like the U.S. Constitution, is a creation of the Enlightenment, and when you start attacking the Enlightenment, you’re attacking a basis by which knowledge has been constructed. Collections give you a cultural context in which to understand art. Collections, whether art or beetles or Neolithic tools, are a basis of observation from which to build knowledge and understanding. With its collections, LACMA is a teaching museum, not just a playpen for sensitive connoisseurs who want to faint.
6. “LACMA needs a building for exhibitions, not collections.”
FACT: LACMA already has the Broad and Resnick pavilions for changing exhibitions. It needs a large building with spaces tailored to established, growing, and changing collections that can themselves be creatively refreshed and proactively rearranged.
7. “LACMA needs a democratic design that doesn’t prioritize European collections usually located in front galleries on the main floor.”
FACT: Get with the program, please. Nobody is designing museums on the palace model anymore, with their hierarchical spaces dedicated first and foremost to the burden of White Man’s brilliance.
8. “The existing buildings are beyond repair.”
FACT: LACMA deliberately suspended maintenance on its buildings to precipitate emergency conditions that threatened galleries and the artworks in them. LACMA let its buildings deteriorate so that they would “need” to be replaced.
9. “The existing buildings can’t be salvaged.”
FACT: Museum director Michael Govan has admitted that no plan was ever attempted to integrate the old buildings into an expanded museum because retrofitting the old museums would be too expensive. No evidence of either a plan or financial unfeasibility was ever presented to the public or confirmed by an independent outside source. Show us.
10. “The new building is only slightly smaller than the buildings it replaces”
FACT: The square footage loss is draconian. LACMA resorts to trick accounting. It counts half the outdoor space under the museum, even under the overhanging eaves, as interior square footage. This is a technicality and a lie.
11. “Those open public spaces are open and public.”
FACT: Well, no they aren’t. Those carefree Sunday-afternoon-in-the-park renderings fib. Tall fences will be required to protect the sculptures in the open spaces, and to keep out the homeless seeking shelter under the belly of the elevated museum.
12. "Off-campus satellite galleries will resolve the space shortage."
FACT: The half-dozen 5,000-square-foot micro-galleries the museum is talking about, spread around the County and to be acquired at additional cost, will not make up for the loss of over 53,000 square feet of gallery space or the loss of over 145,000 square feet of museum space. For one, we are still over 23,000 square feet gallery space short, but secondly, even if the gallery spaces would mathematically make up for the lost gallery space in the mothership, the dispersion of the collection breaks down its cohesion. Satellites are great if they are an addition to a strong collection, if they extend the reach of a strong museum to other parts, but they can not make up for space that is missing to show the main collection.
The cost for said satellites are not in the construction budget. So who is going to pay for this?
13. “The glass facade is just fine for art.”
FACT: No, actually, it’s not. Some of LACMA’s own renderings admit that curtains will be necessary along the facade, which defeats the idea of transparency. Besides, what museum is going to lend to another museum with dicey light levels? What insurance company is going to insure the loans?
14. “But Michael Govan is so nice, and he’s done such great shows.”
FACT: Yes and no. But don’t conflate the charming director with the design he promotes. You can still like Govan and object to the objectionable building. This is a personality driven project, and personality can't compensate for an inexcusably and irretrievably stupid building
Onto a list of FATAL FLAWS