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Readers React

The new LACMA: Does an art museum have to be a work of art?

ArchitectureLos Angeles County Museum of ArtMuseumsPeter ZumthorRem Koolhaas

To the editor: The primary function of a museum is to display art and to serve as a community amenity. It appears that the current primary goal of upgrading the L.A. County Museum of Art is to create a "work of art." This is putting the cart in front of the horse. ("LACMA redesign avoids tar pits, creates challenges," June 24)

In 1959, an architecture professor I had as a freshman told us that first, a building must be functional, and that if it has utility, it will be beautiful. Utility encompasses all the things that society requires in contemporary buildings: sound structural and seismic design; safety for fire and exiting; disabled access; sustainability and minimal environmental impact; serviceability of power, data, lighting, mechanical, elevator and escalator systems; and interface with the street and Metro.

To glom onto any particular architectural design at this point is premature. It would be prudent to provide only preliminary approval with further study and design development before issuing a final go-ahead. It will be costly to develop the design, but at least it will be easier to establish a realistic construction budget for the project.

Personally, I don't understand the significance of the amoeba-like footprint of the new LACMA. On the other hand, I like the idea of bridging Wilshire Boulevard, as it will better define a sense of place. It would be good to see more use of airspace in L.A

Jared Sloan, Silver Lake


To the editor: Every 10 years LACMA has a redesign spasm. What was once Rem Koolhaas' is now Peter Zumthor's mixy-swirly mess, round two.

The Times' worshipful commentary glides over cost, storage and other lurking considerations. How about skinning the exteriors of the current William Pereira structures with an interesting LED pixel grid for $20 million, out the door?

Bottom line: The public swarms LACMA and couldn't care less about the sniffy distaste for the 1965 mid-century originals. Save the county a pile of money, do the L.A. face-lift thing, and in 20 years people will realize they saved another architectural nugget.

Larry Gassan, Los Angeles

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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