Times Art Critic

The County Museum of Art announced plans Wednesday to erect a 22-story building across the street from its Wilshire Boulevard facility to help solve some of its most nagging problems: parking, expansion and income.

To be called Museum Center, the structure envisioned at Spaulding Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard will sit on a two-acre site purchased in June, 1985, for $8 million by the Museum Associates, a nonprofit private support group.

Planned for completion in late 1988, the building was designed by renowned New York architect Philip Johnson, and will be his first building in Los Angeles. The museum, presently in the midst of a building program, is soliciting bids on the project. Museum officials declined to state the projected cost of the structure, saying that they were in the process of determining those figures.

Museum Director Earl (Rusty) Powell said that initially the structure will consist of Johnson's tower, parking, a museum bookstore, restaurant, arcade and sculpture garden. Two-thirds of the space will stay in reserve for future museum expansion, including galleries.

The museum is currently completing its three-story, 115,200-square-foot Robert O. Anderson Building for modern and contemporary art. The $35.3-million structure is scheduled to open in late November. The foundation is also being dug on the east side of the museum for a $12.5-million, 32,100-square-foot pavilion to house Japanese art donated by Joe D. Price. Plans call for it to open in early 1988.

Although the museum's master plan includes provisions for weaving together newer and older parts of the complex, it can expand no further into the adjoining park where the La Brea Tar Pits are located.

The Museum Center proposal includes a 1,200-space underground parking garage, which museum officials hope will solve its parking problem.

"The museum never had decent parking. We will lease probably 300 spaces regularly but most of the 1,200 will be available on weekends when we need them most," said Powell.

"We will think about direct access to the museum. Maybe a tunnel under Wilshire. The parking will have to be paid, but maybe we can work out some scheme for reductions or free parking for members.

"The whole project was started by our quest for parking. When this land became available, it looked to the trustees like our last chance for space. Once we had the land, our facilities committee--headed by Rod McGuire--did a study and it looked like an opportunity to do several good things at once. One was to have a building of architectural significance associated with the museum.

"Rod asked Philip Johnson and his partner John Burgee to do a study. That eventually led to their design for a 22-story commercial office tower. We will essentially give the design to the developer. I think Johnson and Burgee were very taken with L.A.'s tradition of Art Deco. The design seems to reflect an awareness of Bullock's Wilshire and the Wiltern Building."

The project is a private venture of the Museum Associates and does not involve the county, which pays the operating costs of the museum, Powell said. The Spaulding property will be let to a developer on a long-term lease, thus generating added income to supplement the museum's endowment. Powell said he has conferred with local homeowners associations who gave their blessing to the project.

FOR THE RECORD Los Angeles Times Friday July 4, 1986 Home Edition Calendar Part 6 Page 12 Column 6 Entertainment Desk 2 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction Robert F. Maguire was mistakenly identified as Rod McGuire in an article Thursday on the County Museum of Art's new building plans. Maguire, managing partner of Maguire/Thomas Partners real estate developers, is head of the museum's facilities committee.
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