The continuing predilection of Los Angeles' elite for modernist architectural junk ensures that yet another of our city's landmarks will be gutted ("L.A. Art Museum Decides to Radically Reshape Itself," by Suzanne Muchnic, Dec. 6). Rem Koolhaas' model for how he would redesign the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is the apparent winner of the design competition, and what is it?
His building resembles a folded-up coat hanger suspending a soap bubble over simple boxy buildings.
L.A.'s reputation as the home of the ephemeral, the inconsequential and the flighty will be furthered by LACMA's new museum.
After reading your story about the unanimous praise the new LACMA plan is garnering from the so-called cognoscenti ("LACMA Raze Met With Praise," by Suzanne Muchnic and Lynn Smith, Dec. 10), this 77-year-old nobody would like to check in with a contrarian viewpoint.
As I sat in LACMA's Plaza enjoying last Friday night's jazz concert, I found myself taking a new look at the presently scorned architecture surrounding me. I was pleasantly surprised at the interesting historical picture these buildings presented, and I wished that I had brought along my digital camera to record it.
On my left was the massive, blocky-look of '60s modern, while contrasted on my right was the retro look of '80s post-modern. I could even catch a peek-a-boo glimpse at that '50s motel-style modern of the Japanese Pavilion in the distance.
Hey, this is architectural history, I thought, and the curators, who are supposed to be all about the history of art and architecture, want to destroy it. Somehow that doesn't seem right.
Of course, there's something to be said for the museum's desire to provide visitors with an unbroken continuity in their trip through the museum, something that the Koolhaas blueprint is expected to provide.
But is the saving of a few moments, a few steps, really worth the loss forever of still important examples of L.A.'s architectural history, good or bad? I think not.
Where is the L.A. Conservancy when we really need them?
As a licensed architect and an adjunct professor of architecture at a local university, I look upon the Rem Koolhaas proposal for LACMA with trepidation. Although as a designer, I find the models to be quite seductive and enticing, as a concerned citizen of our planet in an age of "sustainable design," I regret to say that Koolhaas' proposal is grossly irresponsible.
At issue is a concept called "embodied energy." When one considers the amount of raw material extracted to build the existing buildings; the energy used to transport, refine and transport again to the construction site; and the energy used to construct the buildings, the thought that we would simply tear these buildings down, dump them in a landfill and start the process all over again is absurd. It is akin to clear-cutting an entire old-growth forest, then using the lumber for a high school pep rally bonfire!
When LACMA trustee Stanley Grinstein praises the design as "the most sensible" because it puts "86% of the budget into new construction," he misses the larger picture. If the embodied energy of the existing structures were added into the calculation, he would find that equation flips: 86% of the budget is actually for the demolition and disposal of existing embodied energy and the extraction, processing and transportation of new embodied energy.
Bravo to LACMA for a bold, decisive move on its architectural future. While I fear a certain Disney-esque deja vu may befall both its final cost and fund-raising efforts, a piecemeal approach would only delay the inevitable.
While the merits of Rem Koolhaas' ultimate designs have yet to be addressed, this opportunity to unify its campus and to re-imagine (and re-create) LACMA's role/purpose on Southern California's cultural landscape is a great one indeed.
Let's see if I get this right: The LACMA board of directors approves a $200-million building that is basically a cement tent on stilts and the museum still can't admit the area poor for free more than one day a month? This is self-serving, insensitive, elitist, insider behavior at its worst.
Art education in elementary, middle and high school is so pathetic that it can truly be said that we now have at least two generations that are, for the most part, culturally illiterate. It makes me wonder why LACMA would be willing to spend at least $200 million renovating their space when the masses are not prepared to understand a painting or sculpture in the first place.
Maybe Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky can explain why the city wants to help fund a museum makeover but not art education in the public schools? Who does he think is going to benefit from that decision? Maybe Eli Broad and his pals who house their collections there.
The method for the selection of Koolhaas for a new LACMA is highly flawed, as other architects should have been allowed to submit proposals based on the premise that the old LACMA structures would be largely demolished. That way, the architectural competitors would have competed on equal footing, and there would be a greater selection.
It also seems that there has been far too little public input and participation in a matter of this seriousness. What are the powers that be afraid of?
Disturbingly enough, The Times in reporting this matter sounds as if it is part of the LACMA publicity department. Not one reporter or columnist has asked a lot of obvious and hard questions about this project. Shame!
Once again, Times critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has it exactly right ("Conceptual, but Already More," Dec. 7). LACMA's selection of Rem Koolhaas for the museum's redesign leaves no doubt as to the museum leadership's position. Vanity is out. Art is in. History is in.
Even much-maligned functionalism has returned. The "interconnectiveness" of parallel galleries allows scholarship and simple aesthetic enjoyment to happily commingle. Visitors will finally choose their own individual paths, without constantly stopping for directions. Protected by a canopy of filtered light, the permanent exhibition space will cultivate and celebrate nature and art, uniting structure and parkland.
LACMA CEO Andrea Rich and its trustees, led by Eli Broad, have made a masterful choice. LACMA's redesign will finally put the last nail in the coffin of L.A.'s middlebrow public architecture status quo. We all owe them and Mr. Koolhaas our thanks, and a bit of our money as well.
I have a message for potential LACMA benefactors: If you want to be among those who can afford to give hundreds of millions of dollars, ask that those dollars be spent on improving the quality and quantity of our current collections, not on bloated architecture that in no way reflects our culture.
'Fluff' Has Its Fans
I read Paul Brownfield's article on "Good Day LA" ("Plenty of Fluff to Go Around," Dec. 10), and my only thought was it seemed obvious he has a grudge against KTTV or was paid by another network to smear these wonderfully refreshing people.
I, for one, am happy to have them in the morning. I have a busy career, and I have four children all under the age of 14, and my life is complicated enough without watching boring, morose or moronic news shows in the morning. Brownfield should be ashamed of himself.
To mention John Coltrane and Mozart in a sentence about that giddy morning show "Good Day LA" is practically a felony. What was Steve Edwards thinking? He should know better.
"Good Day LA"
It's Not the Rat Pack
Your review of the remake of "Ocean's Eleven" ("A Criminally Stylish Return to Cool," by Kenneth Turan, Dec. 7) totally missed the point about what "cool" and "hip" really meant when the original version was made in 1960. It meant a rejection of sexual repression, racial bigotry and segregation. In that sense, the Rat Pack was cut from the same cloth as the beboppers, hipsters, Beats and the early rock 'n' rollers.
The open friendship and respect between Frank, Dino and Sammy was real, and they didn't care who knew it. This sent a powerful message to those who wanted to believe that true brotherhood was possible in America.
Who really believes that George, Brad and Matt are friends with Don Cheadle? In fact, who really believes that they are even friends with each other? What we do believe is that this is just another big payday for a group of self-centered already overpaid actors.
In the pre-opening publicity for "Ocean's Eleven," much was made of the all-star cast, including the wonderful Don Cheadle. Now his name does not appear in the ads, and The Times review of the movie didn't even mention him. What gives? A better actor doesn't inhabit Hollywood.
Valenzuelas Get an A
I felt like a proud parent when I read about the success of Omar and Adolfo Valenzuela in the Dec. 1 story "Twins Add Oomph to Banda's Oom-Pah" (by Agustin Gurza). I had the twins in my English class when they first came to Roosevelt High, and they were exactly as they are portrayed in the article: unassuming, friendly and with a sense of humor. At the same time, they were dedicated musicians who were always focused on how to best prepare themselves to succeed professionally.
As educators, it's gratifying to see our students go on to have successful careers. In the case of Adolfo and Omar, it's doubly satisfying to see that hard work, talent and creativity have paid off for them, but it hasn't gone to their heads or affected their values.
A Cartoonist Fits In
Brian Lowry's On TV column ("Where Do the Kids Fit In?," Dec. 12) implied that FCC regulations for educational children's programming are the main reason the networks are giving up on children's animated shows. I believe that is a side issue. The ultimate cause of networks' bailing on kids' cartoons is that TV executives, moms and politicians are not creative people. Having good intentions for what constitutes the right kind of cartoons for children doesn't make kids want to watch them.
The networks would rather abdicate children's entertainment to cable or syndication than put the cartoonists in charge.
And, yes ... I'm a cartoonist.
Praise for Dally
In her review of Lynn Dally's "Rhythm-a-ning" ("In 'Rhythm-a-ning,' Jazz Tap and Beyond," Dec. 8), Jennifer Fisher gave the dancers the well-deserved credit for their performances, but she did not credit Dally nearly enough for making those incredible dancers-performers look the way they did.
It was obviously a collaborative effort on everyone's part to bring about the amazing work "Solea." But it took the genius of Dally to bring those dancers into the rehearsal studio and put together a work of this magnitude.
Reader to Reader
Re the Dec. 8 letter from Matthew Hetz ("Gaps in the Bridge"), in which he asked "why must one be accompanied by music while in the bathroom?": I enjoy the opera while showering, the symphony while making dinner and concerts while not watching TV. Beautiful music belongs everywhere.