With the demolition of Los Angeles County Museum of Art underway for Peter Zumthor's redesign, Mimi Zeiger is concerned about what will be left for the city and its residents following coronavirus lockdown.
"LACMA belongs to the people of Los Angeles County and it should reflect the tremendous diversity, creativity, and openness to change that can be found here," reads a headline on the buildinglacma.org, a website ostensibly tracking the design and construction of the controversial, squiggle of a proposal by Swiss architect Zumthor.
Such marketing copy, written by the voice of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan, is meant to rally support (public and financial) under a banner of shared values. But that last phrase – openness to change that can be found here – is suspect on two accounts.
In a time of semi-facts and dog whistles, "openness to change"1 is a riposte to the public campaigns and individuals advocating to preserve the original buildings or, at least, seriously reconsider a $750-million (£603-million) design that reduces the museum's gallery square footage by up to 10 per cent yet willfully spans Wilshire Boulevard with the aplomb of a pedestrian overpass.
These days, the ideas of "museum as destination" and "experience" often overshadow more old-fashioned notions of "civic identity" or "pedagogy". Each one of these four concepts get pretty wobbly under the gaze of decolonisation, when the onus for one institution (or one building) to represent plurality is shaky at best. But LACMA's mash-up of structures on Wilshire Boulevard in Hancock Park offered informality and in-between space rather than heroic unity.