I think many Angelenos would agree that the eastern campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is cluttered, difficult to navigate, and not the best public frontage or “front door” for the museum campus. But it wasn’t always like that. William Pereira’s original 1965 master plan called for a pleasant entrance courtyard off of Wilshire, surrounded by a trio of core buildings. Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer Associates’ 1986 addition esentially created a wall along Wilshire Blvd., eliminating the open frontage to the museum. Pity.
So this exhibit of Peter Zumthor’s vision for a new LACMA campus is funny in that, like its predecessors, it reimagines a new campus without these original core museum buildings. This plan, and those famously proposed by OMA, call for the demolition and removal of all existing structures, and developing a new mega-museum building, one that houses all the museum’s functions under one roof. Nice. But maybe too easy? Is there nothing redeemable about the existing master plan to be salvaged? It would be a much bigger feat, and more admirable, if architects were able to reuse some parts of the original buildings, tapping into the sentimental and emotional connections people have with the existing campus. Instead of simply starting over?