Roni Horn and LACMA director Michael Govan—in conjunction with the museum’s View FromHere program—will discuss how “recently acquired artworks…function historically in an encyclopedic collection, and how they provide us with a window into the challenges and joys of art making.”*
To r.s.v.p. for the online conversation, see link below.
If [Peter Zumthor’s] new design is built, LACMA can no longer be associated with other encyclopedic museums in the United States that shaped their collections in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, and the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. Zumthor’s diminished plan would force it to shed the encyclopedic collections that are the very soul of the museum. It commits the original architectural sin of narcissism, of architecture for the sake of architecture.
This let-the-public-chew-concrete moment is all the more shameful because LACMA has gone ahead with demolition just as COVID-19 has taken over the country, state, county, and city, closing down all but essential activities. The administrations of two other museums under construction in Los Angeles — the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the LucasMuseum of Narrative Art in Exposition Park — have had the common decency to stop construction, admitting they are non-essential projects, and, hence, not worth risking the health of construction workers. Under the phony pretense that it suddenly cares for the public after having ignored public opinion for over a decade, LACMA claims its intent is to infuse (mostly public) money into the local economy, as though suddenly this deeply selfish boondoggle had an altruistic purpose: job creation. — Joseph Giovannini*
As an imaginary counter to what Giovannini calls LACMA director MichaelGovan’s “fait accompli,” the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA accepted proposals from twenty-eight international architectural firms and collections, choosing six final designs in two categories: “Existing Buildings” and “Ground Up.”
The six designs are by Barkow Leibinger, Berlin, with Lillian Montalvo Landscape Design; Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna; Kaya Design, London; Paul Murdoch Architects, Los Angeles; Reiser + Umemoto, New York City; and TheeAe (The Evolved Architectural Eclectic), Hong Kong.
Renowned architect David Adjaye was at LACMA last night for a talk with museum Director Michael Govan. The two discussed Adjaye’s work since his controversial London Elektra House (2000), which almost landed the young architect in jail, to his grand project for the National Museum of African American History, the last building to be constructed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
Adjaye’s early work, and particularly his residential projects, seem to combine the spare rectilinear forms of Mies van der Rohe-style modernism with the New Subjectivity approach to classicism of Peter Behrens. Like the “Dirty House” in London’s Hackney district, the buildings are often black on the outside and entirely white on the inside, absorbing passing exterior light and revealing subtle variations in surface texture, while capturing light as it passes through windows and filtering it through the interior space. In a collaboration with Olafur Eliasson for the 2005 Venice Biennale, Adjaye focused solely on this filtering of light, designing a structure that created linear light patterns based on the position of the sun.
Born in Tanzania to a Ghanaian diplomat, Adjaye lived in Egypt, Yemen, and Lebanon before settling in London, where he studied at South Bank University and the Royal College of Art. He returned focus to Africa in the early 2000s when he completed an encyclopedic study of African vernacular architecture by region and metropolitan center. This focus on local context, yet on a global scale, is central to his practice. At LACMA, Adjaye said that he derives the forms and textures of his buildings from regionally distinct vernacular architecture, and integrates it into the aesthetic language of global contemporary design, in order to make local buildings both fit into and transcend their immediate context. A public library in a poor black neighborhood of Washington, D.C., for instance, features cubic wings raised on pilotees over the front entrance, mimicking the forms of raised porches in neighborhood homes while creating a public gathering and performance space. The exterior of his National Mall museum is a bronze design derived from the Gothic and Art Deco tracery of Charleston facades that were built by African Americans, while its material embodies a form sacred to the Yoruba and West African cultures whose ancestry most African Americans share.
Adjaye’s insistence on accepting low-budget public commissions like libraries and public housing projects is a welcome change for an internationally known “starchitect.” He repeatedly emphasized the need to build for people, to reinvest in the public sphere, and to make good design accessible for all.