Since our last discussion of architect Peter Zumthor's proposed new design of the Los Angeles County Art Museum, aka the Black Hole on Wilshire Boulevard (see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3442), several important events have taken place:
The Page Museum, which employs paleontologists to excavate bones of ancient mammals from tar pits that lie east of the museum, pointed out that the new museum would overlie several active research sites. Emergency IM to Switzerland: Mr. Z, your tar pit museum has become mired in the honest-to-God tar pits! Back to the drawing board!
To leave the tar pits undisturbed, Zumthor has now re-arranged the amorphous black mass of his new museum, which remains as soft-edged and angle-free as before. As newly redesigned, the bulk of the new building remains on the existing museum site on the north side of Wilshire. Then, in a surprise move worthy of Alien, a black mass surges out of the belly of the beast, leaping across the boulevard in the form of a bridge and landing (splat!) on a museum-owned lot on the south side of the street.
This ingenious solution preserves the size of the museum while sparing the tar pits. No oxen gored here! No wonder public officials have been quick to endorse the design solution. Who could object?
Well, bridges that span streets tend to block views, and views are important, especially on Wilshire, the thoroughfare once described by Reyner Banham as the "linear downtown" of Los Angeles. The view looking east from Fairfax Boulevard, in fact, is one of the best-known street scenes in the city. Only Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards have comparably famous street perspectives. (Some historically minded people might add the views of Broadway, Spring and Seventh streets, all in downtown LA, to that list.)
Getting to the point, blocking the view of arguably the most prominent street in the city from a major intersection (Wilshire and Fairfax Boulevard) damages the city, period. It doesn't matter that the bridge may turn out to be an object of architectural interest. A single building, even one designed by the illustrious Peter Zumthor, is not worth the loss of the view of an entire boulevard. To solve one problem by creating another is not a good solution.
The better approach, I think, would be to add height and mass to the "satellite" site on the south side of Wilshire. That parcel is located among high-rise office buildings, so a new tower would not look out of place. Insofar as the MOCA campus already consists of several free-standing buildings, the new Wilshire-South location would not be out of keeping, especially if the city provides a signalized pedestrian crossing on Wilshire to take the anxiety out of walking across a wide street. A free-standing building is a better solution than an above-the-street bridge, which will be extremely expensive due to seismic standards for public buildings.
There are better uses for public money than obliterating the view of the Miracle Mile from the Fairfax District and Beverly Hills. Message to Peter Zumthor: It's time for Round Three.