Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

“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.

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Squeezed between the Los Angeles International Airport’s ever-honking traffic and its jam-packed parking lots, the iconic spacecraft-shaped Theme Building peacefully overlooks the chaos. Designed by architects William L. Pereira and Charles Luckman (with Paul Williams and Welton Becket) and one of the last original pieces of the airport master plan, the building opened in 1961. Its architects envisioned it as the centerpiece of the airport, a jet-setting gateway to the futurist city of Los Angeles. Today, you have to dodge a few shuttle buses to get to it, and its retro cocktail lounge and restaurant closed in 2013. Still, the space-age structure stands as a worthy destination for those daring enough to make their way to its observation deck. Designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument by the city in 1993 (a move that protects it from demolition or substantial changes), it’s an essential piece of architectural history. Read More …