Transit Tempest

MTA advertisement on Wilshire Blvd.

MTA advertisement on Wilshire Blvd.

On Saturday the LA Times ran an article on the Purple Line extension that was real eye-opener for me. Let me say up front that I absolutely support the extension, and I’m glad the MTA is expanding our transit network. But I hadn’t realized how disruptive the construction would be, and I have to say I sympathize with the residents who are up in arms. They’re looking at years of noise, dust, traffic and general chaos. Even some of those who want to see the Purple Line go farther west are freaking out now that they’re realizing what it means for residents and businesses in the Wilshire Corridor.

If all goes well, the first phase of the project will be completed in nine years. That will only take the Purple Line to La Cienega. It will be over ten more years before it reaches its ultimate destination, the VA campus in West LA. I want to repeat the phrase “if all goes well”. Those of you who were around in the nineties will recall the mixture of disbelief and disgust that Angelenos felt during the construction of the Red Line, when stories about delays, cost overruns, incompetence and corruption appeared regularly in the news. The actual timeline for the Purple Line could easily end up stretching beyond current estimates, and I have no doubt it’ll cost way more than the MTA is telling us.

I am really glad the MTA is moving aggressively to expand our transit system, not just along this corridor but all over the county. I hope, though, that they’re letting residents know what they’re in for, and taking the time to listen to citizens’ complaints. The people who live along the Wilshire Corridor are going to be dealing with some real problems over the next two decades. The City of LA and the MTA need to do everything they can to minimize the disruptions.

Here’s the story from the Times.

Purple Line Construction

MTA construction site at Wilshire and Fairfax

MTA construction site at Wilshire and Fairfax

Change Is the Only Constant at LACMA

A view of LACMA as it was in the sixties

A view of LACMA as it was in the sixties

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is undergoing some major changes. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has been commissioned to design a completely new campus for the museum. All of the original structures, plus the Anderson Building (now the Art of the Americas Building) will be demolished to make way for a brand new campus.

It makes sense. Over the years LACMA has become kind of a cluttered mess. I loved the original Pereira design, three unobtrusive modern structures surrounding a spacious plaza. To my mind the addition of the Anderson Building in the mid-eighties was a huge mistake. Sure, it was great to have the extra square footage for exhibitions, but the building itself was awful. The central plaza was taken away, and a blandly oppressive façade now towered over the sidewalk at the Wilshire entrance. Two years later they added the Japanese Pavilion, which I have mixed feeling about. Inside, it’s a great space for displaying art and artifacts. Outside, it’s just kind of weird and tacky, and adds to the general visual confusion.

So I totally understand why the LACMA Board wants to start over, more or less from scratch. Zumthor’s design is pretty interesting. Below is a link to a slide show on LACMA’s web site.

Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA

There are a lot of good ideas here. I love the fact that the design allows for more interaction with the surrounding park. And I’m really intrigued by the concept of storing art in areas that would allow for public viewing day or night, all year round. This could turn out to be pretty cool….

But I couldn’t find any information on LACMA’s web site about when all this is going to happen. Making Zumthor’s design a reality will be a huge undertaking. The first step will be to demolish the four buildings that make up the core of the campus. And my guess is that it would take at least a couple years to complete the new structure. Which means LACMA’s exhibitions would be confined to the BCAM and the Resnick Pavilion for quite a while, although they might also look for a temporary space.

Big ambitious projects like this often sound really exciting in the planning stages. Then, when you start trying to figure out how to actually make it happen, the excitement fades as people realize what a huge challenge it will be. But I hope they can pull it off. This could take LACMA to a new level.