In Praise of LACMA’s Vulgar Architecture

Demolishing Much of the Existing Museum Is a Big Mistake. It’s More Like a Mall Than the Met—Which Is Why It’s Perfect for L.A.

LACMA main campus

When Renzo Piano was first approached about designing an addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Italian architect hesitated. “As I already told you,” he wrote in a letter to Eli Broad, whose donation was funding the building, “it’s very frustrating to play a good piece by a string quartet in the middle of three badly played rock concerts.”

“Three rock concerts” was a reference to the existing architecture of LACMA, which had grown in fits and starts over the years. The original museum, which opened in 1965, …

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