Artist’s rendering of the Diller Scofidio Renfro design for Broad’s downtown museum. Exterior entry view. (Diller Scofidio+Renfro via LATimes)

Eli Broad’s much anticipated museum finally unveiled the design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro to the public today. First of all, I have a very difficult time taking firms that use a plus sign instead of an ampersand or just the word “and” seriously because, really? Anywho, back to the design. Bluntly put it’s a rhombus looking cube with a concrete (concrete!?) honeycomb skin that makes a “flirtatious gesture in the direction of Disney Hall,” Christopher Hawthorne’s words, not mine. The honeycomb of the skin is elongated in such a way towards the highest “flirtatious” point, it actually just looks like it is being sucked into a vortex, and not a good one.

I would be remiss to not bring up some of the changes in the design since it was announced that Diller Scofidio + Renfro were the official architects for the projects. ArtInfo thinks that they were some of the key elements of the winning design, and I have to agree:

For one thing, an inventive scheme for the lobby that would have allowed a visual confrontation between pedestrians and visitors arriving by car — which Hawthorne imagines as “a friendly but pointed confrontation between L.A. car culture and the city’s slowly growing constituency for mass transit and better-designed public space” — will not be part of the finished design. Likewise, a series of intriguing digital billboards on the honeycomb-like exterior of the museum, envisioned to display a rotating series of digital artworks, will not go ahead.

I, for one, am not upset about the digital billboards not being incorporated because we have enough digital advertisements in Los Angeles as it is, and it is beyond distracting. The building will be, not unlike Gehry’s Disney Hall, a distraction enough on it’s own that to add electronic boards of bright colors pointing toward the street would just be plain annoying.

Elevation of the Broad Museum (via (click to enlarge)

I was intrigued by the drive-in Lobby idea and would love to know why they scratched that (potential car bomb?). It was innovative and cheeky, perhaps a little to on the nose, but hey, this is LA, we enjoy referencing ourselves as often as possible. I am also intrigued by this new glass encased lobby. I know the museum isn’t too close to LA Live, but it will be interesting to see how well those glass walls stay intact if the Lakers win, or heaven forbid, lose.

The other interesting thing about this project though is the skin and it’s choice of materials. I know I am not alone in the feeling that skins of this type and pattern just remind me of M-Arch thesis presentations. It’s no longer original, and it is a bit of a cop out (in my opinion) from actually designing a building. This one isn’t particularly appealing and I can’t, for the life of me, see how this exterior is going to be fitting into the urban landscape of downtown. I know, I know, Disney Hall sticks out like a huge ball of tin foil, but that is a monument and was clearly not looking to fit in. Looking at it in the rendering you get the idea of matte metal, titanium perhaps, but it’s actually concrete. Concrete? Really? How heavy is this material going to look next to all the glass and metal facades of downtown? I know there is some brick, but the undulating concrete forms will make the waves look heavy and rigid, not fluid or graceful. The concrete reminds me of a lot of buildings that seemed so exciting and new … in 1965. Why the throw back?

I spoke to architectural writer Angela Serratore (a self admitted fan of DS+R’s work) about the project and she said two things that really rang true about this design.

  1. “I feel like this design would be fine (not great, mind you) but totally OK if they had put it in Santa Monica.”
  2. “I am pretty sure in 2020 every Target will look like this.”

I hear truth ringing when I read those statements.

I don’t think all hope is lost for our Bunker Hill Bungle. The project is a long way from being built and these things do have a way of reshaping with each budget or approval meeting. This is the biggest spot of hope, from Christopher Hawthorne:

Broad is expected to announce Thursday that he is nearing an agreement with the Community Redevelopment Agency, developer Related Cos. and city officials to build a new public plaza wrapping the southern and western sides of the museum and to widen the sidewalks on both sides of Grand between 2nd and 4th streets. Those changes — just the sort I have pressed Broad to pursue, given the civic importance of the site — could help the museum avoid becoming another of Bunker Hill’s aloof, self-contained architectural landmarks.

I am optimistic then, if this is true and they can somehow design a plaza that blends this museum in with the urban fabric of Bunker Hill, then props to them and I am a happier camper. If not, well, we will have another “Bunker Hill aloof, self-contained architectural landmark” and I won’t be too sad that my commute won’t take me past it every day.

And yes, I ignored the “dimple” on purpose. I am just going to forever pretend it isn’t there and live a happier life for it.

Alexis Hyde sweats art, willingly, and it’s not always pretty. She is passionately driven to blog about, write about and to study art. Alexis lives in LA and wages her very breath on discovering the...

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