Opinion

The Broad Museum Is Unveiled and It Looks Like a …

The Broad Museum (photo by Gary Leonard, via thebroad.org)
The Broad Museum (photo by Gary Leonard, via thebroad.org)

LOS ANGELES — When the designs for the Broad Museum were originally announced four years ago, the reaction was generally positive. Despite his mixed assessment of the project overall, Nicolai Ouroussoff noted, “there is something alluring about the design, by Diller Scofidio & Renfro. Its honeycomblike exterior is a smart counterpoint to the swirling forms of Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall next door.” The perforated façade, commonly called “the veil,” was intended to let in light and open the space up to the street life of Grand Avenue. A major feature was a “dimple” in the structure — labeled the “oculus” — basically a huge window that looks out from a second floor meeting room.

Now, $140 million later, with design alterations, construction delays and a $20 million lawsuit, the scaffolding has finally come off, revealing the museum’s completed exterior. In the LA Times, Carolina Miranda cites the response as being underwhelming (“totally whatevs,” she says), however I would say the reactions have actually been quite animated. Although many feel the reality doesn’t measure up to the renderings, rarely has a new building elicited such a wide assortment of colorful comparisons. Here, in no particular order, are some favorites.

The Eye of Sauron atop Barad-dûr (via youtube.com)
The Eye of Sauron atop Barad-dûr (via youtube.com)

Eye of Sauron

LAist had a number of free associations when they first saw the oculus unveiled: “A bellybutton, a Hannibal Lecter-esque mask, or the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings.” The Eye is symbolic of Sauron’s omniscience, as Saruman tells Gandalf:

Concealed within his fortress, the lord of Mordor sees all. His gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth, and flesh. You know of what I speak, Gandalf: a great Eye, lidless, wreathed in flame.

So if that makes Broad the Dark Lord of Mordor, how does the rest of the LA arts ecosystem fit into Tolkein’s mythology? Who’s Frodo, who’s Legolas, and what about Arwen? Take your guesses, but one thing’s for sure … Jeffrey Deitch would be Golem.

Emperor Palpatine on his throne (via boards.theforce.net)
Emperor Palpatine on his throne (via boards.theforce.net)

Death Star

Writing last summer about the lawsuit over the delays in fabrication for the museum’s façade blocks, I compared the oculus to the window of the Death Star in Star Wars, from which the emperor could gaze out at the emptiness of space. Hopefully the museum’s meeting room will come equipped with an imperial throne. After all, in architecture it’s the details that really make the difference.

Parmesan (via Christopher Knight's Facebook page)
Parmesan (via Christopher Knight’s Facebook page)

Cheese Grater

Christopher Knight, art critic for the LA Times, simply posted an image of a cheese grater juxtaposed with the unveiled Broad to his Facebook page. Like getting dried cheese off a grater after it’s been sitting for a few days, cleaning the LA road grit that accumulates in the façade’s nooks is surely going to pose a challenge.

American Cement Building (via blog.archpaper.com)
American Cement Building (via blog.archpaper.com)

American Cement Building

As Branden Klayko noted on The Architect’s Newspaper blog when the plans were first shown, the Broad shares a common aesthetic with the mid-century American Cement Building. That 1964 structure, located nearby off MacArthur Park, is sheathed in a similar undulating, organic concrete scrim. A big difference is that whereas the Broad used numerous molds to fabricate the veil’s 2,500 panels, the American Cement Building is composed from uniform units. Along with the Broad’s more dynamic façade, however, came a slew of fabrication headaches and spiraling costs.

Or …

… as one Twitter user succinctly put it:

No accompanying image necessary.

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