“Sculptural” architecture is now in full flower – at MOCA, and LACMA. DnA explores the MOCA show following the last minute makeover of its installation and the vast “inkblot” being proposed in place of four older buildings at the county museum — with guests Sam Lubell, Anne Marie Burke, Peter Zumthor, Michael Govan and architect Craig Hodgetts. Also, Mariana Amatullo and Elisa Ruffino discuss Art Center’s effort to teach middle schoolers that guns are “Uncool;” Phil Owen and attendees at E3 consider a campaign to remove gun brands from video games. And architect and product designer Michael Graves talks about shaping hospitals and homes since he lost the ability to walk.
Redesigning Gun Culture
A few days ago the campus that KCRW sits on – Santa Monica College – was visited by the epidemic of random gun violence that besets this country. An unstable young man went on a rampage that took the lives of his father, brother, a gentle groundsman at the college and his lovelydaughter, as well as a lady who often came rummaging for recyclables. As he stormed the campus in his swat gear, he terrorized some of my colleagues, and students and faculty who ran for cover wherever they could. Meanwhile the kids in the Santa Monica school district – my daughter among them — were locked down for four hours, many without food, some without access to bathrooms.
Clearly, no society that calls itself civilized should accept these ceaseless murders and the pain they cause to families and communities. But to date it has proven remarkably hard to address gun violence through legal or political means. So some people are trying to confront the problem another way – through tackling the image of guns in society.
Mariana Amatullo and Elisa Ruffino are with Designmatters at Art Center College of Design, a school that saw one of its own teachers, Norman Schureman, be shot dead in a random shooting. They just launched a pilot project with LAUSD called “Where’s Daryl?.”
Middle school students are challenged to question the choices of a boy their age who has ended up in juvenile detention due to messing with guns. The project comes under the umbrella title of Uncool, with the goal, explains Mariana and Elisa, of encouraging at-risk kids to reconsider the imagery that portrays guns as “glamorous.”
Meanwhile, a group called Moms Demand Action also believes the messaging around guns has to change. So even though most evidence does not support a direct connection between video games and violent behavior, they are calling on video game publishers to cease depicting actual gun brands in shooter games.
The huge gaming show E3 was in town last week, so we went down there to find out what visitors thought about such an effort. Most had not even heard about it and were more concerned with the Microsoft-Sony showdown, but on describing the project, we heard a fascinating range of opinions — from Kelvin Valencia who told us he’d played Grand Theft Auto since he was a child but now planned to do the opposite of violence: become a fire fighter; from Kenya Vasquez, Trent Blair, Kristin Perez, and Amber Gregerson, who saw no connection between guns, real or imaginary, in games; and from Daniel Garcia and Phil Owen, who both felt that violent video games did glamorize guns and applauded the moms for their campaign, even as they continued to play the games.
In the last couple of weeks, two of the large-scale Pacific Standard Time Presents exhibits have opened; one at LACMA, showcasing Peter Zumthor’s design to replace four buildings on the museum site; the other is at MOCA.
MOCA’s is an exhibit that stalled along the way, largely to do with the framing of the show, as “sculpturalism.” About a month ago, architect Thom Mayne helped assemble a team to realize the installation. They maintained more or less the same designers, but changed the layout (with audio-visual display on a suspended screen that undulates through the gallery, by Alexis Rochas).
They kept three custom designed pavilions by Elena Manferdini (see her Tempera, right), P-a-t-t-e-r-n-s and Tom Wiscombe. Frank Gehry had left the show but came back in with his display moved into a room of its own (which looks great, by the way, showing his competition project for the National Art Museum of China, complete with sketches and models that show the process, a context missing from the other models on display).
So how does the show look and feel now? And more importantly what does the “sculptural” building actually proposed for LACMA mean for Los Angeles?
According to architecture writer Sam Lubell, also co-curator himself of a show, Neverbuilt (whose preview party takes place Thursday night), the show once known as “A New Sculpturalism” was “miraculously” pulled together last minute, it exhibits “gorgeous” models and pavilions, but the last minute change of direction meant there was no time to establish a strong “narrative” meaning the exhibits lack clear context. He also points out that however much participants might have rejected being identified as “sculptural,” the show makes clear that’s exactly what the work is, even if it’s much, much more as well.
As MOCA debates “sculpturalism,” LACMA proposing to serve up a dish of the real thing in the undulating form of a vast “inkblot” or “black flower,” slated to take the place of four older buildings at LACMA, and currently on show in model form in the Resnick Pavilion, as part of the exhibit, The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA.
The scheme is radical in a number of ways; it does not present an urban front on Wilshire, it has multiple entrances rather than one; and dozens of seemingly small but high gallery spaces. It’s a low, curving sprawling structure that is huge — 340,000 sq. feet, around six football fields — with its main gallery on level elevated over the ground plane. And it raises a number of questions, some of which are discussed with Sam Lubell and architect Craig Hodgetts.
One of the main concerns to emerge is that the monolithic black “immersive” building might destroy the “small city” feel of the current complex, whose admittedly mediocre buildings nonetheless add up to an experience of plazas and paths and vistas and changes of level, that many people like. The architect Peter Zumthor poo-poohs this contention in no certain terms — calling it “ridiculous” — and Michael Govan says that quite apart from the many technical and planning advantages of the new design, no donor would pay to simply restore the existing buildings to preserve the plaza feel.
You may know Michael Graves as the architect of the cartoonish-classical Team Disney building in Burbank. Or, as the designer of cheerful product lines sold at Target, Alessi and most recently at JC Penney. But ever since the postmodern architect and prolific product designer lost the ability to walk, he has another customer at the forefront of his mind: the disabled.