William Pereira’s legacy includes the LAX Theme Building, the original LACMA and the City of Irvine. But the Paul Newman-lookalike is mostly forgotten. Now he is being recognized with a show in Reno, Nevada, while LACMA plans to tear down his buildings. Carolina Miranda talks about growing up “in the mind of William Pereira.” Alan Hess emphasizes the importance of history in determining what should occupy the LACMA site.
One of LA’s most influential architects is also one of its least well known: William Pereira. He was a designer who was as comfortable in Hollywood as he was at the drafting table, and he built some of California’s most iconic mid-century structures. Now he’s in the spotlight, in an exhibit entitled, Modernist Maverick: The Architecture of William L. Pereira.
But the show is not in the town where his footprint was deepest: Los Angeles; rather it is in Reno, Nevada. Meanwhile, LACMA has an exhibit — The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA — focused primarily on a huge model of a proposed new structure by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, that would take the place of three original buildings designed by William Pereira.
Carolina Miranda (left) is a reporter who grew up “in the mind of William Pereira.” As a kid, she reports, “I took class trips to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As a teen, I worked gift wrap at the Robinson’s in Newport Beach. In between, I slept, studied and smoked my first cigarette in the city of Irvine. . . .”
She decided to learn more about a man whose work is hidden in plain sight. Along the way she concluded that while some of his buildings are worth preserving, those at LACMA are not. “Perhaps it’s time to let another architect imagine the future,” she concludes. “I, for one, am ready to live in someone else’s head.”
On the other hand Alan Hess, a historian and writer of many books on California architecture, believes that at minimum we should study Pereira’s legacy carefully, before willfully demolishing his buildings at LACMA (above). He tells DnA why he found the LACMA show frustrating and why we should consider the past as we imagine the future on the Miracle Mile.
Modernist Maverick: The Architecture of William L. Pereira is on show through October 13 at the Nevada Museum of Art.
The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA is on show through September 15.