Museums on Wilshire get revamped, but are pedestrians being forgotten?

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Museum Row on Wilshire Boulevard is in the midst of some big changes.

First came a $125-million redevelopment of the Petersen Automotive Museum, which added some flashy wavy metallic-red cladding. The $388-million Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum is nearing completion. LACMA’s proposed $650-million Peter Zumthor-designed building will straddle Wilshire Boulevard. The La Brea Tar Pits is undertaking a new master planning process. And the Craft Contemporary is looking at ways to renovate or revamp their courtyard.

A new rendering of the Peter Zumthor design for LACMA. Image courtesy of Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary

LA Times staff writer Carolina Miranda wonders if these projects will cohere into one vision for this stretch of one of LA’s most important boulevards, and how they will greet the street.

Meanwhile, the longtime home to fossilized mastodons and saber-tooth cats is getting a makeover. Three architectural firms are competing to reimagine the La Brea Tar Pits site, including the George C. Page Museum and the surrounding parkland. The firms include New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Weiss/Manfredi, along with Dorte Mandrup of Denmark.

“We're looking at the way this site and what we have to say here with the fossils, how those relate to what's happening today with ecological and climate change, and how to create an experience that people can truly engage with,” said Lori Bettison-Varga, head of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, which manages the 12-acre campus. 

The George C. Page Museum opened in 1977. The exhibition space is underground, with sloped earthen walls surrounding the building. Photo credit: David Seibold

Concepts will be unveiled at a public presentation on Monday night, August 26 at the El Rey Theatre, and the winner will be announced by the end of the year.

The competition is “an exciting opportunity for us to experiment with this location as a civic space as well as a research field site, indoor-outdoor museum, and playground for the community,” said Bettison-Varga.