There were actually two important pieces of news Monday on the Eli Broad museum of contemporary art. The first, as we reported, is that the Broad museum will go downtown next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, as part of the Grand Avenue project. The second, which had been reported in June by L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne but was made official Monday, is that Broad chose as his architect the New York firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Who are they and what can we expect? As with any self-respecting architecture firm, they use a plus sign in their title.
Curbed LA reviews some of the basics about the firm.
–Diller and Scofidio are husband and wife; Renfro was made partner in 2004; founded in 1979, for a long time they were known as “designers, theorists and provocateurs,” as Charlie Rose put it, also distinguished, according to Time magazine, for their “conceptual mixed-media installations and video work”; the chat that accompanied a 2003 Whitney retrospective, sounding like museum parody, said their work highlights “display, tourism, surveillance, ritual, and control.”
–They completed Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art in 2006; they designed the really cool High Line park in New York City, which is an elevated park that extends for several blocks on the West Side of Manhattan; they also have conceived of an inflatable bubble for Washington's Hirshhorn Museum to be used as temporary event space, which was previewed hopefully by The New York Times Nicholas Ouroussoff.
But what can we really expect of the Broad Museum? Hawthorne was given exclusive access to the competing plans, and provides the clues for what the museum will look like:
Each of the (competing) designs featured a rectangular museum building rising above a parking garage, open to the sidewalk along Grand Avenue and topped with skylit galleries.
Diller Scofidio prevailed by focusing its design attention not on sculptural form but on a smart if showy conceptual clash between public and private visions of L.A. culture. The most dramatic element of the firm's proposal — its wow moment — is a lobby space that will bring pedestrians entering the museum from Grand Avenue face to face, through glass, with drivers on their way down to the museum's parking garage.
As Hawthorne notes, the parking garage is a reminder that the car is still a dominant object in the organization of the city.