Huffpost Los Angeles
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Joel Epstein Headshot

Why I Love The Broad Even if I Don't Understand It

Posted: Updated:

Let's make this quick so I can get back to my usual topic -- the importance of expanding public transportation in LA and why we need Metro's 30/10 Initiative as soon as possible.

I'm shifting gears for a moment because earlier this week I read and was really disgusted by Nicolai Ouroussoff's review in the New York Times of the proposed design for The Broad. In case you missed the Ouroussoff article and the dozens of other columns that have been written about it, The Broad is Eli and Edye Broad's planned art museum scheduled to rise on Grand Avenue in downtown LA. With so much of the country's focus on the importance of civility in the wake of the Tucson shootings, I had to read the piece twice to be certain I hadn't missed its gratuitously hostile tone.

As much as I love architecture, I don't pretend to know what I am talking about in critiquing a building design. Presumably Ouroussoff does. After all, he is an architecture critic for the New York Times, the country's paper of record. But while I don't know architecture, I do know a hatchet job when I see one. And that is what Ourousoff has written.

It's one thing to criticize a design. It's another, as Ouroussoff and the asleep-at-the-wheel editors at the New York Times have done, to skewer a civic philanthropist and art patron who has contributed much to LA.

Here's Ouroussoff on Broad: "Despite the tens of millions he has poured into the city's art institutions, Mr. Broad's reputation as a cultural patron is, to put it politely, subpar..."

And a bit later, on Broad's "urban ideal," Ouroussoff writes, "...[T]o the degree that he has one [an urban ideal], [it] seems to be based on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or on central Paris -- models that, however attractive, have little to do with Los Angeles's sprawl."

Really? Take a look at the architect's rendering of The Broad and think about the Upper East Side and central Paris. One may not like the honeycomb design, but I don't remember anything from my years in New York and Paris that reminds me of The Broad or of Grand Avenue now, or as reimagined by Mr. Broad.

In closing, Ouroussoff takes his final shot at Broad and the architects Diller Scofidio for ditching "a parking entry at ground level along Second Street, which would have cut underneath the lobby and spiraled down to the underground parking." The critic goes on to call this "a crucial dimension to the narrative: the interweaving of pedestrian and automotive life that is central to the experience of Los Angeles generally, and of Grand Avenue in particular, with its views onto nearby freeways."

Huh? I don't know much about the narrative, but I do know that "pedestrian" and "automotive life" go together in the same sentence in a piece about LA about as much as "Ouroussoff" and "evenhanded" do when it comes to assessing Mr. Broad.

As well as he writes when he is focused on architecture, Ouroussoff's review of Broad, the museum and Broad the patron, isn't worth the paper and pixels it is written on.

Without Broad, who was critical in the realization of Disney Hall when things bogged down in construction, you could count on one hand the number of pedestrians one saw in a day on Grand Avenue. And how long has it been since the pilloried patron pulled a similar rabbit out his hat in saving MOCA from fading from the LA arts scene?

I don't need a parking entry at The Broad's ground level and I won't miss it. I love The Broad even if I don't understand it. And I look forward to getting there and to other destinations downtown that Broad the patron has made possible, on Metro.

Yours in transit,
Joel