Latest rendering of the Film Museum. Photo from the Academy.
There was a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times today entitled: "Burst the film museum's bubble." In it, the paper's architectural critic continues his vendetta against the museum's design by the legendary architect Renzo Piano. AMPAS (Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) had announced on Monday that one of its design team, Zoltan Pali, had left the project but that plans were still on course to begin construction on the exciting design by year's end. You will recall that the Academy has taken over the old May Company building at Wilshire and Fairfax and brought in the celebrated Italian to design the new $300 million film museum. The critic, Christopher Hawthorne, had written scoffing at the radical "spaceship" design for the theater by Piano, who had previously designed the Broad and the Resnick Pavilions at LACMA.
At that time, I wrote a 'letter to the editor" of the newspaper which was highly-critical of Hawthorne's comments. (Of course they didn't run it.) Here is what I said then: ˆ"I am an admirer of your paper's architectural critic, whom I have never met. This editor is always striving to upgrade the vision of architecture and the future in our fair city. Yet he ran a curious, ill-conceived criticism of a structure which I am eagerly awaiting....the Motion Picture Academy's Film Musuem. The article ran a rendering of the structure, calling it 'the Spaceship.' As a longtime member of AMPAS, I have closely followed and commented on the new museum and am a fervent fan of the vision the Academy and its two architects conceived. Before finding some obscure 'fault' with this concept, Hawthorne actually pays tribute to a building which opened here in 1963 and which I am intimately acquainted with, the Cinerama Dome. I was the publicist for Cinerama then and handled all the press for that groundbreaking building. Originally designed by Buckminster Fuller as a geodesic dome, it was meant to be a prototype of a portable inflatible movie theater which could fold onto a fleet of trucks and tour the world showing Cinerama pictures Unfortunately, it didn't prove practical, and we hastily reconceived it as the concrete Arclight dome of today, which has been enormously successful. Piano has said that our dome inspired him with the new project. I think the projected design of the museum is absolutely stunning, right on. The newspaper guy is spinning his wheels in criticizing the spherical theater wing. Sorry, guy, but this design is going into construction by the end of the year and will open to huge acclaim in 2017. If you must find fault with something, Christopher, go take another look at Eli Broad's a-building museum on Grand Street downtown. But keep you literary hands off this sensational Academy museum design!"
So I urge the newly-re-elected Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, a very very capable person, and the members of the Board, NOT to listen to this gadfly, and to continue on resolutely with the plans for building the exciting museum. A postponement now would be disasterous. Yes, Lord willing, I will be standing there in 2017 cheering at the opening of the 'spaceship'.
An earlier rendering of the Museum. Photo from the Academy.
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