Consider the social-architectural context of LACMA’s 1965 design

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Consider the social-architectural context of LACMA's 1965 design
William Pereira's design for LACMA put it in a series of pavilions, each wrapped in slender concrete columns and decorated with small marble tiles // Photo © Mel Melcon

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Consider the social-architectural context of lacma's 1965 design
William Pereira’s design for LACMA put it in a series of pavilions, each wrapped in slender concrete columns and decorated with small marble tiles // Photo © Mel Melcon

It’s one of those tidbits of Los Angeles architectural history that can seem minor or hugely emblematic, depending on the context.

In April 1965, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opened its new campus on Wilshire Boulevard, designed by increasingly prolific hometown architect William Pereira. That same year, the museum, through its book-printing arm, published “Architecture in Southern California” by David Gebhard and Robert Winter, the first new guide to L.A. architecture in nearly a decade.

The book included two projects designed by Pereira’s office. The LACMA campus was not one of them.

The omission was partly an expression of editorial independence from a pair of young architectural historians. It also summed up quite neatly the prevailing conventional wisdom about the LACMA buildings when they appeared: that in their proper, boxy and beige late-modern dress they were dignified at best and stolid and self-serious at worst.

The decision not to include LACMA in the guidebook “was intentional,” Winter, now 91, said when I reached him by phone. “We thought it was so ugly.” []

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