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Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

United States Architecture News - Aug 22, 2018 - 02:57   17793 views

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Architects, preservationists, architecture critics and historians have signed a petition to save Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown-designed La Jolla building, a portion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Recently, the La Jolla building of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is on the verge of major transformation, as the museum aims to expand and renovate its La Jolla building, which is planned for the dedicated display of the celebrated permanent collection alongside the presentation of temporary exhibitions.

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image © Philipp Scholz Rittermann

"This well-loved urban space is now threatened by the museum’s expansion plan. The plan, drawn up by New York-based Selldorf Architects, would tear down much of VSB’s facade as well as their dramatic colonnade—interrupting the urbane rhythm of the street and destroying the courtyard. And it would move the museum’s entry to a formulaic glass lobby that thumbs its nose at Gill’s architecture," stated in an open letter to MCASD. 

Announced by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the new plans aims to remove the colonnaded portion within the Axline Court and the entrance of the museum to be repurposed for a new gathering place. 

Regarding the demolition plans of the La Jolla building designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, the museum has come under criticism by many architects, preservationists, architecture critics and historians. Although the colonnaded part of the building has already been demolished, critics have signed a petition to save next phases of the renovation plans. 

Toshiko Mori, Mohsen Mostafavi - Dean, Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design, Robert A. M. Stern - Dean, J. M. Hoppin Professor, Yale School of Architecture, Mark Wright, Tim Butler and Sir Terry Farrell are among the supporters signing the petition, sent to Paul Jacobs, Board Chairman of the Museum, and Kathryn Kanjo, Director and CEO of the Museum.

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image courtesy of Selldorf Architects

The new $75-million expansion plans are being developed by New York-based Selldorf Architects and aim to move the entrance of the museum to south along Prospect Street. In addition, the plans aim to maximize gallery space for the collection and increase meeting spaces for the public. 

Selldorf’s design scheme proposes a new construction to the south that will allow for two levels of light-filled galleries, offering a wide range of volume and character, from soaring ceiling heights to intimate niches. 

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image © Philipp Scholz Rittermann

Selldorf Architects will design vertical windows to welcome the site’s distinct natural light and coastal views into the Museum. With the removal of the colonnaded part and the entrance of the building, they intend to create a large, flexible multipurpose gallery on the lower level. It is aimed to increase capacity for public programs, artist talks, performance art, music, and other immersive educational activities.

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image © Philipp Scholz Rittermann

"The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego stands on the verge of making a tremendous mistake: demolishing much of its landmark La Jolla building designed by Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. We recognize the museum’s need to expand, but we ask that it do so without irreparably damaging a cultural landmark and in the process severely weakening La Jolla’s beloved village center," stated in the open letter.

"Scott Brown and Venturi are widely recognized as among the 20th century’s most important architects, and this building remains a shining reminder of their enduring cultural contribution."

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image © Philipp Scholz Rittermann

"VSB’s design, unlike that of the proposed expansion, arises from careful study and understanding of La Jolla’s urban form. Its street frontage, museum store, and cafe extend the rhythm of Prospect Street’s lively storefronts, celebrating the museum’s location in the village commercial center and drawing visitors toward the building." 

"At the entrance, visitors then encounter an urbane courtyard that fronts the museum’s Irving Gill-designed Scripps House: it invites them to rest for a moment, enjoy Gill’s architecture, have a coffee, and then enter the museum," the letter continued.

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image courtesy of Selldorf Architects

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is situated on a 1915 villa that Irving Gill designed for philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. The distinguished building had been subsequently swallowed up by additions. Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown created a new facade in order to enrich the Museum’s image and civic presence and to make it more inviting for visitors. 

At the same time, the Scripps House facade was been exposed and restored and the vine-covered pergolas of the original Prospect Street garden were reconstructed to form a new entrance court for the Museum.

Regarding the renovation plans of the museum, Denise Scott Brown said in in the letter "There’s more. The center of La Jolla is a national treasure, widely loved. The art museum is too, and will be even more so given the world importance an expanded building will allow it to achieve."

"This gives even more cogent reason against breaking the museum-Prospect Street connection and separating museum-goers from Main Street lovers, because the one easily becomes the other in either direction. Any storekeeper can tell us that, so can any museum-goer. And so can unwilling accompaniers, who look for a nice place nearby to sit. Without it the would-be museum-goer must skip the museum."

"You could spend your budget on the new galleries, not on an unnecessary reframing of the Scripps House and a harmful distancing and reducing of the entry. In designing our building, we carefully analyzed and reacted to a pattern of activities on Prospect Street. But now the delicate connections that we created are to be severed, equally threatening the museum and the village. Why not go on from what we so lovingly provided?," she added. 

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image courtesy of Selldorf Architects

MCASD’s expansion plan was approved by the La Jolla Community Planning Association in August of 2015. Two years later, in March 2017, the project received unanimous approval from the San Diego City Planning Commission. City officials praised the transformative project for its design and vision. In April 2017, MCASD received its Coastal Development Permit. 

With permitting complete and the project fully entitled and endorsed by the city of San Diego and the community of La Jolla, the Museum is poised to double its size and quadruple its galleries.

Architects and Preservationists sign petition to save Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Image courtesy of Selldorf Architects

The open letter has not received any official response from Paul Jacobs and Kathryn Kanjo yet. MCASD La Jolla is currently closed for a major renovation and expansion project that will quadruple current gallery space. New construction is expected to start in October. 

Top image: Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, image © Philipp Scholz Rittermann 

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