Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Architectural intervention

Culver City's SPFA:rchitects (that's Studio Pali Feketi to those who communicate in English) was contracted last year to update the May Company building on Wilshire and Fairfax, now LACMA West.

According to the SPFA:architects, I mean
the SPFA:rchitects . . . oh, hell, the Studio Pali Feketi website, the update is an "intervention," a term that suggests drastic measures. But will they be drastic enough?

The May Company building, designed by Martin and Marx in 1939 in the luckily short-lived Moderne style, is in my opinion the single most overrated structure in Los Angeles. It has been ugly since its inception, and it continues to annoy on every passing. As much as I try, I can't find a single feature to recommend this early temple to American consumerism.

The May Company building, 1939

The cylindrical corner tower, gauded out in something resembling gold leaf, is said to represent a chic perfume bottle, but to me it seems more like a giant tube of roll-on deodorant. Unfortunately for my theory, antiperspirant was not patented until 1941.

LACMA acquired the building in the mid-1990s for a whopping $18 million and, other than removing the MAYCO signage (what happened to those letters, I wonder?), the façade looks pretty much as drab, lifeless and boring as it was before.

LACMA West

But the Pali Fekete intervention is meant to fix all that. Hey presto!

LACMA West redux , mit Klimt!

As much as I admire the original contemporary designs of Studio Pali Fekete (and I do: more about them later), this is frankly lame.

I can't help thinking that this pathetic veneer of pseudo-Viennese kitsch is nothing more than a last-ditch solution for a building that remains in essence what it will always be: just plain ugly.

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