LACMA is beloved. Its design never was.

“William Pereira was a compromise choice. None of the movers and shakers actually wanted him to design the building, but Ahmanson—who had veto power over the choice of architect—hated modern architecture and refused to accept Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was championed by Brown and unanimously accepted by the trustees,” Muchnic says. “They finally agreed to give the job to Pereira, a relatively conservative local architect.”

According to architect and historic preservationist Frank Escher, the board’s choice was an uninspired but efficient compromise.

“Pereira, he’s an important architect. I would not count him among sort of the first tier of modernists who were active in Los Angeles,” Escher says. “He was a very good architect in the sense that he delivered. He had a very large office. He worked for many corporate clients. And the office functioned in a way where different projects would be handled by different designers, which meant that the outcome was very uneven.”

But Hess disagrees, and takes issue with critics who say that Pereira was simply a compromise. To him, Pereira was uniquely Angeleno, and grasped what the city was and could be.

“A lot of people felt that modernism was getting stale, and needed to be revised with new ideas,” Hess says. “And that’s exactly what Pereira did in his design. It’s a design which is very much rooted in Los Angeles at that time, which was arguably the most modern city in the world, with our media, and aerospace, and our suburbs, and cars and all of that. And Pereira’s campus design captures all of that—what Los Angeles was about in that period of time.”

“William Pereira was a compromise choice. None of the movers and shakers actually wanted him to design the building, but Ahmanson—who had veto power over the choice of architect—hated modern architecture and refused to accept Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was championed by Brown and unanimously accepted by the trustees,” Muchnic says. “They finally agreed to give the job to Pereira, a relatively conservative local architect.”

According to architect and historic preservationist Frank Escher, the board’s choice was an uninspired but efficient compromise.

“Pereira, he’s an important architect. I would not count him among sort of the first tier of modernists who were active in Los Angeles,” Escher says. “He was a very good architect in the sense that he delivered. He had a very large office. He worked for many corporate clients. And the office functioned in a way where different projects would be handled by different designers, which meant that the outcome was very uneven.”

But Hess disagrees, and takes issue with critics who say that Pereira was simply a compromise. To him, Pereira was uniquely Angeleno, and grasped what the city was and could be.

“A lot of people felt that modernism was getting stale, and needed to be revised with new ideas,” Hess says. “And that’s exactly what Pereira did in his design. It’s a design which is very much rooted in Los Angeles at that time, which was arguably the most modern city in the world, with our media, and aerospace, and our suburbs, and cars and all of that. And Pereira’s campus design captures all of that—what Los Angeles was about in that period of time.”

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