BCAM turns on the lights

bcam4.JPGYesterday was the press preview of LA’s new Broad Contemporary Art Museum, which they have already condensed into a proper nickname for us: BCAM. The building has three floors of some of the most famous contemporary art in the world, mostly owned by local philanthropist Eli Broad, but of course I was there to see the building, which is decked out in the “Renzo red” that’s become a signature touch for Italian architect Renzo Piano (who also used it on the new New York Times Building). I decided BCAM can also be spelled BCAMHS, for Big Cafeteria At My High School, because that’s actually what it looks like. Not in a bad way.

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My editor for the California Architect’s Newspaper, Sam Lubell, and I staked out a table with easy access to the buffet (attended to by Patina’s Joachim Splichal himself). Among those dipping into tapioca parfaits were Gonzo-dressed journalist (and architecture critic for Los Angeles Magazine) Greg Goldin, talk show host Val Zavala (whose new show for KCET will premiere this summer), and Off-Ramp host John Rabe, who was interviewing architectural raconteur Sam Hall Kaplan for his show. Frances Anderton was recording interviews for a special early edition of DnA, which will be on Tuesday, February 12 and include some special design-related tips for Valentine’s Day, so be sure to tune in. I also finally got to meet my very popular councilman Tom LaBonge, who shook everyone’s hands at the table, answered some questions about stalled projects, fired off his five favorite public buildings in Los Angeles, asked everyone else at the table what their five favorite buildings were, and somehow managed to devour an entire plate of beef shanks before he took off again. The man is a machine.

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But my absolute favorite part of the museum (and my day) was Chris Burden’s installation Urban Light, which lines up 202 vintage streetlamps like an electrical army on Wilshire. There’s something both striking and soothing about these graceful forms planted in this symmetrical forest (a row of palm trees behind gives a nice sense of scale). It will be hard for people to walk by this at any time of day without feeling that same sense of wonderment, and I can’t wait to see it all lit up at night. However, later that night I just happened to find myself at the corner of Vermont and Santa Monica where there’s a similar installation of old streetlamps. Anyone know if this is Burden, too? More shots of both installations here.

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