From the MMRA Newsletter, March 15, 2014:
How to Dress for the Oscars
by Greg Goldin
One of the most pressing issues facing the Miracle Mile is the Academy’s plea to bend the City’s rules to permit its new museum to dress the exterior of the historic May Company building in a combination of digital signs, banners, and super-graphics. As spelled out in the Academy’s Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), the iconic Art Deco landmark will be transformed into a massive billboard, incessantly selling Hollywood from all four sides of its limestone façade, from the sidewalk to the roof.
The Academy, it seems, regards one of Los Angeles’s most beloved buildings as little more than a table rasa for hyping Hollywood. All told, the Academy has announced a total of 21,722 square‐feet of signs – and more to follow on the exterior of the theater it plans to build behind the May Company. Remarkably, even the building’s most famous feature, the gold-leaf “perfume bottle” at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, will be defaced, draped in a 63-foot tall Oscar statuette silhouette.
Normally, it would be impossible for the Academy to even contemplate this kind of signage. Landmarked buildings are designated landmarks for a reason: to ensure the continued existence of their architectural and artistic merits. The Academy is working quietly, behind the scenes, to convince the guardians of our cultural heritage – notably, the Los Angeles Conservancy – who thus far are not pleased with the museum’s proposed signage.
But the Academy has, it seems, gained one key ally: LACMA. Before it could even think about applying for the creation of a Sign District – the City’s official designation for L.A. Live-style super graphics and kinetic billboards – they needed a minimum of a 3-acre building site. Their lease with LACMA only provided 2.2-acres. According to the FEIR, LACMA came to the rescue, agreeing to “lend” the missing 0.8 acres “immediately north of the Project Site for a total area of 3 acres.” No LACMA loan, no Sign District – leaving the May Company, which the Conservancy calls “the grandest example of Streamline Moderne remaining in Los Angeles,” close to its 1939 original.
Boundaries of the “North Lawn” show park space eclipsed by the .8-acre parcel LACMA is lending the Academy Museum to meet the minimum required 3 acres for a Sign District.
Shortly before press time, the MMRA asked LACMA director Michael Govan a few questions about the art museum’s agreement to lend the Academy the additional land to qualify for the creation of a Sign District. As yet, Mr. Govan has not had the opportunity to reply – and we, of course, welcome his views. Here’s what we’d like to know from LACMA:
- Does LACMA have any concerns about the extensive signage that would wrap the historic May Company building? Have they expressed these concerns to the Academy and the City?
- LACMA originally committed (at the time Ogden Drive between Wilshire and Sixth Street was vacated to make way for the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the Resnick Pavilion) to keep the May Company building unaltered. How does the Sign District comply with this earlier pledge?
- According to the FEIR, the Academy will use that additional .8 acres for even more, as yet undisclosed, signage. Does LACMA approve of this use on its parkland adjacent to Levitated Mass and the Resnick?