Does a big, encyclopedic urban museum like LACMA need to feel unified architecturally? Maybe not — particularly if it's located in Southern California. Anyone who has learned to appreciate the L.A. cityscape, with its architectural gems hidden deep inside a network of freeways and avenues, will be able to navigate the disparate museum campus just fine. Like the larger city, LACMA always seems to be in the middle of becoming; it is always in process.
That doesn't mean that we don't periodically find ourselves hoping that there is some architectural approach that will magically unify the place. One reason that a 2001 plan for LACMA by Rem Koolhaas and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, which called for razing most of the museum's existing buildings and replacing them with a soaring tent-like roof, was both so appealing and so unworkable is that it tried to give LACMA the simple legibility of a single building. The plan was ultimately abandoned as too expensive — to be exact, as a poor fit between architectural ambition and the fundraising kind.