The Los Angeles Times Architecture Critic Really, Really Hates the Perot Museum

Categories: Arts, Media

PerotMuseumFlickrUserbrettchisum.jpg
Flickr user brettchisum
Locals and outsiders alike have been heaping praise upon the Perot Museum of Nature & Science since it opened in December, not just on the dizzying array of interactive exhibit halls but on the building itself. It was designed by architect Thom Mayne to be both a natural outgrowth of the North Texas prairie from which it arises, just like the xeriscaped landscape on its roof, and a conscious reflection of the powerful forces, natural and man-made, represented inside. Most have argued that Mayne succeeded.

See also: Previewing the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, from A to Z

The Architectural Review called it an "eloquent paean to the cosmic and geological forces that shape our planet and building." ArchDaily praised the building for its "immersive architectural and natural environment" and seamless connection with the city.

Perot_Escalator2.jpg
Rachel Pinn
And the New York Times called it "alluring but unsettling," which, the paper suggests, is exactly what a nature and science museum should be. It's "solemn with its robust abstractions and playful with its curves and striations" and "a manifestation of unseen forces, perhaps even reflecting processes not yet fully understood."

But lest local civic boosters get too caught up in the whirlwind of praise, allow the Los Angeles Times to dump a venti iced soy latte on the celebration. The paper's architecture critic, Christopher Hawthorne, penned a review of the building and, spoiler alert, he is not impressed.

Hawthorne's fundamental critique is that the museum's architecture is, contrary to the stated intent, completely divorced from what's going on inside and out. The exhibit halls are spaces unto themselves; entering them like leaving the grand building they're housed in and walking into a separate universe. The structure's relationship to its urban landscape is no more intimate. The Perot "turns its back on the Dallas Arts District and the new park built atop a sunken stretch of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway," Hawthorne writes. It is a thing apart.

Next: Hawthorne's ultimate word on the Perot Museum.


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61 comments
director21
director21

My first negative reaction is to anything named after Pee-rot, and it just goes downhill from there!

Flabbergasted
Flabbergasted

I think it is awful. It does NOT fit in with anything around it. To me, it is the BORG, from Star Trek:THG...

roadsidecouch
roadsidecouch

The dude lives in the hellhole know as Los Angeles.  Why would anyone take him seriously?  How many buildings has he built?  He is just a turd floating down the LA River.

cedarhillactor
cedarhillactor

Is absolutely NO ONE willing to say aloud "The emperor has no clothes..."?  While everyone seems so caught up in coming up with new adjectives to describe the esoteric and almost existential qualities of this monstrosity it seems Dallas has again been bamboozled into believing the press surrounding this concrete Kleenex box (my apologioes to Kleenex...)  "Ugliest Building Ever" is THE most honest description of this eyesore that no one else in Dallas will dare to utter for fear of appearing out-of-touch.  However, I can't possibly be the only person who's wondered if the architect is laughing all the way to his bank?  At least he's got a future selling band equipment and uniforms in River City, Iowa if he's ever exposed for the snow job he did on us.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Isn't "architecture critic" on the list of most bullshit jobs in the world along with "sports analyst" 

EdD.
EdD.

Come on, "a high-dollar exercise in egotism" is the single most defining characteristic of every interesting building in all of Dallas/Fort Worth in the last 50 years. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

EastDallasDad
EastDallasDad

I don't know why anyone is getting worked up over it. In a few decades we'll tear it down and build something "new" and "better".

R.s. Rosenquist
R.s. Rosenquist

The Perot Museum reminds me of a geologic formation. I like it.

Americano
Americano

I hate to agree with the LA Times anything, but it is kind of weird.  However, weird is ok, hell, we got a new museum out of the deal.  Dallas City Hall however, is butt ugly.

kduble
kduble

Mayne's intent was to provoke the visitor. I couldn't imagine he ever dreamed everyone would like it.

roo_ster
roo_ster

The Grand Unifying Characteristic of Dallas Architecture is building whatever the heck we want to build, wherever the heck we want to build it, all while calling Mother Nature a dime whore and kicking her in the face.

Face it, Dallas moved a whole danged river, _because it got in the way_.  East Dallas creeks?  Oh, yeah, we buried them under ground.  We develop new techniques to build on elasto-soil, which expands and contracts like Ernest Borgnine's gut after a flight of stairs.  Invasive tree species out of control in the flood plain and ravaging native trees?  Call it "The Great Trinity Forest."  We are even contemplating building a toll road in a mother-loving floodway.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

Why are people criticizing the building for not 'being a part of the cityscape' or whatever they're saying?  Nothing in Dallas makes any sense, or seems to bear any relationship to anything else in the city.  I thought that WAS the defining characteristic of Dallas architecture, but I'm relatively new here.

Joanne Meyer Jones
Joanne Meyer Jones

It's not that I don't like the design but I look at it and think "Borg" every time...

monstruss
monstruss

I kinda like it. It looks like a giant Rubik's cube covered in Ross Perot's gross, wrinkled skin from far away. 

Steve
Steve

How much do you think Christopher Hawthorne is bringing down?

Starbelly Sneetch
Starbelly Sneetch

Wow, an architect from LA doesn't like it? No other news to report today eh?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Dallas doesn't have mountains, shorelines, waterfront (no, the Trinity sewer does not count), or any natural geography of much interest, and the skyline is mainly 70s and 80s design.

We need bold architecture. If someone doesn't get their panties in a wad it's not bold enough. 

Craig Fosburg
Craig Fosburg

personally, I think it's ugly, but then again, I dislike most of the modern architectural movement. As for the L.A. reviewer, meh, who cares what some overblown California twit thinks?

Darren Dupre
Darren Dupre

While the Perot Museum doesn't hold a candle to Frank Gehry's monstrosities, I wish architects would stick to designs that most normal people would find appealing rather than trying to be iconoclastic.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The Perot elicits extreme opinions, and therefore, in my opinion, has triumphed.

susan.geissler
susan.geissler

I like the work itself, if you divorce it from any of the surroundings. It fails to fit any sort of cohesiveness, just like everything else in Dallas architecture. Brings to mind a favorite quote from Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize Winning architecture critic at the Chicago Tribune.


"...consumerist heaven, design netherworld...look at me architecture, glitz rather than good taste, and the extinction of regional differences that gave American cities their special sense of place. Won't somebody move this building to Dallas?" 

- Blair Kamin | Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago

Alan Huddleston
Alan Huddleston

congratulations to mr hawthorne for having the skills to come up with unique if not confusing and ostentatious ways of combining words to describe something. masturbatory journalism at its finest.

Alex Fuller
Alex Fuller

I don't see why arty people need to use a bunch of unnecessary 20 dollar words to call a giant eyesore piece of crap a giant eyesore piece of crap.

Brandon Giannasi
Brandon Giannasi

Hmmm thats kindof bullcrap. Who is he to make all those claims? what are his credentials? what has he built himself? This building is kick a$$. Ive seen it being built from the highway alone and think its another nice addition to Dallas. Perhaps even the new cornerstone.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

Looks like a butt ugly square cement block to me but I don't know anything about arkitecsure so it must be pretty.

John Leighton
John Leighton

My 2 cents, this is a Museum of science, technology and industry. I feel that this is the MOST perfect building to champion these aspects in today's modern life!!!!! I may be a little jade as a self proclaim science geek but that my opinion and I am unanimous in that!

Patrick W. Soileau
Patrick W. Soileau

Mr. Hawthorne is certainly entitled to his opinion, as are we all, as well as guaranteed by the First Amendment the right to express that opinion publicly. We, as the recipients of his message, are entitled to disagree with it. When you use terms like.... "thoroughly cynical piece of work" "a work of architecture without the courage of its convictions" "an example of "ghettoized architecture" "bullhorn urbanism" "This is "architecture of cartoon menace." I just have to wonder. I have no idea what the hell any of that means. It sounds like pretentious talk of a snobbish art critic to me.

observist
observist topcommenter

@EdD.  Come to think of it, "high-dollar egotism" is the impetus for most of the great architecture in the history of the world.

director21
director21

@R.s. Rosenquist I have seen a LOT of geologic formations, but I have NEVER seen one that resembles that museum! EVER!

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

@Steve His wife, Rachel Fine, the executive director of the LA Chamber Orchestra, is more likely the cash cow.

octeacher
octeacher

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz Agree with you, but hate the outside of the building!I want to spray paint it....

 Really love the exhibit halls though...

bmarvel
bmarvel topcommenter

@susan.geissler Want cohesiveness? Go to Santa Fe or to Europe. Dallas is an American City, and a pretty new one at that. What would a "coherent" Dallas look like, anyway? I still get a nice jolt rounding the corner at Field and Olive. 


observist
observist topcommenter

@susan.geissler  How can it be just like everything else in Dallas architecture yet not "fit into any sort of cohesiveness" ?  

Daniel
Daniel

@Lakewooder You ignoramus: It's a square cement block with some kind of grass growing on its back side.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@baduserexperience @roo_ster You mean that river-sized concrete gully that fills up with rain water every once in a while that is located in Los Angeles?  


Never heard of it.

observist
observist topcommenter

@susan.geissler @observist No, I'm complexly trolling.  Do you not see the oxymoronity of saying in a single sentence that something is divorced from its surroundings, not part of a cohesive stucture...and at the same time is just like everything else in its surroundings?  If Dallas architecture is distinguished by its lack of cohesiveness, then the Perot is, in fact, perfectly cohesive with its surroundings.

And really, when it comes down to it, what American city does fit into a sort of cohesiveness, other than a de-facto order imposed by natural features like rivers, lakes, oceans or mountains?  Dallas is one of the few large cites is the world that is built on a flat, featureless, nearly waterless expanse of nothingness.  How could it not be divorced from its surroundings?


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