Image: OCMA Prospective Building Site, from .
Last week the Orange County Museum of Art received the approval to develop itself a new building in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, off of Avenue of the Arts in Costa Mesa, California. A move north in Orange County geography, a likely migration for anyone looking for culture in the area, to attach itself to a nucleotic campus that already trumps anything around when it comes to the arts. Every time I have driven along the east side of the center I have felt as if the 1.64 acre clean slate were screaming to out do its brothers and sisters. I can't think of anywhere else better in Orange County for a brand spanking new museum (no, not in Laguna).
It took a moment for me to realize that this is a museum... surely they would choose an architect to design it, hopefully something designed outside the Irvine influence of a pastel stucco monstrosity. No banal turd of a building shat from the sky or the earth (I can never tell which)! I prepared myself to see a name like Cesar Pelli, who designed most of the recently developed buildings in the Segerstrom Center, or possibly someone like Robert A.M. Stern. Don't get me wrong, both have made contributions to architecture (more so Pelli than Stern), but I expected an architect to keep inline with the usual wealth and taste relationship, much like a supply and demand graph, where in Orange County the slope of taste is rapidly decreasing.
So surprised, and glad to be, I saw the name Thom Mayne. Finally, someone in Orange County looked for design beyond what is 'nice' and 'safe', and took a gamble. Thom Mayne's firm, Morphosis, has contributed quite a bit to the built world but has never designed an art museum, a staple commission for most architects, which usually shows up in the top five on project time-lines. For the announcement Thom was invited to a gala at the OCMA, featuring him as their choice architect and the man of the hour. The walls of the museum featured imagery of his architecture and he committed to making the museums new home environmentally sustainable. In 'the OC' thems fightin' words (and images?).
I am excited to see what Thom can do in Orange County, with the building, with the area, with the culture. Surely the many near by consumer grazelands are there to stay, but hopefully their pavers and facades aren't, and when they go, let them take the region's desire for the Irvinesque plague with them.