DPR views museum expansion plans in La Jolla

Development Permit Review group considers early concepts for MCASD's expansion

Preliminary concepts for a planned expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s (MCASD) La Jolla campus garnered mostly positive feedback during a presentation to La Jolla’s Development Permit Review (DPR) committee Nov. 18 at La Jolla Rec Center.

About 20 people attended the courtesy review, including the architect selected to design the expansion, Annabelle Selldorf, principal and founder of Selldorf Architects, who offered a public presentation on her work the following evening at MCASD’s Sherwood Auditorium. (Read more about Selldorf at lajollalight.com) Museum officials hope to add about 35,362 square feet of exhibition space to an existing 10,783 square feet of exhibit space.  The shops, garage, and office spaces will be in a new basement, so that the building height at Prospect is no more than two stories.

DPR member Mike Costello filled in as chair for architect Paul Benton, who presented the concepts. Benton’s firm, Alcorn & Benton Architects, which has been retained as the local associate architect, will assist with the permit process and other aspects of the project — should plans be approved and the museum is successful in raising an estimated $30 million to $50 million necessary for the expansion.

The additions would nearly quadruple gallery space at MCASD La Jolla, replacing the outdated Sherwood Auditorium with a 30-foot-tall, sky-lit gallery for larger works currently in storage. A single-story residence owned by the museum directly south of Sherwood would be demolished to make way for a two-tier gallery wing and enclosed, underground parking (increasing the number of spaces from 29 to 41). The current lot at the north end of the property — adjacent the Museum Café and portions of architect Irving Gill’s original structure — would be replaced by a pedestrian promenade overlooking the ocean.

Since many MCASD guests have difficulty finding the entrance, a new, wider entry and bookshop are proposed along Prospect Street, in front of what is now Sherwood Auditorium.

Benton noted that the current, 30-foot-tall Sherwood space “turns its back on the ocean.” As such, plans call for the addition of a second-story outdoor terrace and windows along Coast Boulevard, to take advantage of currently blocked ocean views. Additional gallery space would be created by excavating under Sherwood. Proposed materials include Terrazzo, Travertine (limestone), concrete, wood, stucco and satin aluminum finishes.

A Moreton Bay fig tree and conical stone sculpture by artist Andy Goldsworthy at the Southern edge of the property, along Prospect Street, will be preserved and incorporated into a new courtyard.

The only major concern expressed during the meeting was the loss of Sherwood Auditorium as a community meeting space.

The La Jolla Music Society (LJMS), which for years has held performances at Sherwood, is building its own, 500-seat concert hall on Fay Avenue. Although the LJMS said it will make its new space available to the community (when not using it for performances), several people at the DPR meeting were skeptical as to how frequently available it would be.

Regarding the loss of Sherwood as a venue for film screenings, Benton said MCASD directors remain committed to providing the new space for community use. He noted that contemporary gallery space is fluid in its use. Seats can be arranged to show movies or for small music recitals.

Community member Melinda Merryweather said the museum’s sculpture garden area (once owned by La Jolla’s founding benefactress, Ellen Browning Scripps) should remain accessible to the public, as it was when Scripps lived there. (MCASD officials confirmed to La Jolla Light the garden will remain accessible via a buzzer at the entry gate off Coast Boulevard.) “I know there’s a lot of people who are very sensitive about what the museum does,” Merryweather said. “I think it is important they maybe maintain something for the public.”

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