Arata Isozaki’s MOCA Grand building

As MOCA director Klaus Biesenbach prepares design tweaks for MOCA Grand, new attention is shining a light on one of L.A.’s most notable Postmodern buildings designed by Arata Isozaki.

“When Klaus Biesenbach took over as director of Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art in October, he was immediately intrigued by some of the architectural details of the museum’s Grand Avenue building. There is the ticket office, a cube wrapped in aluminum panels rendered in forest green. The barrel vault, containing a library, that hovers on a pair of pillars clad in red Indian sandstone. And there are the skylights — 11 of them, in various scales — all prominently rendered as glass pyramids on the roof.

These stripped-down geometric forms, Biesenbach says, remind him of minimal works by artists he worked with as a curator in Germany in the 1990s. He points to a row of color printouts spread out across the floor of his MOCA office. One image reveals Roni Horn’s cast-glass cylinders. Another shows an early geometric structure made of reflective glass by Dan Graham.

“It was an immediate dialogue with the artists I’ve worked with,” he says of the building designed by Japanese Postmodern architect Arata Isozaki.

So he picked up his cell phone and began taking pictures. “I felt [Isozaki] is so clear about these simple geometric shapes. There is clarity.”

At his first meeting with MOCA’s board last fall, he did an informal slide presentation on the building’s design, “a little photo essay of every circle and cylinder, the triangles, the squares, the cube.”

“Everyone said, ‘Do you like the building?’ ” he recalls, conveying the surprised tone with which his presentation was received. “I said, ‘This is such an important piece of architecture, we need to let it shine.’ ”

Biesenbach’s high opinions of MOCA Grand, a building that is respected, if not necessarily beloved, by Angelenos, got a significant boost last week when it was announced that the 2019 Pritzker Architecture Prize would go to Isozaki, who is now based in Okinawa.”

From Carolina Miranda, “Now that Arata Isozaki won the Pritzker, let’s take a fresh look at his MOCA building,” Los Angeles Times, (March 14, 2019).