Santa Monica-based Belzberg Architects has sent us breathtaking images of its new Holocaust museum in Los Angeles. Completed last fall, the design looks like plenty of other Holocaust memorials out there — it's got a somber, Spartan aesthetic and lots of curving concrete (the material is actually Shotcrete, a sort of concrete lite) — with one notable addition: a massive green roof.
Which might seem like a curious decorative flourish for a building meant to commemorate one of the darkest chapters in 20th-century history. But this is L.A., a place where cosmetic embellishments are the rule not the exception, and besides, the roof goes a long way toward minding a larger design imperative: to preserve the precious public park on which the museum sits.
Belzberg's strategy was to transpose aspects of the park onto the roof. He tucked the museum beneath street level Vietnam Memorial-like, then draped the roof overhead. Here, plantings are broken up by pedestrian walkways that connect to existing park pathways so that from overhead, the whole thing looks like a literal extension of the park. Belzberg claims it's one of the largest green roofs in Southern California.
The museum has been criticized for being too inconspicuous, for, being, as the L.A. Times's architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes, "oddly deferential" and "happy to erase its public presence." It's important to note that the park is hard by the Grove, a horrifyingly huge shopping mall, parking garage, and all-around gridlock magnet that represents L.A. worst instincts. Against that, we'll take "oddly deferential" any day.