Site Report: BCAM
Where Did BCAM Come From? Tracking Down the Origins of LA's New Museum

354 The red carpet backdrop monolith at the gala opening of BCAM. CLUI photoSTARTING WITH THE OPENING OF the Getty Center in 1997, this newsletter has occasionally reported on the opening of new museums in the Los Angeles area. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) opened in February, 2008, an event that has been the subject of much discussion in these parts. An addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which is undergoing a major overhaul under the direction of Michael Govan, former director of new York's Dia Center, BCAM is a Renzo Piano-designed building on Wilshire Boulevard with 72,000 square feet of space used to show contemporary art from Eli Broad's collection (Koons, Baldessari, Ruscha, etc.) and other things.

But this museum, like others, is more than an immediate housing for cultural artifacts. Beyond the rooms and buildings, the museum is engaged in an unspoken interaction with far away places, connected to the rest of the landscape of the world through the translocation of its physical constituents. By tracking down the terrestrial sources for the building's primary construction materials, we find that the museum has touched the ground in a constellation of places. Material trucked off site helped to make mountains in landfills, and excavation sites in a number of states and two countries were altered and enlarged for the raw materials that make up the building's floors, walls, and roof. In its construction the museum has engaged in a dialogue with the ground, forming a network of incidental earthworks across the land. For every pile there is a pit, for every pit, there is a pile. For every heap of architecture, there is a terrestrial void.

355 Azusa Quarry, Azusa, California
The concrete used for the foundation, parking garage, and floors of the museum came from a number of local batch plants operated by the Cemex company. The aggregate (crushed rock, gravel, and sand
the primary constituent of concrete) used by these plants at the time the deliveries were made, came from Cemex's Azusa Quarry, east of Los Angeles. The Azusa Quarry is one of several in the region around Irwindale, the primary source for aggregate in Los Angeles basin. The Azusa Quarry was started in 1941, and is 315 feet deep and nearly a square mile in size.

356 Black Mountain Quarry, San Bernardino County, California
Cement, the other main ingredient of concrete, binds aggregate together when mixed with water. The cement for the concrete used in the museum came from the Black Mountain Quarry, in the desert north of Victorville, California. Hidden from the highway by a hill, this quarry, and the onsite plant, is the one of the largest cement production sites in the nation. Limestone is blasted out of the earth here and ground up into a powder, which is cooked and mixed with other ingredients to make dry cement.

357 Fish Creek Quarry, Imperial County, California.
Operated by US Gypsum, this mine was the source of the gypsum for the wallboard used to make the interior walls of the museum. The wallboard was assembled at a plant at Plaster City, connected to the quarry by a dedicated narrow gauge railway, 26 miles long, the last one in commercial use in the country. Gypsum is removed from the ground by blasting, using a combination of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel. This quarry and plant produce more than half of the wallboard sold in southern California. It is located in the southeastern part of the state, next to Anza Borrego State Park.

358 General Iron Industries, Chicago, Illinois
The steel beams that make up the structural skeleton of the museum were fabricated by companies in the Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, using steel that was manufactured in the Nucor-Yamato steel mill in Blytheville, Arkansas. The source of the steel manufactured by Nucor-Yamato was scrap, provided by numerous suppliers, collecting scrap metal from nearly a third of the nation, from Texas to Illinois. One of the largest suppliers for the plant is General Iron Industries, on the north side of Chicago. Consumer and commercial waste, including cars, appliances, and former building materials, are ground up here and shipped to Arkansas on barges traveling on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

359 U.S. Silica Quarry, Rockwood, Michigan
The large windows and the glass roof of the museum were built at a fabrication shop in Wisconsin, using specialty glass made at a PPG plant in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Most of this type of glass (73%) is composed of silicon dioxide, using a sand that is excavated from a pit next to the Huron River, south of Detroit, Michigan, operated by the U.S. Silica Company.

360 Bruno Poggi & Sons Quarry, Bagni di Tivoli, Italy
The skin of the museum is facing stone, cut from a quarry 20 miles east of rome, Italy. The quarry is one of several in this district, near Tivoli, the source of Roman travertine for over 2000 years. Another nearby quarry, the Mariotti company quarry, supplied the stone for the skin of the Getty Center. And from another, long ago disappeared, came the walls of the Colosseum.

The museum came from the earth, just as, one day, it will return.

This photodocumentary research project was made possible by the support of LACMA, and is included in their publication BCAM/LACMA/2008.