We aren't very shy about our love for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's entrance plaza, nor about the fact that the Miracle Mile museum consistently hosts some of the city's most exciting and polished art exhibitions. But we can't say as many kind things about LACMA's disjointed eastern campus, which makes the latest details about its impending redesign exciting—mostly.
LACMA has released more details about its massive campus redesign from Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The horizontal design moves LACMA's permanent collection from four disconnected buildings into one concrete-and-glass structure that's anchored by eight semi-transparent pavilions and stretches across Wilshire Boulevard. The museum stresses that the amorphous, horizontal design means no culture or genre is given more prominence than another.
Construction on the $600-million project—80 percent funded by private donations and 20 percent by the county, which will own the building—will begin in the second half of 2018, just as the neighboring Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens. It's expected to wrap up by 2023, in conjunction with Metro's Purple Line extension across the street.
Oddly enough, the redesign will reduce the overall footprint from 393,000 square feet to 368,000 square feet. The museum specifically cites its goal not as expansion, but as taking four outdated buildings and turning them into a more functional space for the permanent collection. In addition, two-and-a-half acres of open space will be added to the campus and the surface parking lot on Spaulding Avenue—otherwise known as the "ugh, it's a Saturday and the underground garage is full" lot—will make way for a new parking structure planned for the west side of Ogden Drive.
First unveiled in 2013, the dark-gray concrete structure will replace four buildings (the Ahmanson, Art of the Americas and Hammer buildings as well as the Leo S. Bing Center) that LACMA has called deteriorating and outdated. The buildings west of the entrance plaza as well as the Bruce Goff-designed Pavilion for Japanese Art will remain the same.
As the LA Times' Christopher Hawthorne notes, the project details have likely emerged ahead of the museum's process for filing an Environmental Impact Report and holding public hearings—the first of which will take place August 24, from 6 to 8pm at the museum. The architecture critic notes that Zumthor's firm heavily relies on its physical models to express its design intentions and tackles these sorts of required renderings with "the digital equivalent of gritted teeth."
Speaking of those models, it's interesting to note how the plans have changed over the past few years. The original design unveiled in 2013 had the structure coming uncomfortably close to the La Brea Tar Pits. A redesign released in 2015 pulled the plans back from the tar pits and instead stretched the structure across Wilshire Boulevard. These most recent renderings seem to offer a mostly similar if slightly tamer take on that model.
We can't say we'll miss the monolithic buildings on the eastern campus, so the open space-respecting plans are certainly welcome. But there is something special about climbing the Ahmanson Building steps and into the open concrete courtyard to be greeted by the yellow spaghetti strands of Jesús Rafael Soto's "Penetrable." Of course, this is an art museum, so some of the objects that people most associate with LACMA—like Tony Smith's "Smoke" and Alexander Calder's "Hello Girls"—aren't going anywhere.
Our opinion on the redesign has varied wildly between each new model and rendering, so we'll reserve our judgment on the design until we see it in person. But let us know your thoughts—love it or hate it—in the comments.