Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) director Michael Govan have unveiled a slew of new images and design concepts for a scheme aiming to replace Los Angeles’s largest art museum with a new 368,000-square foot complex.

The plans were revealed last night during a joint talk delivered by Zumthor and Govan to a packed audience at the Brown Auditorium on the LACMA campus, where Govan explained that the project sought to re-signify the museum experience and undermine the traditional museum typology by creating a structure with “no back, no front.” The efforts, according to Govan and Zumthor, are aimed at granting prominence to art objects more equally, instead of relegating certain collections to the museum’s nether regions, as is currently the case.

Site plan of new LACMA proposal showing new museum structure crossing over Wilshire Boulevard. (Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor)

Site plan of new LACMA proposal showing new museum structure crossing over Wilshire Boulevard. (Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor)

The plans build on a previously-released—and much-derided scheme—that aims to create a large, continuous gallery elevated high above the museum’s site in a structure that would span across Wilshire Boulevard to the south. The sinuous, oil-slick inspired structure—an homage to the La Brea Tar Pits next door—is lifted above the ground on a series of seven pavilion towers that house public galleries, conservation spaces, circulation, ground level cafes and restaurants, and an amphitheater. The pavilions stretch up into the levitated mass to create a complex set of interlocking gallery spaces. According to Zumthor, the project contains four types of galleries along this level: so-called meander galleries along the periphery, with smaller “pocket galleries” located throughout and grouped “cluster galleries” and “tower galleries” contained within the pavilions. The “tower galleries” in the scheme will be located within tall, triple-height light cannons meant to funnel sunlight into the galleries.



The design is capped by a massive, continuously overhanging roof that would shield the museum’s collection from southern sun; black, retractable drapes are to be installed along eastern and western exposures to control for low-angle solar glare. Zumthor expressed a strong desire to create a museum from “real materials, not sheetrock,” and has proposed board-formed concrete surfaces for the gallery interiors. The building’s exterior—in fact, the entire building, generally speaking—will be made of concrete, as well. This material, depicted in the new images in mud-colored tones, is meant to evoke the Texas Limestone cladding of the nearby Renzo Piano–designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum and A.C. Martin–designed May Company building.

View of museum restaurant. (Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor)

View of museum restaurant. (Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor)

In describing the project, Zumthor explained that his scheme originated with the traditional, non-purpose-built art museum: spaces originally constructed as homes for elite art patrons that brought in light via peripheral windows. This “side light,” according to Zumthor, creates dynamic conditions that allow patrons to “make personal discoveries” within artworks and drove the concept’s organization of small, oddly-shaped galleries with various connections to the outdoors.

A preliminary timeline for the project aims to finish the project by 2023, in time for the opening of a new subway extension along Wilshire Boulevard.

For more info, see the LACMA website.

Related Stories