LACMA Unlimited

Controversial street-spanning element of LACMA redesign approved

The most ambitious feature of the LACMA redesign is the single-story “table” massing spanning Wilshire Boulevard. (Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary)

However controversial Peter Zumthor’s redesign of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) may be to the general public, the L.A. City Council has a track record of unanimously siding with the Pritzker Prize-winning architect and the museum. Though the majority of the building’s elements have already been approved during the multi-year design phase, a City Council vote on December 3 officially gave permission for the project to span over Wilshire Boulevard, allowing the design’s most ambitious feature to remain intact, according to City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield.

LACMA director Michael Govan, as well as Councilmembers David Ryu and Herb Wesson Jr., additionally expressed their interests in preserving the design for the museum as is. Govan has commented that, in its current form, the design is more open and contextually-sensitive than its predecessor, while spanning over Wilshire to connect to the Purple Line station that is set to be completed in 2023. Ryu commented that the proposed design will ensure LACMA remains a symbol for the city and “a showcase for the world to see and enjoy.”

Several speakers at City Hall, however, expressed concerns with the current proposal. The $117 million the county is awarding to the project, the potential safety issues associated with the portion of the building spanning Wilshire Boulevard, as well as the fact that much of the plan was not adequately disclosed to the public during the schematic design phase, have been the subjects of recent criticism. LACMA responded to these are other public concerns in their FAQ, stating that “the environmental impact review has shown that the crossing poses no hazards to motorists, traffic patterns, or pedestrians,” and that “without the new building, the County would be facing a minimum of $246 million in basic repairs for the aging buildings.”

Construction is set to begin early next year, coinciding with the opening of the adjacent Renzo Piano-designed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and is scheduled to be completed in 2023 in coordination with the completion of the new Metro station across the street.

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