A New Look at LACMA

John Hill
8. August 2016
Aerial view of the design bridging Wilshire Boulevard (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has released new renderings of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's design for their $600 million expansion.

With an abundance of people in all but the aerial view, these renderings appear ready to impress a skeptical public before a "Public Scope Meeting" later in August, rather than to exude any of the finer architectural qualities of Zumthor's design. Known for designs, like Therme Vals, of striking ambience, the renderings are pedestrian; mute backdrops for the throngs moving through them.

As unveiled on the new Building LACMA website, the renderings are used to describe a design that LACMA believes "embodies the most current thinking about museums, and the best means of creating a wonderful new experience for visitors to LACMA." The renderings belie director Michael Govan's further assertion that the expansion will create "a completely new way to understand the arts and culture of the past, the present, and the future." Concourse-like gallery spaces mix with quieter, top-lit galleries; the former root the building in its context but threaten to overwhelm the art, while the latter come closest to capturing what Zumthor is capable of.

In terms of changes from the March 2015 iteration (after an initial unveiling of expansion plans in June 2013, the project has evolved at a rate of about once per year, mainly in terms of the building's footprint), there are very few; the renderings illustrate what is going on within, around and beneath the dark, undulating form from last year. The renderings also remove much of the mystery of the project and are therefore easy targets for criticism. Regardless, hopefully the built reality will be a huge improvement over the disappointing renderings being offered today.

A street level view of the expansion bridging Wilshire Boulevard (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)
The view from the existing Japanese Pavilion (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)
A view from underneath the building (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)
The "Meander" gallery along and over Wilshire Boulevard (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)
Gallery perspective (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)
"Chapel" gallery perspective (Image courtesy of LACMA / Atelier Peter Zumthor)

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