Zumthor's LACMA Tweaked Once Again

29. March 2019
Image: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner / The Boundary

In what's becoming an annual ritual, new renderings of Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's design for the expansion of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) have been released, this time as part of a final environmental impact report.

Unveiled in 2013 as a dark blob that would blot out LACMA's collection of buildings from the 1960s to the 80s, Zumthor's design evolved over the years to reach across Wilshire Boulevard, smooth out its blobby edges, and gain a smattering of boxes punctuating its horizontal massing. As of March 2019, although Zumthor's design still bridges the four-lane boulevard, it is no longer dark and the clerestories popping above the roof appear to be gone. No wonder at least one critic has likened the latest design to a highway-spanning restaurant.

The evolution of the blob, from left to right, top to bottom: Model from 2013 with building entirely to the north of Wilshire Blvd; rendering from 2014 showing the building bridging Wilshire; model from 2015 with rectangular galleries popping above the roof; rendering from 2016 showing a refinement of the previous design; and a rendering from November 2017 with a lighter colored design and some indication of materiality. Compare the bottom image with the newly released rendering at top to see the disappearance of the clerestory galleries above the roofline.
Image: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner / The Boundary

Not visible in the three renderings released by LACMA are interiors, for one, and the numbers, the latter of which reveal a 10% reduction in the size of the building. The report indicates that the total square footage shrank from 387,500 sf to 347,500 sf, while the area devoted to galleries is now 110,000 sf, considerably less than estimates of up to 200,000 sf in 2013. With the reduction and slight redesign, LACMA has gained an important approval needed to move forward with their $650 million project that may open as early as 2024. If it stays on track, hopefully we'll see more renderings sooner than next year.

Image: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner / The Boundary

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