Sharing a new vision for LACMA

May 2, 2013 

"Urban Light" won't be on the only LACMA artwork visible from Wilshire if a new architectural plan is adopted.

An architectural reimagining of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is being unveiled next month—and transparency, in every sense of the word, is on the table.

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor, who has been working on the plan with LACMA director Michael Govan, envisions a design that would open the museum up to its surroundings, making it possible for passersby to view works of art, and even traditionally closed-door activities like the installation of exhibitions, without entering the museum.

“Visitors can look out; those outside can look in. From the ground, and in elevation, the museum is mostly transparent,” the Swiss architect said in a statement. Zumthor described his idea for the museum as “an organic shape, like a water lily, floating and open with 360 degrees of glass facing Hancock Park, the La Brea Tar Pits, Wilshire Boulevard, Chris Burden’s Urban Light, and Renzo Piano’s new galleries.”

A model of Zumthor’s proposed design—along with other images from LACMA and its site stretching back to the Pleistocene Era—will be on display at the museum from June 9 through September 15. The exhibition, “The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA,” is part of the modern architecture spinoff of the Getty-funded Pacific Standard Time initiative.

Although the project is in the preliminary stages, museum officials said they hope to engage the public early in a conversation about LACMA’s evolution.

Beyond the aesthetics, one aim of the project is to make the museum completely solar-powered, with energy left over to share.

“A huge roof covered in solar tiles literally soaks up the energy of the California sun,” Zumthor said in his statement. “The building gives more energy back to its neighbors than it takes from the city.”

Creating the new LACMA would mean replacing some of the museum’s existing buildings by William Pereira, which are aging and in need of repair.

The Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum and Resnick Pavilion would not be affected, and neither would a new motion picture museum that Piano and Zoltan Pali are designing for the May Co. building on the site.

It’s not the first time the museum has sought to remake itself in recent years. Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch architect, had proposed a similarly ambitious makeover but that project, approved by LACMA’s board in 2001, was tabled before it came to fruition.

Details of the current project under consideration were first reported in the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

Posted 5/3/13

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