After approval of the LACMA’s new building, a petition calls for reconsideration

After approval of the LACMA’s new building, a petition calls for reconsideration
Design rendering of the planned Los Angeles County Museum of Art overhaul, looking west down Wilshire Boulevard. Credit Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary.
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Just over a month ago, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the proposed $650 million remodel of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in a unanimous vote. The vote seemingly settled years of hurdles that have stalled the go-ahead on the project. Now, though, a new petition may further postpone the LACMA’s vision.


Rendering of the pavilion’s exterior. Credit Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary.


The proposed new building, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, would be an organic-shaped building that would take the place of four of LACMA’s current buildings. The new building, called the David Geffen Galleries, would boast floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the gallery space and increase the footprint of the museum across a neighbouring thoroughfare to inhabit a vacant parking lot. Since the beginning of the process, the proposed building has received mixed reviews. Those in favour of it see the need for a significant architectural attraction as LA is not particularly known for aesthetic architecture. The biggest issues for those less in favour of the building come down to debt and square footage. What both sides seem to agree on, though, is that the buildings that would be replaced by the new design are in dire need of replacement.

Square footage has been one of the strongest and most discussed issues of the revamp. Christopher Knight, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, dubbed the LACMA ‘the Incredible Shrinking Museum’ after the final environmental impact report was released stating that the final plan’s size would be drastically smaller than originally thought. Approximately 10,000 square-feet would be lost with the new design, some critics have estimated it may actually be as much as a 50,000 square-feet deficit. Debt is another strong factor playing against the museum’s planned overhaul. To date, the LACMA has raised $560 million of the $650 million needed. The county of LA also has a $300 million bond plan that will loan more funds to the museum. However, as noted by Joseph Giovannini, an independent architecture critic, the museum is already about $343 million in debt.


Aerial view of the footprint of the new David Geffen Galleries. Credit Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary.


The petition was created to highlight that a number of community members are dissatisfied with the proposal and want officials to reexamine the plans. The petition states:

‘On April 9, 2019, just 13 business days after the release of the Final EIR for LACMA’s $650 Million redevelopment project, the L.A. County Supervisors voted unanimously to approve it.

In doing so, they ignored serious recent criticism published by the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Curbed LA, Architectural Record, The Art Newspaper and The Architect’s Newspaper, and hundreds of public comments running 83% against the project.

We the undersigned believe that in their unanimous vote, the Supervisors failed to take into account the many serious concerns raised by critics and members of the public. We respectfully ask them to reconsider their vote, to pause their [final environmental impact report] approval and engage in the free and open discussion with the community that such an important decision deserves.’

Before the petition began, Michael Govan, director of the LACMA, said in an interview: ‘All big, ambitious architectural projects are controversial. But the county has done its due diligence. This project has already been through the fire of scrutiny by so many experts and consultants.’