LACMA's "transformation" takes an apocalyptic turn in The Architect Newspaper's eye-opening interview with Peter Zumthor and Michael Govan. In case you didn't know, Govan has tapped the Pritzker Prize-winning architect to rethink the entire LACMA campus. (Wasn't there some other guy doing that?) Says Zumthor:
I’m sorry to say, but today what they have here are strange buildings that clog up any public spaces. It’s a little bit of a mess now on this site, so we’re trying to think, how could we get rid of this?
There's no point in being shocked. The idea that LACMA's architecture merits obliteration is as old as the original 1965 complex (above, one artist's conception). Chief curator Jim Elliott privately called William L. Pereira's neoclassical structure “the first tract house museum.” Two decades later, Robert Hughes rated it not just bad but “probably the worst of any large museum in America… the proper response… would have been the bulldozer.” Then it got worse. Hughes was writing about the 1986 Anderson Building, which he likened to the giant foot in Monty Python. The next big development was Rem Koolhaas' unexecuted plan for LACMA, which promised complete annihilation of almost everything.
Zumthor's plans are, to say the least, years away from any possible realization. But he said he intends to have drawings in "half a year at the latest" so that Govan can show them to donors. The subtext is that Renzo Piano was chosen by LACMA's board — most especially Eli Broad — before Govan was hired. Govan naturally wants to choose his own architect. He finesses that point in the interview:
It’s pretty clear that over time we’ll need to do something major with our old campus.… And you know obviously Rem [Koolhaas] proposed an interesting scheme for that process, and Renzo [Piano] has proposed some ideas as well. For me, I had worked with Peter Zumthor before, and he’s just one of the great architects of architectural history and so I was really interested in working with him to get his take on what might be accomplished if you really took a big, long view…"
Govan insists Bruce Goff's Japanese Pavilion is "a keeper," and it sounds like they will spare the two Renzo Piano buildings. After all, one of them is still under construction.