Museum designs have traditionally favored filtered overhead light. Horizontal light—from vertical windows—changes throughout the day. In morning and evening it is harsh in light-blasted Southern California, as 10 and 101 commuters well appreciate. Peter Zumthor's LACMA design bets everything on horizontal light. It essentially has no other kind, save for artificial. Even the "tower" galleries will be lighted by clerestory windows and not open to the blue-sky zenith.
More is riding on the "meander" galleries. This refers to space around the margins, next to the curving horizontal windows. As Christopher Hawthorne wrote
, "in certain ways the success of the building as a whole will depend on how they turn out. They may feel like an exciting new hybrid of gallery, public space and viewing platform looking down on Wilshire Boulevard. Or they may suggest a crowded hallway where some art has been stashed for lack of proper space elsewhere."
In the rendering at top, Helen Lundeberg's Linear Torso, no. 4
, an acrylic painting, is potentially subjected to the rays of the setting sun. The rendering also shows two partial remedies: a roof overhang and curtains. Modernists despised curtains, and they are rare in American museums. But Zumthor has used them to striking effect. His Kolumba Museum (2007) in Cologne has hand-painted silk drapes and leather curtains.
And in the process, ending up with less exhibit space (not more) and most likely a squeezed budget that's squeezed even further.
If Perenchio were really generous and truly cared about LACMA, he'd just give his gift, no strings attached.
If Govan weren't so ego-centric and so much into frills, he'd junk the whole proposal. He'd do that too if he were more honest about the situation.
It's hot air on his part when he claims it would be no less expensive and no less operationally disruptive to LACMA if the existing buildings were saved, remodeled and upgraded.
The reason why the current campus is such an architectural mish-mosh and unattractive is because the museum has never had enough money in the first place. That problem will be made even worse if LACMA goes forward with Zumthor's bloated plans.
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