Zumthor LACMA Has a New Shape

Latest site plan for Peter Zumthor's LACMA building (to be called the David Geffen Galleries)
A few more observations from the just-released Environmental Impact Report for Peter Zumthor's LACMA building:

The overall shape has become less angular and more biomorphic (again). The building's footprint is shifted slightly to the east, and the gallery level is 1-2 feet closer to the ground. Between that and the elimination of the chapel galleries, the building has a flatter profile as seen from the street. ("Getting toll plaza vibes," wrote Alexandra Lange.)

Gallery area is now 109,900 sf. That's a 9 percent reduction from the previous 121,050 sf, and 31 percent down from the 160,000 projected as recently as 2015. In comparison the Whitney has 50,000 sf of indoor exhibition space, and the Getty Center claims 60,000. But those aren't encyclopedic museums like LACMA. The Museum of Fine Arts Houston has 130,000. (The LACMA figure is for the Zumthor project, not counting BCAM, the Resnick, and the Japanese Pavilion.)

To recap the history of the building's design—
The Blob (June 2013). The first publicly revealed design was compared to a tar pit (it was to be black), a black dahlia (the unfortunate coinage of the not-an-L.A.-native architect), a black flower, or a Hans Arp biomorph. In this early model Zumthor made a tentative stab at gallery layout, with rooms for Tony Smith's Smoke and the Ardabil carpet. This design would have overlapped the tar pits at the right. Complaints from the Page Museum forced a revised shape.

The Flying Squirrel (July 2014). This was the first design to cross Wilshire, sparing the tar pits but sparking a new controversy. Does L.A. need a drive-through museum? Joseph Giovanni, longtime arch-critic of the Zumthor project, wrote that the 2014 design was "adding insult to mediocrity… Perhaps the whole LACMA site is architecturally cursed by the spirit of vengeful mastodons and saber-toothed tigers…"

The Black Slash (August 2016). The building, still black, acquired an angular shape evoking ink calligraphy.

The Beige Slash (April 2017). The shape barely changed, but it was now sand-color.

The Rorschach Blot (March 2019). The latest design recapitulates its predecessors. It's again a blob, a tar pit, a flying squirrel. It's also an oak leaf, or the jawbone of an ass. The rectilinear pavilions add a Bauhaus vibe—the Mies basement that Rem Koolhaas imagined but never built.


jtrev said…
I’m almost certain that in 40 years, that generation's new director will launch an ambitious campaign to expand LACMA. And then we’ll have a new jumble of incongruent buildings again, because this new project, which succeeds to putting the buildings under one roof, just creates a new problem down the line concerning space.
Anonymous said…
Forget about it being too small or not easily expandable. If this excessive slash-and-burn project goes forward, there likely won't be enough money in 40 years to keep the lights on. Or, at the very least, there won't be enough money to add anything much of value and substance to the museum's collections.

Well, LACMA can at least set its future goal of being a major repository of the works of Thomas Kincaid.

All the Zumthor floor-to-ceiling windows, however, will make the museum seem more serious and scholarly. But where's the swimming pool and Jacuzzi?