Giovannini Audits Zumthor-LACMA

For the past decade Joseph Giovannini has been the most consistent and vitriolic critic of Peter Zumthor's LACMA project. His latest piece in the L.A. Review of Books ("LACMA: Suicide by Architecture") attempts to "audit" the project's square footage. Some of his numbers are different from (or have more significant figures than) the ones I'm come across. At top is a provocative chart from Giovannini's article, comparing Zumthor's square footage to the buildings it will replace by five metrics.

With the warning that this is getting wonkish, here goes. Giovannini claims that "Net Square Feet [of] Galleries (excluding primary and secondary circulation: estimate)" will decrease by an alarming 53 percent—a reduction much bigger than the 10 percent or so claimed elsewhere.

In a chart I posted yesterday, I compared the old buildings' 120,000 sf of gallery space (a difficult number to find online—I sourced it from Tyler Green's 2015 LAT op-ed) to the Zumthor building's 109,900 sf of "galleries" in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Giovannini is saying the former figure is net square feet, while the latter is gross square feet, and thus they aren't directly comparable. He has a different, bigger number for the old buildings' gross square feet.

I suspect Giovannini is counting the "meander galleries," the glassed-in space around the museum's perimeter, as "circulation." They clearly take up a lot of space. Back in 2016, with a larger design, the meander galleries were said to be 71,000 sf. The meander galleries will show art, but they're less adaptable than conventional galleries, given that one wall is glass.

Giovannini also claims to have some information on the internal layout of galleries. He cites an unnamed "museum source" as saying that there are "only about 30 galleries" in the Zumthor building. Giovannini claims or estimates that the linear square feet of gallery walls (for hanging paintings and works on paper) will be cut 53 percent.

In the modest proposal department, Giovannini offers a space-efficient alternative to Zumthor: Just fill in the gaps between the existing buildings.


Fifth Way said…
Thanks for your steady drumbeat on LACMA's proposal and the future of the institution. I like Michael Govan as much as anyone, but his decision to stick with Zumthor no matter what the financial fallout, the economic implications, the poor results, the unfilled architectural promise, is insane. Let's hope the County Supervisors can get beyond the Govan charm and think for themselves. Let's try again with another architect. Save LACMA!
Anonymous said…
I finally read Giovannini's piece and the situation is much worse than I imagined.

My hoping yesterday that Govan begins finding the idea of retirement to the south of France or Martha's Vineyard was too insulting?

However, when it comes to purposefully or inadvertently wrecking a major cultural institution in LA, a lot of resentment and anger makes sense.

This debacle goes far beyond one person - a director or otherwise - or one architect. But it's that one man, that one director, who is steering LACMA straight over the cliff.
Anonymous said…
Based on the interview published in today's LA Times, Michael Govan is a fool, a dishonest, irresponsible one too.

His weak Q&A retort to criticism certainly was allowed into the Times by a major editor at the newspaper. Just the opposite of what that same person, or someone similar, did to an article that Joseph Giovannini said he had submitted to the Times awhile back. A major assessment - or expose - that he claimed had been shut out by Govan using his pull at the newspaper.

This blog's name - and the time and interest put into it by its owner - is based on the very museum - by way of Ed Ruscha - that Govan is now going to destroy.

At least Ruscha was figurative. Govan is going to be literal.


Anonymous said…
MOCA must be thrilled....finally they're not the big disaster in town.

The one thing no one's really talking about is the contrast with the Hammer's expansion, which is much more modest, organic, and future-oriented. Their design will still allow for growth in the future up further through the building should their needs change. It responds to how they have been programming and inviting the community in. No one could call it a vanity project.

The thing is, I do think that Govan's long-term plan has potential and shows a different way of moving forward as a museum, but he hasn't fully articulated it. Were there also plans for laying out what the satellites in South LA look like and how they fit in, that would help. Also, what about the land across the street (the other lot, not the Zumthor landing site) that was talked about as a Gehry tower - owning part of the land, LACMA could get space for offices they no longer have or architecture/design gallery space as was floated. At one point wasn't their talk of another pavilion as part of the Tek collaboration. We're only seeing part of a plan and he needs to shore that up and get people on board if he really wants to move it forward.