Zumthor Speaks: LACMA to Be an "Asylum for Homeless Objects"

LACMA project model, Peter Zumthor Atelier
Peter Zumthor has an interview (in German), focusing on LACMA, in the Zurich newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. That's noteworthy, given that he's been silent in the American media. Here are a few takeaways from the Google Translate version (with the usual caveats about relying on a translator-bot).

• Interviewer Sabine von Fischer asked Zumthor whether the controversy around April's County Supervisors vote bothered him. His reply: "Michael Govan said it was unnecessary for me to read this. You make the design, and I'll do the rest, he said."

• Von Fischer points out that Zumthor has called his LACMA project an "asylum for homeless objects." Zumthor: "It is an encyclopedic museum, with 135,000 objects that came together by accident: furniture, clothes, stone sculptures. One could say: It is completely disparate, what is gathered here.… For architecture, it is important that these objects have lost their context.… Now the architecture can create a place for these homeless objects, also a multitude of places, the collection is then periodically re-presented.… The selection is always an organism that responds to many things in time and is constantly changing. We will focus on the things that belong together and then consciously set transitions. "

•  "It is planned to finish the building in 2023, on my 80th birthday [April 26]. One year later, it will be ready and set up." Zumthor seems to be saying it will take a full year to prepare and install the building. That sounds reasonable, but I haven't heard it articulated elsewhere. If so, the opening would be no earlier than mid 2024 (even if everything goes according to schedule, which is rare for museum construction).

UPDATE (& Translation Note): The phrase Zumthor used to describe LACMA is "Asyl für heimatlose Objekte". Journalist Sabine von Fischer (the interviewer in the linked article) suggests a better translation might be "sanctuary for expatriated objects." The German Asyl shares a root with the English asylum, but it is typically translated as "sanctuary" or "political asylum" (politsches Asyl). Some readers have reacted to the term homeless. Zumthor may not have intended that analogy, but heim is "home" and heimatlose is applied to homeless people.


Anonymous said…
Please retire, Michael Govan.

Meanwhile, Peter Zumthor, there are a lot of potential clients of yours throughout the world in need of architectural work. Some probably are closer to your neck of the woods.

A big earthquake is also predicted for the West Coast in the next few decades. That should worry you, Messrs Govan and Zumthor. Leave now when the going is good! Thanks.
google translate got it wrong, Asyl in the sense of "shelter" or "sanctuary for homeless objects".
Thanks for the clarification. I notice that some readers have reacted to the word "homeless." In American English a person who lives in the streets is "homeless," and public housing for the homeless is called a "shelter." So a "shelter for homeless objects" would further emphasize an analogy that I'm sure Zumthor wasn't making. "Asylum" and "sanctuary" have specific connotations as well ("lunatic asylum," "political asylum"; "wildlife sanctuary," "sanctuary cities".)

Translation isn't easy.
sanctuary for expatriated objects – maybe the post could be revised?
Seriously?... He saw some tar leaks and that inspired him for the form of the building?. Hollywood dopes fall for the dumbest fads.
William Pereira deserves an apology. Zumthors design deserves lethal injection.