Lucas Museum Promises to Reboot Exposition Park
|Lucas Museum of Narrative Art under construction, Sep. 6, 2022. Photo by Sand Hill Media / Eric Furle. (c) JAKS Productions|
On Tuesday the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art held a hard-hat media tour of its Ma Yansong building. The headline news is that the opening has been moved up again, to 2025. Blame that on the supply chain. The better news is that the building and its site look increasingly impressive. A few of the curved, fiberglass-reinforced exterior panels have been installed, giving an idea of the ultimate effect. A park space to the south of the museum, by Mia Lehrer, has been planted with drought-tolerant landscaping. Two hundred trees, a future urban forest, are being acclimated on site. Meanwhile the Lucas collection continues to grow, in size and presumably seriousness.
In fact, the latest tranche of Lucas news prompted an editorial in the Chicago Tribune. Chicago had been George Lucas and Mellody Hobson's first choice for their museum, but objections to the lakeside site led to the move to L.A. As the Tribune's editorial board put it, "The Lucas Museum is looking better and better. What an error Chicago made."
|Facade panel installation. Photo by Roberto Gomez. Photo courtesy of USC School of Cinematic Arts. (c) 2022 JAKS Productions|
|Landscaping to south of museum. Photo by Hunter Kerhart. (c) 2022 Lucas Museum of Narrative Art|
The Park. My main takeaway is that the Lucas will be a big upgrade for Exposition Park. Over the past century, the park's component institutions have expanded their galleries on a piecemeal basis, but there have rarely been funds for big architectural statements, park upgrades, or improving the circulation. Even the current and ambitious construction projects at the Natural History Museum and the California Science Center don't seem to change that. The Lucas promises to serve as a front door to the park, enhancing the connection to the neighborhood. The museum building itself offers a walk-through entrance arch, likened to a tree canopy, that is welcoming whether one is visiting the Lucas Museum (or any museum). The new garden will complement NHMLA's Nature Gardens and the venerable Rose Garden. The Lucas Museum's roof will be part of the park as well, with plantings and a walking route covering about half the perimeter.
Ironically, Chicagoans were concerned that a new museum would reduce precious park space. The proposed sites in Chicago and L.A. share one feature: Both were parking lots. As the Tribune notes, the Chicago site still is.
|Oculus. Photo by Roberto Gomez. Photo courtesy of USC School of Cinematic Arts. (c) 2022 JAKS Productions|
The Oculus. Every museum has an oculus now. The Lucas Museum's oculus looks like the people-eater alien in Nope. (I know, wrong franchise. "Death Star" is taken.) Those entering the park from 39th Street will be able to look up and catch a glance of sky. For Lucas visitors, the glass-lined oculus will provide views and an orientation point in the 4th-floor galleries.
|Rendering (with waterfall at lower left). Courtesy LMNA|
The Waterfall. The Museum's north side will have a "fountain" that the architects swear uses less water and energy than not having a fountain. The water feature is integral to the AC system and is claimed to be more water-efficient than a standard cooling tower.
I can't vouch for the engineering details. I can say that the under-construction fountain looks to be something between a Calabasas celeb's swimming pool and a waterpark attraction.
The Hanging Garden. There will be a Babylonian vibe on the opposite side of the museum, with garden vines cascading from pockets in sculptural walls and trellises.
|Library under construction. Photo by Roberto Gomez. Photo courtesy of USC School of Cinematic Arts. (c) 2022 JAKS Productions|
|Roof construction. Photo by Roberto Gomez. Photo courtesy of USC School of Cinematic Arts. (c) 2022 JAKS Productions|
|Rendering of nighttime street view from Vermont Blvd.|
Galleries. Ma's five-story building is shaped like an 8 (or infinity), with a smaller southern loop largely devoted to education and the library. Some 100,000 sf of exhibition space span three floors, most of it (82,000 sf) on the fourth floor.
For comparison, that's twice the exhibition space of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (50,000 sf) and nearly that of LACMA's future permanent collection building (109,000 sf). The Lucas Museum is about 300,000 sf overall, with generous lobbies, a cafe, a restaurant, a gift shop, two 299-seat theaters, and a fifth-floor party space. The latter has city views at least equal to those of the Academy Museum's sphere.
|Lucas Cranach the Elder. Judgment of Solomon, 1526. Private collection, on loan to Princeton University Art Museum|
|John Singer Sargent, Las Meninas, after Veláquez, 1879. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art|
|Winsor McCay, America First, about 1910. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions|
|Bernie Wrightson, wraparound cover for Marvel graphic novel edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein, 1983. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. (c) 2021 Bernie Wrightson / ARS, New York. Image courtesy of Profiles in History|
|Rafael Navarro, illustration for Sonámbulo: Sleep of the Just, no. 1, 1996. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. (c) Rafael Navarro|
|Ernie Barnes, The Drum Major, 2003. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. (c) Ernie Barnes Family Trust, photographed by Jeff McLane. Courtesy of UTA Artist Space and the Estate of Ernie Barnes|
|Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur with Eric Gottesman and Wyatt Gallery of For Freedoms, Four Freedoms II, 2018. Lucas Museum of Narrative Art|