May 14, 2019

A petition is calling for halting construction of LACMA’s new building.

Conceptual image of the new LACMA building from park. Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner.

Conceptual image of the new LACMA building from park. Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner.

After years of setbacks and in the face of impassioned criticism, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously last month to approve the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) $650-million revamp. The rebuild will involve razing four of the museum’s older buildings, which, according to a statement released by the museum’s CEO and director Michael Govan, “have significant structural issues and are no longer in shape to exhibit art,” in order to make room for a new, dramatically different structure. The new building, designed by the firm of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor, will span Wilshire Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in all of Los Angeles, and extend the museum onto the south side of the thoroughfare into what it is currently a public parking lot.

According to the new design, glass-walled pedestrian walkways and exhibition spaces will float above Wilshire as traffic whirs (or crawls) below. Though it will help to create 3.5 acres of park space, the new design will also diminish exhibition space that was previously reserved for the museum’s permanent collection in addition to taking away room for libraries and conservation facilities.

A new group of dissatisfied Angelenos who call themselves the “LACMA Lovers League” has started a petition pleading with the Board of Supervisors to “reconsider their vote.” The petition says:

In [approving the redesign], [the L.A. County Supervisors] ignored serious recent criticism published by the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, Curbed LA, Architectural Record, The Art Newspaper and The Architect's Newspaper, and hundreds of public comments running 83% against the project. [. . .] We respectfully ask them to reconsider their vote, to pause their FEIR approval and engage in the free and open discussion with the community that such an important decision deserves.

As of this writing, the petition has 79 signatures.

Another worry, voiced earlier this week by Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight, is that the walls of the new building will be made of concrete, a notoriously difficult (though not unheard of) material for hanging and re-hanging art, particularly in earthquake country.

The new building is expected to open in early 2024.