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Starchitect Peter Zumthor Has Plans to Turn LACMA Inside Out

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[Left image via Architect's Newspaper; right image via LACMA]

Before Michael Govan even agreed to take over as head of LACMA in 2006, he called Pritzker-winning architect Peter Zumthor in "a phone call that he believed would forever change the way art museums engage the public in the 21st century." Since then, the pair have been working together on a new vision for LACMA's 22-acre campus, which has seen its share of failed new visions over the last 15 years. But in June we'll finally find out just how compelling Zumthor's plan is (LACMA will show it off in an exhibition called The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA)--and you should know now that it's radical. Zumthor wants to "literally turn LACMA inside out by replacing half of its angular mid-to-late-20th century buildings with a series of curvaceous modern glass structures," reports the Wall Street Journal. Four old buildings will bite the dust (the beloved Japanese pavilion and the old May Company building, where the Academy of Motion Pictures is planning a movie museum, will remain; if we had to guess, we'd say Renzo Piano's recent BCAM and Resnick Pavilion buildings will also be saved).

Here's more on the design:

Glass walls that permit the museum's art to be viewed from as far away as Wilshire Boulevard are key elements of Zumthor's prototype, which would connect other buildings--including a beloved Japanese pavilion and an Academy of Motion Pictures museum--with an indoor-outdoor art park, where visitors can wander at will and preview exhibitions before entering .... Zumthor, in a written description of his concept, says he aims to create "a village of experiences. It's an organic shape, like a water lily, floating and open with glass 360 degrees around," he says. There will be a curving perimeter, a sort of wide veranda, surrounding a series of "sacred" transparent galleries, all contained under one giant roof that will be covered with solar panels. The building is designed to produce more energy than it uses and will "reexpose the sky that is now blocked by existing structures," says Zumthor. Govan also hopes to put a lot more art on display: "As much as 80 percent of the square footage will house art on view to the public. Whole sections of LACMA's collection--such as gems tucked away on the third floor of the Art of the Americas building--will be dusted off for the first time in years." Just over a decade ago, starchitect Rem Koolhaas proposed his own massive, radical LACMA redesign--the plan ultimately failed in the face of internal turmoil and public and political opposition. (The exhibition on the new plan, opening June 9 in the Resnick Pavilion, will dedicate some space to "LACMA's checkered architectural history.") The WSJ says that "Though the success of Zumthor's proposal is far from assured, there's little doubt about Govan's ability to raise the funds necessary to finance it." Meanwhile, he insists the current plan "isn't written in stone, and that there's room for a public voice in a proposal that would give new vision to public art."

Govan has done an impressive job turning LACMA from a house for a nice art collection into a public space and a reflection of its home city--the lamp posts of "Urban Light" and the giant boulder of "Levitated Mass" have already become city icons and the museum is the first in the US to host a massive traveling retrospective on filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
· If He Builds It, You Will Come [WSJ]
· Zumthor: The Next Starchitect to Make Over LACMA?* [Curbed LA]