The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously today to allow a “critical piece” of the plan to redesign the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to move ahead.
The bulk of approvals needed for the Miracle Mile project had already been awarded by the county, but City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield said today’s vote on air rights over Wilshire Boulevard would affect a key element of the plan, allowing the new building to span Wilshire.
LACMA director Michael Govan urged councilmembers to support the project, telling them that the street-straddling design “allows for a new vision for an art museum.”
The design, by renowned Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, calls for a huge, single-level gallery that some critics have compared to a coffee table to cross over Wilshire, connecting the museum to both sides of the street.
Councilmembers David Ryu and Herb Wesson Jr. shared their support for the project, with Ryu, whose district includes LACMA, predicting the proposed design would create “a showcase for the world to see and enjoy.”
But several speakers in City Hall today echoed concerns shared at the April hearing when the county awarded the project $117 million—namely, that project plans were not sufficiently shared with the public, that it is smaller than originally proposed, and that the money could be better spent. (LACMA created an FAQ to defend itself on these fronts.)
“There are many serious questions about the funding and the size of the museum,” said Richard Schave, a preservation advocate and cofounder of the nonprofit Save LACMA.
The design has evolved a number of times in the decade since Zumthor signed on. The earliest versions featured a black, tar pits-inspired blob, then the museum design shifted to cross Wilshire Boulevard and switched from inky to beige.
The stretch of Wilshire Boulevard that’s home to LACMA is already busy with construction on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, designed by Renzo Piano and involving a giant glass sphere. It’s slated to open in 2020. The La Brea Tar Pits and Page Museum is also planning a redesign.
A future parking lot site for the revamped LACMA is in use now as a staging space for construction crews working on the Purple Line extension on Wilshire Boulevard, which will bring stations to Wilshire at Fairfax, La Brea, and La Cienega.
The future Fairfax station will sit at Wilshire and Orange Grove, offering a crucial connection to LACMA, the Academy Museum, and the rest of Miracle Mile. The three new stations are slated to open in 2023.