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LACMA is being torn down right now

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Demolition of the original modernist complex is clearing the way for a flashy new building

Urban Light will be preserved and incorporated in the redesign of LACMA.
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It’s the beginning of the end for four of the oldest buildings in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s campus in the Miracle Mile.

Demolition of the Leo S. Bing Center is underway now. The remaining three edifices—the midcentury Ahmanson and Hammer buildings, plus the 1980s-built Art of the Americas building—will also be razed over the next several months, says a museum spokesperson.

The oft-photographed art installations “Urban Light” along with other buildings, including the Pavilion for Japanese Art, will remain.

Demolition will clear space on LACMA’s campus for a new Wilshire Boulevard-spanning museum building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor that’s projected to cost as much as $750 million.

The replacement project has the support of city and county officials, but has ignited resistance from residents who argue that the new building will offer less gallery space than was originally proposed, and that the plans were not widely shared with the public until just before critical votes for the project were undertaken by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

Rob Hollman, president of the nonprofit Save LACMA, did not expect demolition to begin amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is not essential to demolish a museum right now,” he says.

But construction has been allowed to continue on projects large and small across LA, as long as crews follow safety measures aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. The LACMA spokesperson says the company handling the demolition, Clark Construction, is taking safety precautions “in accordance with city, county, state, and [federal] guidelines.”

Video posted to Twitter this morning showed those construction workers pulling chunks of the unlucky buildings down.

The Ahmanson, Bing, and Hammer buildings were original to the campus, which opened on Wilshire Boulevard in 1965. The boxy structures—wrapped in sleek columns and clad in marble “tiles” that looked almost iridescent in the sun—were designed by the prolific Los Angeles firm of William Pereira and Associates. The Art of the Americas building was added later, in 1986, and designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates.

The start of demolition was not without notice. In January, work was underway to remove toxic materials like asbestos from the buildings set to be razed—an important precursor to demolition.

The Los Angeles Times has photos of the demolition. And below, some images of the fated buildings as we’ll remember them.

The Ahmanson building.
Jenna Chandler
The Art of the Americas building in the background.
Jenna Chandler
The Ahmanson building.
Alexandra Lange
The Ahmanson building.
Alexandra Lange
A view up to the LACMA main campus from the sculpture garden at street level.
Jenna Chandler
The original Pereira buildings are clad in marble.
Jenna Chandler