LACMA Condo Tower Plan Angers Angelenos

A rendering of Peter Zumthor's LACMA redesign. Photo: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner.
A rendering of Peter Zumthor's LACMA redesign. Photo: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) could look very different in nine years, if director Michael Govan has his way. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Govan has outlined his ambitious vision for an expansion that would add a skyscraper across the Boulevard from the museum, in addition to existing plans to replace the institution’s current seven-building campus with an integrated, elevated, 410,000 square-foot building designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

Even before factoring in the tower, the projected costs for such a project are between $750,000 million and $1 billion, and are already drawing criticism from concerned Angelenos in the form of letters to the editor of the LA Times. The Zumthor building will be owned by Los Angeles County, and Govan is hoping to generate a fifth of the necessary funds from taxpayer dollars. The museum is aiming to complete the expansion by 2023, to coincide with the planned opening of a new subway stop under the high-rise that would bring visitors directly to the institution’s door.

The previously announced Zumthor plan is already ripe for controversy, as it does away with buildings that are named after major museum donors and could be considered historically significant. Despite the massive scale of the project, LACMA would only gain 50,000 square feet of exhibition space from the plan, which ingeniously elevates the museum above Wilshire Boulevard in order to avoid interfering with the neighboring prehistoric site, the La Brea Tar Pits (see artnet News report).

Govan hopes to enlist Frank Gehry to design the tower, which could potentially house the architect’s archives, in addition to a new architecture and design wing for the museum. Potentially, the city’s Architecture and Design Museum, which is being displaced by the site’s subway construction, could also make its home there. The upper levels would likely house a hotel and condominiums—a scheme not dissimilar to one underway at New York’s MoMA. Only part of the property belongs to LACMA, and the museum would have to get the other property owners to agree to the plan.

“There’s good reason to build a major development there,” Govan told the LA Times. “You’ve got subway access and density on Wilshire. My dream is some beautiful piece of architecture with an architecture and design museum at the base, which would add to Museum Row.”


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