LACMA’s Monumental Transformation

The Board of Supervisors approved a new permanent collection building for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or LACMA. Designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, the building will be the final component of a decade-long transformation and expansion of the campus.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas with LACMA CEO Michael Govan after the Board voted to approve LACMA’s new building. Photo by Diandra Jay.

LACMA has already raised 85 percent of the $650 million price tag for the building, primarily from private donors, including philanthropist and entertainment executive David Geffen. The County’s contribution is $125 million.

“We are tremendously grateful to the County for its consistent support of our project, as well as to the generous leaders of the campaign, who have made significant pledges to make this building a reality,” said LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan. “And thanks to the thoughtful comments by members of the community, the design of the building has become simpler, more beautiful, more transparent, with enhanced access to the park.”

“LACMA is a cornerstone of the arts and culture in Los Angeles, and the County is proud to be part of the effort to ensure its vitality as an important civic institution for many more decades,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes a portion of LACMA’s sprawling campus on Wilshire Boulevard.

Actors Diane Keaton and Bratt Pitt testify before the Board of Supervisors in support of the LACMA’s new building. Photo by Diandra Jay.

The Supervisor added, “The new building is a true embodiment of public-private partnership, made possible through both the County’s commitment and the profound generosity of our community,” the Supervisor added.

LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States, with a collection of nearly 140,000 objects that illuminate 6,000 years of artistic expression across the globe. Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin in early 2020 and conclude in late 2023. By the time it opens, LACMA will have grownits indoor exhibition space from 130,000 to 220,000 square feet – a 70 percent increase over 15 years – and added 3.5 acres of park and open outdoor space to offer visitors new and innovative ways to experience LACMA’s vast encyclopedic collection.

The new building, to be called the David Geffen Galleries, will replace four aging structures, namely the Ahmanson, Art of the Americas, Hammer and Bing. It will cover the footprint of the demolished buildings, and then span across Wilshire Boulevard to the Spaulding parking lot. It will be composed of seven semi-transparent pavilions that support a single elevated exhibition level with a floor-to-ceiling glass perimeter.

The horizontal design will place art from all areas of LACMA’s encyclopedic collection on the same level, with no obvious facade or front or back, offering a non-hierarchical display of art.

“The County museum hosts over a million visitors each year, and this design — transparent, open, and unilevel — will enhance their enjoyment and experience of our culturally diverse art and create a welcoming space for all ages and backgrounds,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. “The design and ambitions reflect the L.A. County of today and L.A. County’s cultural leadership in the 21st century.”

The single-level gallery floor will be more intuitive to navigate and easier to access, especially for wheelchairs and strollers, and its perimeter of transparent glass will provide energizing natural light and views to the park and urban environment, with views from outside into the galleries. The display of all art on one level avoids giving more prominence to any specific culture, tradition, or era, offering visitors a multitude of perspectives on art and art history in a more accessible and inclusive way.

The building also includes a new theater, education spaces, three restaurant/cafes, a museum shop, and covered multipurpose event spaces.

Elaine Wynn and Tony Ressler, co-chairs of LACMA’s Board of Trustees, said, “The Board of Trustees is thrilled that the County of Los Angeles has approved the building project to go forward and approved funding for their generous contribution. The County’s contribution is the backbone of this entire project, helping propel this plan forward. This building marks the culmination of a decade of transformation at LACMA, and we can’t wait to see how Peter Zumthor’s building will redefine the experience of art.”

All renderings from Atelier Peter Zumthor