Resnick Exhibition Pavilion opens at LACMA
The Resnick Pavilion at the Los Angeles Museum of Art opened last week to tonne of publicity and throngs of celebrities who were eager to get a first look at the new building. The 45,000 sq ft structure is touted in the museum’s press release as ‘the largest purpose-built, naturally lit, open-plan museum space in the world’. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the pavilion is affectionately termed the Grand Piano by LACMA’s Director Michael Govan, to reference that the building’s modest size is by no means a measure of its artist achievement.
The fact that Piano can work wonders at a smaller scale should come as no surprise to anyone who has visited the Morgan Library in New York where he clarified the building’s plan and brought natural light into its dour interior while transforming the visitor experience. Piano’s ability to quickly survey complex situations and to distil commissions down to their very essence is legendary and something he seems to do with relative ease. While his working method is consistent, the structures that are born of it are anything but clones, which is why Piano builds such good buildings.
The design of the Resnick Pavilion is informed by an amalgamation of ideas drawn from a multitude of sources, including the architect’s memory. Like the Broad Contemporary Museum of Art, which Piano completed in 2008, the Resnick Pavilion is built of travertine glass and steel and has a saw-tooth roof that is designed to modulate the California sun - but here they are expressed as a one storey building as opposed to the multi-storied BCMA.
The horizontality of the building makes for an interesting counterbalance to the BCMA’s vertical massing and it creates an extremely flexible space that can be configured in a variety of ways to accommodate different sized and scaled art works. The decision to make the pavilion a single storey structure was motivated in part by Govan’s love of the Dia Beacon in New York, a former factory building re-purposed as an art museum in 2003 which Govan had a hand in designing when he was the Dia’s director.
Govan believes that Dia’s industrial character and its vast unencumbered space, broken only by columns, is an ideal space for viewing art; so naturally he was enthusiastic about recreating these qualities in the Resnick Pavilion. With the pavilion’s skin and bones determined, Piano added a splash of scarlet to the building’s main façade which animates the façade and cleverly masques the air ducts, which like Piano’s Centre Pompidou, are external to the building. These ducts also serve to unify the museum campus, as they reference the red colouration of the BCMA’s escalator, the BP Grand Entry and the Kendall Concourse running between the two buildings. For the pavilion’s opening, the interior space is subdivided to accommodate three exhibitions.
Renzo Piano once said that, ‘architecture is an art of theft’. At the Resnick Pavilion, Piano has richly woven the ideas and inspirations of many into a tapestry that is clearly his own.