Peter Zumthor designs for LACMA

Friday 07 Jun 2013

Organic dark grey form for LACMA redesign unveiled at Peter Zumthor exhibition

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has revealed his concept for the redesign of the east campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Commissioned by the institution to provide ‘new insight into the meaning and function of an encyclopaedic museum and the relationship of architecture to its site’, Zumthor has now unveiled models of his concept as part of an exhibition at LACMA entitled The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA, open until 15 September.

The designs suggest razing the existing campus designed by William Pereira and addition by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in favour of a swathe of dark grey concrete, 775ft wide at its deepest point. Zumthor explains: “It is an organic shape, like a water lily, floating and open with 360 degrees of glass facing Hancock Park, the La Brea Tar Pits, Wilshire Boulevard, Chris Burden’s Urban Light, and Renzo Piano’s new galleries.”

If realised, this low-level structure would amass roughly the same square footage as the existing LACMA campus but its two-storey height and large volume of glass windows would look to generate a closer relationship with the community of Los Angeles as Zumthor details: “Primary circulation is achieved by this curving perimeter - a continuous veranda rather than a classical Beaux-Arts spine. Visitors can look out; those outside can look in. From the ground, and in elevation, the museum is mostly transparent.”

Through these glass panes, visitors will be able to see a series of staircases leading to the upper level from their positions on the grassy landscaping of LACMA’s grounds. Throughout these green expanses will wind cycle trails and a network of pedestrian pathways to encourage the community to animate the campus and ideally to enter the building. A plethora of solar panels across the roof of the complex are included to generate energy for LACMA with any excess to be fed back into the LA grid. 

Zumthor concludes: “The proposed building is intended to create a cultural and social place. It offers a multilayered understanding and experience - from the everyday life on the street to a peaceful appreciation of individual artworks. Around more ‘sacred’ galleries are open, casual spaces. The grand scale of the organic whole is assembled from smaller pieces within, providing a village of experiences.”

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