Another “Starchitect” Threatens LACMA

A few years ago a so called “starchitect” proposed a dramatic, drastic plan for LACMA — knock down everything and start new. The scheme was ultimately defeated with help from preservationists who were determined to save LACMA’s original buildings. Now a new threat has emerged, but this one could have the backing to succeed.

The Wall Street Journal reports that architect Peter Zumthor wants to tear down most of the existing campus and “literally turn LACMA inside out by replacing half of its angular mid–to–late–20th century buildings with a series of curvaceous modern glass structures.”

Exact details of the plan will be revealed at an exhibit at LACMA in June, but the report says four buildings would meet the wrecking ball. The Japanese Pavilion and the old May Company building would reportedly be saved, presumably along with the two newest structures — the Broad and Resnick pavilions. Those two uninspired buildings by another “starchitect,” Renzo Piano, are the ones that should go, by the way.

So that leaves the three original buildings and the Art of the Americas building. I have no problem tearing down the latter building. I have written in the past how it needs to go away, along with its wall along Wilshire, so the original plaza can be restored to its former beauty.


This is how LACMA should always look!

But it would be a crime to demolish the three original buildings. They are mid-century classics and should be the centerpiece of any LACMA project, not reduced to rubble.

Zumthor has been working with influential LACMA director Michael Govan for four years on this plan. Govan seems determined to leave his mark on LACMA, which is why he will be pressing hard on this. Hopefully preservationists will be even more determined and press even harder to save these buildings from ruin.