Earlier this week, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve an airspace vacation over Wilshire Boulevard, another step in LACMA's bid to redevelop part of its sprawling Miracle Mile campus.
The approval of the airspace vacation grants LACMA the right to replace several of its original structures with a Peter Zumthor-designed building spanning north-to-south across Wilshire. Plans call for an amorphous two-story, 350,000-square-foot edifice.
Despite its support from both local elected officials and the likes of Diane Keaton and Brad Pitt, the project has nonetheless engendered significant pushback from both preservationists and the art community. In a piece called "LACMA: Suicide by Architecture," Joseph Giovannini argued that the proposed building would consume much of the museum's remaining real estate, thus limited possibilities for future expansions. This is exacerbated by the fact that the Zumthor design calls for less total space than the museum currently features, though LACMA intends to compensate for this by opening satellite campuses in other corners of Los Angeles County.
Others have questioned the wisdom of constructing a museum which spans over Wilshire Boulevard, with some commenters likening the building's appearance to a freeway overpass. The proposed footprint of the project is intended to avoid impacts to the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits, an active paleontological site. LACMA officials have noted that the layout of the building would allow for the creation of 3.5 acres of new park space at the property.
The criticism from Giovannini and others has not swayed the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which has approved approximately $425-million in public funds for the project - including a $125-million contribution and $300 million in bonds to be repaid by LACMA.
While architectural and urbanism critics may have failed to halt the project thus far, inflated costs and declining fundraising may achieve what words have not. Last month, Los Angeles Times Art Critic Christopher Knight wrote that the price tag of the Zumthor building had swollen to $750 million - a sharp increase from publicly-advertised figure of $650 million. At the same time, LACMA's fundraising efforts have ground to a halt since Summer 2018, with approximately $580 million committed for construction to date - well short of the current project cost.
Construction is currently expected to begin in early 2020 and be completed in 2023, a timeline which would neatly align with the anticipated opening of the Wilshire/Fairfax subway station.
- LACMA (Urbanize LA)