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Piano’s Revised LACMA Expansion Underway

August 6, 2007

by Tony Illia

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has asked Renzo Piano to rework part of its expansion plans: gone is a glass-enclosed entry pavilion whose design was inspired by an Eames Case Study House; in is a corporate-sponsored entryway. The BP Grand Entrance, so named when the company made a $25-million gift to the museum, is an open-air gazebo supported by bright orange steel beams with a solar paneled roof and the British oil giant’s name emblazoned out front.

Images Courtesy LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, seen from its Wilshire Boulevard elevation. Renzo Piano Building Workshop has revised its plans for a new museum entry pavilion (top). LACMA’s 6th Street elevation (middle). The LACMA expansion includes new landscaping that will link it to the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (above).

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LACMA officials say that while removing the proposed pavilion saves only $2.5 million, more importantly this change will encourage outdoor interaction with art while taking advantage of the area’s sunny weather. “We wanted artwork to be the first thing that people experience,” explains Melody Kanschat, president and chief operating officer. “It makes for a better museum experience. You can step into light and see a piece of artwork with natural light, then go back inside to a gallery and study a piece in amore traditional manner.”

Michael Govan, who was hired from New York’s Dia Art Foundation to become LACMA’s director last year, is the mastermind behind many of the recent design changes. They include the addition of several large outdoor art installations; Jeff Koons’ “Train,” a 70-foot locomotive dangling from a 160-foot crane, will be installed in front of the new entry.

The first phase of LACMA’s expansion, budgeted at $156-million, is already underway and expected to open in February 2008. In addition to the revamped entrance, it consists of a two-level, 500-space parking garage, an expanded garden, facade improvements, and two new buildings by Piano along Wilshire Boulevard, including the new 60,000-square-foot, travertine-wrapped Broad Contemporary Art Museum. A covered walkway will link the eastern and western sections of the 20-acre, 1/3-mile-long campus.

Lynda and Stewart Resnick, whose $25 million gift was originally earmarked for the entry pavilion, will instead apply their donation toward a new single-story gallery building in the expansion’s second phase, which includes restoring existing LACMA buildings. A timetable for remaining phases will depend on fundraising efforts.

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