At LACMA, he quickly won the support of the Board of Supervisors. “Some artists add complexity with time. “Rat emoji, frown emoji, dead-fish emoji, send.”, Photograph courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor. In various iterations, as he has recast its form, critics have likened it to an inkblot, a blob, a minor-city airport terminal, Bullwinkle’s antler, and an Italian Autogrill. Govan’s plan is at once grandiose and diminishing—and, above all, needless. “I always get burned.”, Zumthor’s front door is made of heavy oak; its handle, which resembles an oversized metal staple, is wrapped in a cord of stained umber leather, like a riding crop. The horizontal stripes in the wood, he explained, were created by stress from the wind. The article is long and full of nuance (you can click on the link) as New Yorker articles are. That was the strong thing in my mind—the last thing got killed. He makes things happen, and he’s smiling. The client, he says, wanted a neutral building, which would not disturb visitors. An earlier version of this article inaccurately described the La Brea Tar Pits site. Total exhibition space: 108,951 square feet. Because of the building’s prominence, scale, and cost—some six hundred and fifty million dollars—Zumthor’s LACMA is poised to be the most significant architectural addition to Los Angeles since Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall opened, two decades ago. By Dana Goodyear. The project began out of public view, and even with demolition imminent Govan and Zumthor hadn’t released detailed floor plans. The object was to engage visitors, not to instruct them. The East Campus will soon be a bowl of dust. This wasn’t a fact he had read but, rather, like many things he knows, something he sensed and believed firmly. (He won an Oscar for special effects in 1943.) It read: "The proposed building for LACMA is intended to have a unique urbanistic energy. Govan is the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (No and no.) In a display of bad faith, it became increasingly clear that the museum was waiting strategically until the demolition of the East Campus—a point of no return—to release that information. (As it turned out, it was his last trip anywhere for some time; shortly after he got home, Switzerland imposed a strict coronavirus lockdown, and he was sequestered in his home, alone.) But the Pereira buildings were neglected. He wanted the future LACMA to have no front, no back; no up or down. The buildings hovered over large reflecting pools, fed by arcing fountains. The school, his first architecture project, was completed when he was forty. In his late thirties, Zumthor entered and won a competition to design an elementary school near Chur. Every Friday night I go to the Met to draw. Zumthor has shown no regard for the cost to taxpayers, proclaiming “I don’t give a f*ck if we’re on budget” (The New Yorker, October 5, 2020). Joseph Giovannini, an architect and critic in New York who has waged war on the Zumthor project for years, performed a forensic analysis and determined that the design would significantly diminish the number of galleries and cut the exhibition space by twenty per cent. Oil from the tar pits often leached in, tinting the water a smudgy black. For LACMA, they made tiny replicas of “Urban Light,” a street-lamp sculpture by Chris Burden, out of pins with blobs of translucent glue stuck to their heads. “What do you say, Maestro?” he called out. Size mattered. The over-all effect was of a desert palace, equal parts fortress and oasis, sturdy and serene. Govan’s mandate was never to disband the popular collections, but with the compliance of an impressionable board he largely appointed and controlled, he arrogated the museum’s conversion so that the architecture usurped the encyclopedia. Cooper peered through a gap in the construction fence. Oct 7, 2020 - Will the new LACMA building be Peter Zumthor’s masterpiece or a fiasco? Or, see all newsletter options here. I’m the only straight guy there—the straight guy from the Swiss Alps.”. In “Thinking Architecture,” a book of musings from 1998, he describes the city by night: Seen from an approaching aircraft that is gradually losing altitude, the nighttime illumination of Los Angeles looks like a magical image. Few artists encapsulate the story of the early twentieth-century avant garde more alluringly than Constantin Brancusi. Zumthor prefers to work like an omakase sushi chef: trust him completely or go elsewhere. And the collections’ diversity represents a wide spectrum of Los Angeles’s own cultures. She asked him if the top-floor restaurant would be preserved; the room, she explained, was haunted by the ghost of a woman whose husband had killed her there in the eighties. This is just a bit darker. “It’s a protected groundwater zone, where Coca-Cola gets the water,” Zumthor said. Thom Mayne, a co-founder of the Los Angeles firm Morphosis, designed a new entryway for the hotel, a groovy white stucco overhang that resembles a half-sucked Life Saver. Pereira designed three buildings, in a U shape, open to Wilshire Boulevard: the Ahmanson, for the permanent collection, a pavilion for special exhibitions, and a six-hundred-seat theatre. “The house was destroyed by this annex,” Zumthor told me. Shrinkage alone effectively dissolves the collections, consigning to storage a large percentage of the collections once shown. Judy Chicago: We need to build upon each other’s achievements if we are ever to break the cycle of erasure that I tried to overcome through The Dinner Party. “But you should do it anyway.”. From the New Yorker: “The project that announced Zumthor to the world is Therme Vals, … Sidelight is flattering to sculpture and ceramic; the darker interior galleries would suit sensitive works on paper. Seeking escape, Zumthor attended art school in Basel, and then applied to Pratt, in New York City. The towers were built, but then, after two contractors went bankrupt, the government withdrew support. Making it look bigger made it dominate. “It will never happen,” Knight told me. LACMA’s director, Michael Govan, has officiated over an aggressive proposal that will dismantle and relegate to storage collections that for decades have distinguished the museum and established its standing. This morning I read the long piece about it in the current New Yorker, too late for my bibliography:-… “I showed them drawings and things—they looked so ugly,” Zumthor said. At LACMA, Govan has raised a record amount of money for a cultural institution in the city, drawn from public and private sources. Betye Saar (b. According to The New Yorker, when Govan first called Zumthor about the LACMA project the architect replied, “I don’t believe in competitions. The surprises keep coming at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). “He’s got these twin fluted columns, almost like chopsticks, very slender, very delicate, wonderful, very distinctly Pereira,” she said. It would cause LACMA to lose about two-thirds of it display space, and would prevent display of these collections. The project announced him to the world, and is now regarded as an exalted expression of regional modernism. The boxed galleries in Zumthor’s miniaturizing plan amount to only a fifth of what had been the original square footage. “When you have zero to a hundred, it’s a scary thought.” But, for those who oppose Govan, it’s another example of duplicity. His father, he felt, was constantly putting him in humiliating situations: So you think you’re an architect? Cultural Comment ... Get the best of The New Yorker in your in-box every day. “You can feel I am alone, with very few people supporting me,” he said. Will the new LACMA building be Peter Zumthor’s masterpiece or a fiasco? We got out of the car and walked into a broad, deserted square, made spacious for pilgrims. The images depicted an elevated, glass-enclosed, amoeba-shaped concrete structure lofted cinematically over Wilshire Boulevard. And I would like to work with you out of public view.’ ” The pitch was irresistible, Zumthor said: “A new museum, completely new. “The great virtue is the juxtaposition of global works of art in one place,” Knight said. Privately, Govan has suggested that LACMA has been misunderstood all along. It was essentially given away to the Academy.” By landing in the LACMA parking lot on the other side of Wilshire, Govan had raided the museum’s last trust fund: space for an office building, which the museum could lease out to generate income. And that the architecture is made in a way that you don’t go from object to object reading the tag and then go to the next tag, but you really look at the object, because”—he lowered his voice to a whisper—“there won’t be any tags, I hope.” The audience groaned faintly. Even now, his practice remains homespun, suspicious of glamour, and he is ironic about more prolific architects, with so many projects that they become mere businesspeople. . An investigative digital search through county records unearthed a Rosetta stone of square footage tables that put precise numbers on the museum’s demotion from a three- and four-story encyclopedic museum to a one-floor kunsthalle for changing theme shows. In December, I walked around the site with Cooper and Schave. In Govan’s scenario, design would solve the problem by making the collections disappear. In the ceiling, a tear-shaped oculus opens to the sky, allowing rain to pool on the lead floor; the smell of smoke lingers in the close interior. “Who wants them to see thousands of things?” he said. “It’ll never be the Louvre. Years passed. “Anyone in the city can go to LACMA and find his or her origin culture and see how it relates to other global cultures.” It didn’t ease Knight’s anxiety when Govan began talking about someday, with more money, building satellite museums in underserved Los Angeles neighborhoods. Architecture. The meander gallery’s design even backfires on the director’s stated intentions. In place of the promised quality, Govan has played up quantity, and even then, only its appearance. @nytimesbooks: Pete Buttigieg wanted to write his new best-seller, "Trust," in a way that "lets people hear the phrase 'a more trusting time' and think about what we're building instead of what we've lost." Intimate encounters,” he said. I’ve heard quietly there are others on the board who are unhappy, but they’re not willing to go against the power structure.”. .,”—“but America is far away,” a line from a pop ballad of his youth. It operated from 1919 to 1933. Even after issuing the stamped plans for cost confirmation nearly two years ago, and for plan check a year later, the museum made no public disclosure about the galleries. At dinner, he softly sang, “Ma l’America è lontana . You’re brokenhearted. (LACMA disputes his calculations.). The dispersive floor plan mixes points of view along multiple pathways that will, theoretically, facilitate “a new art history.” But casting visitors adrift without a compass through centuries of art history, the strategy of providing random, serendipitous encounters with art will, in fact, lead visitors “by the nose” through episodic spaces that serve up only hors d’oeuvres without ever getting to a main course. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, commissioned to rethink the east campus at LACMA, continues to provide new insight into the meaning and function of an encyclopedic museum and the relationship of architecture to its site. “These museums, they shouldn’t say—to me, nowadays—Look, we know everything from East to West, from 4000 to the present,” he said. In Govan’s first few years as director, LACMA opened two new buildings, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the Resnick Pavilion, both designed by Renzo Piano, which provided an additional hundred thousand square feet of exhibition space. The campus is huge, and a massive $600M makeover by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor should be completed by 2023. “I said, ‘I don’t give a fuck if we’re on budget.’ ”. “We need to implement the last changes in geometry.” These were the modifications he had asked Govan for, refining the shapes of the interstitial galleries and slightly recontouring the roofline. Sometimes we deserve to be lucky, right?”. “In a seven-hundred-million-dollar building, I’m now obliged, after all of this, I am to find these three million dollars, me personally. “Twenty years later, I was still dreaming about a house which never gets finished.”, For an unhappy period, Zumthor was his father’s apprentice, learning to make cabinets and furniture. 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