June 1, 2020

Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA Poll Shows Few Favor Peter Zumthor’s Museum Design

For more than a year, the Los Angeles art and architecture community has spoken out against Peter Zumthor’s $650 million design proposal for the David Geffen Galleries, meant to replace four deteriorating buildings in the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art with less square footage. Most recently, the Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA—a group of design professions devoted to the cause—issued a “Call for Ideas,” encouraging international architects to submit alternate designs for LACMA, which 28 did. The group then selected six finalists last month, and a recent public poll of 2,750 respondents helped further narrow the pool. 

The poll invited the public to weigh in on the LACMA design proposals and showed that 95 percent of those surveyed did not approve of Zumthor’s design. “It’s evident that the art- and architecture- loving public finds LACMA’s plans sorely lacking the requisite space to honor the museum’s encyclopedic collection,” says Joseph Giovannini, a writer and designer who co-chairs The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA. “Counter to LACMA’s closed process, we wanted the public—the taxpayers of Los Angeles County and beyond—to express their opinions about a plan that would decrease exhibition space and create a budget hole for the County at a time when essential services need funds.” 

“LACMA Wing” by Coop Himmelb(l)au, Vienna—exterior. Photography courtesy of The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA.

Half of respondents agreed LACMA’s existing buildings “should have been preserved” or “renovated, upgraded, and used as the base for an expanded” museum, while 35 percent said they either “did not care if existing buildings are reused” or “prefer a new building,” as long as a new LACMA is large enough to contain the collections, and 10 percent abstained.

Of the six leading alternate design ideas—three building from the ground up and three integrating existing fabric—“LACMA Wing” by Coop Himmelb(l)au in Vienna and “Unified Campus” by Paul Murdoch Architects in Los Angeles tied for the ground-up category, while “Reimagining/Restructuring” by Kaya Design in London earned the most votes in the existing buildings category. Each of the Peoples’ Choice selections will receive $500. 

Paul Murdoch Architects proposed this horizontal skyscraper design. Photography courtesy of The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA.

“The response to the survey shows how invested the public is in the cultural life of Los Angeles,” notes Greg Goldin, an architecture writer and curator who co-chairs The Citizens’ Brigade. “We are hopeful that the County Board of Supervisors will take this into account and reconsider their monetary support for LACMA’s insufficient and unpopular plan.”

Kaya Design envisions a striking entrance with a whirling base. Photography courtesy of The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA.

Read next: Peter Zumthor’s $650 million LACMA Build Ignites Tension in LA’s Art and Architecture Community

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