For some reason, Google has decided that I should be plied on a daily basis with stories about Peter Zumthor’s plans for the new LACMA – maybe because they have correctly realised that I am indeed deeply interested in the plans and proposals for the new building, due to open in 2023, not least because it represents an extreme version of a number of current trends in museums: the focus on the quality and character of the architecture at least as much on the display of the collection (hence the selection of Peter Zumthor as its architect, whose Kolumba is one of the most brilliant museums in the last two decades); and the idea of treating a permanent collection as a resource to be displayed not systematically, but thematically.

Today, Google has alerted me to an article in Curbed, an online magazine, which gives much the best and most detailed account of the issues and the controversy it has caused, including introducing me to the idea of ‘Googie Architecture’ which is highly relevant to the style which has been chosen for the building (see below).

The one thing which the controversy misses is that the old buildings have now been demolished, so mourning their loss is beside the point. Also, to add my halfpenny to the discussion, the so-called chapel galleries have been abolished and the ceiling heights have been reduced to 14 foot. If I was Christopher Knight, who has just won a Pulitzer Prize for his criticism of the scheme, these are the two key issues I would be focusing on, which are almost certainly the result of so-called value engineering, in which project managers and cost consultants remove the very best characteristics of an architectural design.


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