Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

LACMA should scrap its watered-down redesign

Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partners / The Boundary via Building LACMA.

In 2013, a new proposal for LACMA by Peter Zumthor, a Pritzker-winning Swiss architect who has no public projects in the U.S., showed a jet-black blob on the north side of Wilshire that seemed to ooze between the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits and the Renzo Piano-designed Broad Contemporary Art Museum.

But environmental and spatial concerns forced Zumthor to revisit that design—which had been dubbed “the Inkblot.” Black became beige, due to heat-island concerns, and the blob moved away from the tar pits and across the boulevard, where it now touches down in a museum-owned parking lot. Between 2017 and 2019, the design changed yet again.

LACMA director Michael Govan defended Zumthor’s new design in both a weekend interview and an op-ed at the Los Angeles Times. But Curbed’s urbanism editor Alissa Walker and architecture critic Alexandra Lange took a stroll Friday around LACMA’s campus, and they are not convinced.

What follows is their conversation about the role of museums in urban life, the controversy surrounding Zumthor’s design, and how the new LACMA must meet the street.