The Swiss architect Peter Zumthor may have just spilled the beans about a radical overhaul of his scheme for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). “Everything has changed,” he said from the auditorium stage at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum February 17. That evening, Zumthor was the featured guest at a Surface magazine-sponsored public dialogue with critic Paul Goldberger. “The undulating form is not undulating any more,” the architect said of his design’s latest iteration.
Zumthor’s talk from the lectern had focused primarily on two projects in Norway. But during the on-stage interview that followed, Goldberger brought up LACMA – and, without any images to present, the architect described his new scheme. He spoke of an S-configuration; of the building now crossing over Wilshire Boulevard; of the entire museum being on a single big level, hovering “10 meters above the ground;” of seven clerestory-lit clusters within the larger form.
Since 2013, his design for LACMA — originally a vast, black, hovering amoeba, echoing the shape and color of the nearby La Brea Tar Pits — had undergone a series of changes. But most of the new features outlined in this recent conversation with Goldberger could also characterize, at least in vague terms, the 400,000 square-foot scheme LACMA had unveiled in August 2016. Yet that evening at the Guggenheim, Zumthor also mentioned (twice) “one big tower going to the sky” — which would be a major new element (though hard to reconcile with his single-level idea).
So, did he, as one stunned audience member put it, “drop a bombshell”? Has the design changed significantly yet again — or was Zumthor merely bringing Goldberger up to date on the August scheme? The museum is denying any grand transformation, but it has also scheduled Zumthor to discuss his plans publicly on April 5, as part of the ongoing “Director’s Series,” hosted by Michael Govan, head of LACMA. So, stay tuned.