International Design Competition Promotes Alternatives for LACMA

‘LACMA Not LackMA’ Addresses Severe Weaknesses in Current Design

LOS ANGELES—More than 70 international architecture firms are entering the “LACMA Not LackMA” design competition to present alternatives to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) current plan to construct a controversial building that fails to hold its encyclopedic collection.  Juried winners will be announced on April 22nd and will appear in an on-line gallery, where the public may review winning and alternative schemes.

“‘LACMA not LackMA’ is the rare architectural competition for a major American institution conducted at citizens’ initiative to protest and correct an official plan,” says noted writer and designer Joseph Giovannini, co-chair of The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, which is mounting the competition.  “A group of very concerned citizens has invited architects to propose ideas showing solutions that are smart, functional, aspirational, and exciting.  We are looking for ideas that inspire and show a way forward for a LACMA that is improved and fresh, not reduced and compromised.”

The jury will award a total of $10,000 in prize money as honoraria to be shared among competition winners.  Comprising a roster of noted architecture and museum professionals, the jury includes:

  • Aaron Betsky, director of Virginia Tech’s School of Architecture + Design, Blacksburg
  • Lauren Bon, vice president/director of Annenberg Foundation and creator of Metabolic Studio, Los Angeles
  • Winka Dubbledam, founder of Archi-Tectonics, New York City, and Miller Professor/chair of architecture at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
  • Joseph Giovannini, principal of Giovannini Associates and architecture critic of Los Angeles Review of Books, New York City and Los Angeles
  • Greg Goldin, independent architecture writer/curator and co-chair of The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA, Los Angeles
  • Patrice Marandel, chief curator of European Art (retired) at LACMA, Los Angeles
  • William Pedersen, FAIA, founding design partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), New York City
  • Barton Phelps, FAIA, principal of Barton Phelps & Associates Architects and Planners, Los Angeles

Acting as competition advisor is John Walsh, former director of J. Paul Getty Museum, who guided that Los Angeles institution through the construction of its Richard Meier & Partners Architects-designed project.

LACMA is the largest encyclopedic museum west of the Mississippi, with 350,000 square feet of built interior space in its four core buildings on the original east campus—the Ahmanson Building, Hammer Building, and Bing Center (William L. Pereira & Associates, 1965), and the Arts of the Americas Building (Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates, 1986).  Other buildings include the Pavilion for Japanese Art (Bruce Goff, 1988), and BCAM and Resnick Pavilion (both by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, 2008 and 2010, respectively).  The museum complex is sited on six acres of Los Angeles County land, adjacent to the La Brea Tar Pits, which—like LACMA—is an LA County-owned institution.

Short of complete funding and with plans for the main gallery floor kept secret from the public, compounded by the nation, state, and county heading into an unprecedented fiscal crisis and health emergency, LACMA has nonetheless already begun demolition of the Pereira and Pfeiffer buildings to make way for the new edifice by Atelier Peter Zumthor.  This plan reduces the number of galleries from 115 in the existing buildings to 27 in the new structure, with a 62% reduction of net gallery space, from 138,000 square feet to 52,000 square feet.  “After carefully analyzing the few publicly available documents about the new building, we believe the design to be flawed, dysfunctional, and deeply unwise,” contends Giovannini.  “LACMA needs to suspend its project and rethink its way forward, given the inadequacies of the current design, coupled with the present global crisis.”

The competition brief, which corrects assumptions on which the Zumthor design was made, stresses goals to expand gallery space, rather than shrink it, and to offer a home for the collections, as well as all services needed to showcase and care for the collections.  Entrants may either work with all or some of the existing buildings or create a new structure on the site of the four demolished buildings.

“It is important to The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA to publicly display ideas that truly capture people’s eyes, hearts, and minds, in order to reset the museum’s architectural path and keep LACMA intact and thriving as an encyclopedic museum,” says architecture writer and curator Greg Goldin, co-chair of The Citizens’ Brigade.  “These new designs will showcase the collections in a practical and architecturally stimulating environment that will embody—rather than usurp—LACMA’s purpose and spirit.”

The Citizens’ Brigade to Save LACMA is not affiliated with LACMA or Museum Associates, which runs LACMA, or with any other organization.  For more information: