by | 07. Aug 2012

Cultural | Feature

Photo: arcspace


The new BCAM, the centerpiece of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), is designed specifically for the display of contemporary art.


Photo: arcspace

The building, consisting of two symmetrical wings that unfold on either side of a predominantly glass core, is clad in Italian travertine selected to complement existing historic buildings on LACMA’s twenty-acre campus. The building is topped by a saw-tooth roof of sunshades.


Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA



Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA


Renzo Piano has used bright red steel to symbolize circulation, wrapping the building in a “spider” framework of stairs and escalators, so that visitors easily can orient themselves as they move across the LACMA campus.


Photo: arcspace

The Wilshire Boulevard facade has a rotating series of specially commissioned artworks. The inaugural work is by John Baldessari.


Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA



Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA



Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA



Photo: arcspace

The new covered entrance plaza, in the center of the campus, is also supported by the same red steel I-beams. Sponsored by the global energy firm BP the plaza is named the BP Grand Entrance.


Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA



Photo: @2008 Museum Associates/LACMA

The roof is topped with solar panels capable of generating 100,000 watts of electricity, which is used to power Urban Light, Chris Burden’s specially commissioned outdoor sculpture comprised of 202 vintage streetlamps.


Photo: arcspace

The main entrance to BCAM is on the third floor, accessed by the open-air, red escalator that traverses the building’s facade.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace

The central core of the building contains a large glass-fronted elevator with a three-story-high work by Barbara Kruger contained in the elevator shaft. Piano calls it a “moving room.”


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace

The six loft-like exhibition spaces are located on three floors in the two wings. The dramatic spaces of the third floor are suffused with natural light via a glass ceiling.


Photo: arcspace



Sketch © Renzo Piano Workshop

BCAM’s opening installation celebrates the generosity of Eli and Edythe Broad
by focusing on works from their collections.


Model photo © Renzo Piano Workshop



Drawing © Renzo Piano WorkshopSite Plan


Drawing © Renzo Piano WorkshopNorth Elevation



Drawing © Renzo Piano WorkshopGallery Section



Drawing © Renzo Piano WorkshopBP Grand Entrance Section


If you are designing a museum you offer contemplation. It is not enough for the light to be perfect. You also need calm, serenity and even a voluptuous quality linked to contemplation of the work of art. Achieving such a result at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art depends on integrating the new museum into its broader context. That is the purpose of a master plan.

The intent is neither to seek nor obliterate the past, nor conform to it. I re-imagined LACMA as a potential blend of new and old buildings, each reflecting the values of its age. To unite them, we have carved through the site with the precision of a surgeon.

Architecture can serve as a surgical instrument, capable of cutting through the disorder of the past, and in the process, opening it up to the rational mind. The result is a carefully measured sequence of architectural spaces, a procession through the museum’s collection and the city’s cultural memory.

All cities are a mess. The question is how you tie this mess together. In this sense, LACMA can be like San Gimignano in Italy. In a short walk, you find surprises – a church, a piazza, a palazzo. In fact, art and its contemplation are sacred, or “sacro.”

Everyday life and its attention to more ordinary pursuit, socializing, shopping or dining, we call it profane, or “profano.” The sacred offers spiritual and emotional uplift, while the profane delivers more material satisfaction. Together the two extremes define a spectrum of experience that honors the creative spirit in the context of everyday life. At LACMA this balancing of “sacro and profano” offers the guiding spirit for an architectural vision that aspires to energize and transform the experience of a museum visit.

What interests me is shaping form and product together, forcefully sculpting the land, leaving a deep mark on the pre-existing nature or urban structure but, at the same time, making the architecture an accomplice, a partner, imbued with the characteristics of its surroundings.

/Renzo Piano



CITY Los Angeles, California