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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art celebrates significant building project milestones
Los Angeles County certifies Final Environmental Impact Report for the museum’s Peter Zumthor-designed permanent collection building. Courtesy Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner / The Boundary.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art announced this week that the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors has certified the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the museum’s new building for the permanent collection and approved the project. The Board of Supervisors also authorized the issuance of the $117.5 million balance on its $125 million contribution for the project.

The new building, The David Geffen Galleries, is part of a long-term plan to expand and improve LACMA’s galleries and public space. As the final component of a decade-long transformation of the campus that nearly doubled exhibition space, programs, and more than doubled attendance, the new building, which has approximately 110,000 square feet of galleries, will replace four aging buildings (Ahmanson, Art of the Americas, Hammer, and Bing). Composed of seven semi-transparent pavilions that support a single elevated, organically shaped exhibition level with a floor-to-ceiling glass perimeter, the new building extends over Wilshire Boulevard to the existing parking lot on the southeast corner of Wilshire and Spaulding Avenue. By the time this Peter Zumthor-designed building opens and joins the Bruce Goff-designed Pavilion for Japanese Art and Renzo Piano-designed BCAM and Resnick Pavilion, LACMA will have grown over 15 years its indoor exhibition space from 130,000 to 220,000 square feet and added 3.5 acres of park and open outdoor space to offer visitors new and innovative ways to experience LACMA’s vast encyclopedic collection.

The horizontal design of the David Geffen Galleries will place art from all areas of LACMA’s encyclopedic collection on the same level, with no obvious facade or front or back, offering a non-hierarchical display of art—a fresh, Los Angeles perspective on the experience of a big art museum. The single-level gallery floor will be more intuitive to navigate and easier to access, especially for wheelchairs and strollers, and its perimeter of transparent glass will provide energizing natural light and views to the park and urban environment, with views from outside into the galleries. Most importantly, the display of all art on one level avoids giving more prominence to any specific culture, tradition, or era, offering visitors a multitude of perspectives on art and art history in a more accessible, inclusive way. The building also includes a new theater, education spaces, three restaurant/cafes, a museum shop, and covered multipurpose event spaces. The new facility includes much-needed and improved ancillary and back-of-house facilities that support LACMA’s public programs, including two loading docks and enhanced security, facilities operations, visitor services, transit art handling, and more. The design removes space that doesn’t need to be in Hancock Park, with staff joining existing museum offices across the street at 5900 Wilshire and storage moving offsite.

The County’s environmental review process began in 2016 and included all environmental studies required by the California Environmental Quality Act, including historical resources, archaeological and paleontological resources, geotechnical issues, methane, security risk, traffic, parking, and water and wastewater infrastructure, among others. After meetings with neighborhood stakeholders and opportunities for public participation, a comprehensive Draft Environmental Impact Report was released on October 26, 2017. The County addressed public comments about the project during the 50-day public review period. The FEIR, which was released on March 22, 2019, found no permanent environmental impacts will be created by the new building. LACMA will work to mitigate and minimize temporary construction impacts in accordance with the FEIR.

The design of the new building has been refined in response to public comments received during the environmental impact review process and in close collaboration with neighboring institutions, residents, and community groups. The curvilinear geometry of the exhibition level was refined, and the ground-level pavilions have been reconfigured with more glass to create a greater sense of openness and connection with the surrounding park, sidewalks, and street. The 3.5 acres of new public outdoor space will include landscaped outdoor plazas, public programming and education spaces, sculpture gardens, and native and drought-tolerant vegetation integrated with the new building and the surrounding park, which will greatly enhance visitor experience and engagement. The concept for more open space was crafted in collaboration with the Natural History Museum to provide more access for their research and for visitors in Hancock Park.

Elaine Wynn and Tony Ressler, co-chairs of LACMA’s board of trustees, said, “The board of trustees is thrilled that the County of Los Angeles has approved the building project to go forward and approved funding for their generous contribution. The County’s contribution is the backbone of this entire project, helping propel this plan forward. This building marks the culmination of a decade of transformation at LACMA, and we can’t wait to see how Peter Zumthor’s building will redefine the experience of art.”

“The County museum hosts over a million visitors each year, and this design— transparent, open, and unilevel—will enhance their enjoyment and experience of our culturally diverse art and create a welcoming space for all ages and backgrounds,” County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. “The design and ambitions reflect the L.A. County of today and L.A. County’s cultural leadership in the 21st century.”

The total amount committed to date to the new building project is approximately $560 million, which includes a lead gift from philanthropist and entertainment executive David Geffen, Los Angeles County’s contribution, a gift from LACMA Board Co-Chair Elaine Wynn, as well as a significant pledge from the late A. Jerrold Perenchio. An unprecedented public-private partnership that will result in a more than 4:1 match for the County’s $125 million contribution, these commitments demonstrate an immense confidence and civic pride in LACMA’s vision of what an encyclopedic museum can and should be to best serve the public in the 21st century.

Included in the total are pledges and gifts by LACMA’s board of trustees, which recently met its goal of collectively raising $250 million toward the campaign. Leaders of the board campaign include Elaine Wynn; Susan and Eric Smidt; Jami Gertz and Tony Ressler; Bobby Kotick; Steve Tisch; Laura and Casey Wasserman; Suzanne and Maggie Blount Kayne; Willow Bay and Robert Iger; and Debbie and Mark Attanasio. This outpouring of generosity far surpasses any precedent for campaign fundraising at a cultural institution in Los Angeles, with additional major contributions from Joshua S. and Beth C. Friedman; Allison and Larry Berg; Alexandra and Steven Cohen; Geoff Palmer; Margie Perenchio; Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker; Jane and Terry Semel; Sheryl and Jonathan Sokoloff; Florence and Harry Sloan; Ryan Seacrest; David Bohnett; Carole Bayer Sager and Bob Daly; Drs. Rebecka and Arie Belldegrun; Viveca Paulin-Ferrell and Will Ferrell; Ann Colgin and Joe Wender; Wallis Annenberg; Ambassador Nicole Avant and Ted Sarandos; Ambassador Colleen Bell and Bradley Bell; Suzanne Deal Booth; Rebecca and Troy Carter; Eva Chow; Helgard Field-Lion; Andy and Carlo BrandonGordon; Victoria Jackson and William Guthy; Mary and Daniel James; Jay Levitt and Carisa Janes; Jamie McCourt; Carter Reum; Ann Ziff; and numerous others.

“I am honored by the outpouring of support for our project, and want to acknowledge the many speakers and attendees at the meeting today,” said LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan. “We are tremendously grateful to the County for its consistent support of our project, as well as to the generous leaders of the campaign, who have made significant pledges to make this building a reality. And thanks to the thoughtful comments by members of the community, the design of the building has become simpler, more beautiful, more transparent, with enhanced access to the park.”

“LACMA is a cornerstone of the arts and culture in Los Angeles, and the County is proud to be part of the effort to ensure its vitality as an important civic institution for many more decades,” County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “The new building is a true embodiment of public-private partnership, made possible through both the County’s commitment and the profound generosity from our community.”

The City of Los Angeles, which participated in the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report as a responsible agency, will review portions of the project within its jurisdiction, such as the vacation of air rights for the portion of the building spanning Wilshire Boulevard.

The project is scheduled to begin abatement in late 2019 and construction in early 2020. Construction is expected to conclude at the end of 2023 when the new Metro Purple Line subway station (Wilshire/Fairfax) will open across from LACMA on the southeast corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue.

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