The new BCAM, the centerpiece of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), is designed specifically for the display of contemporary art.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Facts about BCAM
Last updated: February 19, 2013
Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
New York, New York, USA