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Slowly but Surely LACMA Geffen Galleries Taking Shape Amidst Controversy


Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography

Initiated in 2020, the LACMA project above Wilshire Blvd. is coming to fruition. The project initially sparked debate due to the decision by museum leadership to replace William Pereira's original buildings. In their stead, a new two-story museum, event and entertainment space is emerging, spanning across Wilshire Boulevard. The structure will house gallery space, a theater, classrooms, restaurant facilities, a shop, event areas, and other operational functions.


Designed by Peter Zumthor, the building boasts an organic footprint, featuring a predominantly concrete exterior with glass enveloping the upper gallery. LACMA plans to utilize this space to exhibit sculptures, tiles, and ceramics, ensuring they are displayed safely in natural light.


The David Geffen Galleries, encompassing 350,000 square feet overall and 110,000 square feet of gallery space, will be a little smaller than their predecessors, which occupied approximately 393,000 square feet in total, including 120,000 square feet of galleries. LACMA argues that the disparity is offset by relocating art storage and office space off-site.


The museum also boasts an increased overall footprint from 130,000 square feet in 2007 to a projected 220,000 square feet upon project completion.


Cost overruns have long plagued the project. Following the abandonment of a 2013 plan due to concerns about the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits, the current project was unveiled in 2016. Despite subsequent value engineering efforts, including alterations to exterior finishes and reductions in gallery space, costs continued to escalate. Also, architect Peter Zumthor, expressed discontent with cost-driven alterations to the galleries in an October 2023 interview with the New York Times stating, “there are no Zumthor details any more."


While completion of the David Geffen Galleries is slated for late 2024, full opening may not occur until 2026 as LACMA prepares the new wing for visitors.


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