Broad Contemporary Art Museum
by Leigh Christy
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has traditionally been known for two things: its status as the largest encyclopedic art museum in the western United States, and its schizophrenic campus.
Bolstering the former and addressing the latter, LACMA has unveiled a long-awaited free-standing addition to its collection: the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM), designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in conjunction with executive architect Gensler.
The 72,000-square-foot (6,700-square-meter) BCAM represents Phase One and $56 million of a multiphased expansion and renovation project, clearly setting the tone for upcoming changes.
In the 60,000 square feet (5,600 square meters) of contemporary gallery space, Renzo Piano is one step closer to realizing the perfect gallery. Attempts at unifying an array of 20th-century buildings placed haphazardly on an urban campus do not fair quite as well, however — at least not yet.
Piano and LACMA agree that the art should come first in an art museum, and this surprisingly revelatory notion shows. Whether entering the site by car via underground parking garage or on foot via Wilshire Boulevard (rare, but possible), visitors are greeted by Chris Burden's Urban Light installation, framed by the open-air BP Grand Entrance pavilion.
Conceived as a glass-enclosed homage to the Case Study Houses, this pavilion was to be a gift shop and cafe. Upon taking the helm as LACMA CEO in 2006, Michael Govan thankfully reprogrammed the space, insisting on its use for public events, welcome center, and rotating gallery.
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