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Update: Renzo Piano's LACMA

When Eli Broad first invited starchitect Renzo Piano to enter the competition to make sense of LACMA’s chaotic cluster of buildings in 2001, Piano declined, adding that “it’s very frustrating to play a good piece by a string quartet in the middle of three badly played rock concerts.” Ouch, take that, weird clump of old LACMA buildings. Soon after, Rem Koolhaas’ design was chosen, a ballsy plan that involved demolishing most of LACMA’s existing structures and building new galleries. Luckily, Broad and Co. came to their senses, threw out Koolhaas’ ridiculous idea and begged Piano to reconsider.

He did, and now, nine years later, LA is home to Piano’s reconstituted LACMA, the Resnick Pavilion. Certain elements hearken back to Piano’s notable work on the Centre Pompidou (completed in 1977 with architect Richard Rogers), namely the bright red mechanical casings and exposed outer stairways, calling attention to those practical elements of any building most architects usually try to hide.

One of Piano’s greatest achievements in the Resnick is a large gallery, completely open except for two rows of unobtrusive columns (see photo below). The room fulfills Piano’s promise of “calm, serenity and even a voluptuous quality linked to the contemplation of the work of art.” With that in mind, it’s odd that the 45,000-square foot gallery will be divided into three separate spaces for the museum’s October 2nd opening.

Now that Piano’s has had his say and Broad is busy with his main squeeze, BCAM (Broad Contemporary Art Museum), Robert Irwin and Pritzker-winner Peter Zumthor are pitching in with museum director Michael Goran to reconceptualize some of the older buildings as well as the outdoor space, aka the future home for installations by Jeff Koons and James Turrell. Even though the museum is receiving input from several architects and designers, the main plain is all Piano, rescuing LACMA from “four decades of mediocre architecture, confused leadership, and anemic philanthropy.”

Walter de Maria’s installation “The 2000 Sculpture” previously occupied the large gallery space.