Aiming for a home run like Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, LACMA instead is getting a Xerox. Zumthor essentially photocopied Oscar Niemeyer’s designs for a breezeway stretching over Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paolo, and even lifted the master’s concept of meandering Brazilian shapes for his “meander” corridor.


First LACMA's architect Peter Zumthor said his amoeba-shaped design was inspired by the inky tar pit adjacent to the Museum in Hancock Park, until he learned the tar pit was actually the remains of a late-nineteenth-century asphalt quarry. He then switched inspirations, climbing up the art food chain, citing instead the biomorphic forms of German-French sculptor Jean Arp.  But the real “inspiration” is Ibirapuera Park, where Oscar Niemeyer’s brief was to protect park space and give shelter to pedestrians in the tropical sun, not to build museum space. Zumthor blithely follows the Niemeyer model, forgetting that he's supposed to be designing a museum, not a breezeway to nowhere that creates redundant outdoor open space. More than 65 years after the fact, in a blast from the 1950s, he is warming over Niemeyer’s scheme. LACMA doesn’t exhibit forgeries. Why should it build one? 

Niemeyer, 1950's
Aerial photograph of Ibirapuera Park in Sao Paolo. Design of pedestrian shade-pavilion/path by Oscar Niemeyer.
Zumthor, 2019
Aerial view/collage for the proposed LACMA, Los Angeles, CA, by Peter Zumthor.
Niemeyer, 1950's
Photograph of pedestrian shade-pavilion/path in Ibirapuera Park. Designed in the 1950's - photograph is contemporary.
Zumthor, 2018/19
Rendering of the planned LACMA design by Peter Zumthor.