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LACMA announces Zumthor building 50% complete; fundraising stands at $700 million

An aerial view of construction at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
An aerial view of construction, looking north across Wilshire Boulevard, at LACMA this month.
(Gary Leonard / © Museum Associates / LACMA)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art says it’s reached the halfway point in construction on its new, Peter Zumthor-designed building, the David Geffen Galleries. The museum is aiming to complete construction by late 2024.

The museum also announced Thursday that its $750-million fundraising campaign has reached the $700-million mark. The public-private partnership includes $125 million in Los Angeles County taxpayer funds. Eighty percent of the funds, the museum said in the announcement, will be paid for by private donations.

The announcement did not specify how much of the private donations raised so far were paid and in-hand versus pledges.

Museum Director Michael Govan said in the announcement that progress has been made possible “only because so many people have come together to build the future of the museum, Los Angeles and the greater region.”

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The museum’s coffers are just $24 million beefier than a year ago for its $750-million new building project.

The fundraising campaign stood at $679 million in November 2021 — $24 million more than it stood a year prior.

Construction of the controversial new building slowed last year with the discovery of on-site fossil finds. Another issue the project encountered: soil and tar conditions. The museum sits next door to the La Brea Tar Pits & Museum, and the soil conditions have resulted in the ground settling beneath the construction; the project’s big cranes temporarily came down in late January 2021 so that the crane foundations could be adjusted. The museum said that didn’t create delays in the project.

Other challenges may include rising construction costs, supply chain issues and inflation. The $1-billion Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which is rising in Exposition Park, last month pushed back its opening date to 2025 from 2023 because of pandemic complications. Supply chain issues have made procuring certain construction materials, such as geofoam — a lightweight filling material — and parts such as light fixtures and custom elevator components difficult to procure. COVID-19 safety protocols have also slowed progress.

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has pushed its 2023 opening by two years due to pandemic-related construction challenges, though construction is moving forward during “the most uncertain moments in our time.”

Still, Govan seemed unfazed last year. “I feel pretty great — it’s been historic what we’ve achieved…” he told The Times.

Govan is particularly happy, he said in the announcement, “that the quality of the vertical concrete walls poured thus far have met or exceeded the expectations of architect Peter Zumthor. And with construction now moving past the halfway mark, we can start to see the great contribution Zumthor has made with his design for the David Geffen Galleries.”

Construction progress includes “the installation of 1,500 deep foundation piles and seismic base isolators, construction of foundations and basements and above-grade walls and decks.”

According to a Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. report the museum commissioned in 2020, the building project will create 9,370 jobs, directly and indirectly.


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