Museum a Work of (Solar-Powered) Art

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The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), the largest art museum in the West, has big plans for the east part of its sprawling campus. Pritzker Prize-winning architect Peter Zumthor envisions demolishing the current building and replacing it with one topped with rooftop solar panels, which would provide the museum with all its electricity.

Zumthor's plans for the new building are on view in an exhibit at the museum, "The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA." The show encompasses a history of the museum's location in Hancock Park, a sampling of Zumthor's past projects, and models of his proposals for the new building, which would house the museum's permanent collection.

Zumthor's design would replace the original 1965 building designed by William Periera, which was expanded in 1986 by Hardy Holzmann Pfeiffer Associates . (LACMA has seven buildings on 20 acres; the museum is in the midst of a 10-year renovation campaign, which also includes the transformation of the western buildings by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.) Zumthor proposes a curvy two-story building with a flat black roof to accommodate the solar panels. The power generated by the solar rooftop array would not only power the museum, but would provide excess energy that could be returned to the grid, according to museum plans. Initial reports for the cost of the new building were pegged at $650 million. Putting the plans on display allows the public to offer their feedback, according to museum officials.

Michael Govan, the museum's CEO, told the Los Angeles Times that he believes that LACMA can get the necessary support for the redesign in part because of its solar element. "If you need to raise hundreds of millions of dollars…toward what would people be willing to contribute?" Govan said in the Times. "And that's part of the question: Can we present an idea that's exciting enough, energy efficient, art efficient, educational, fantastic atmosphere, gives back the park? Is that what will draw support? And I think it will."

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