The building project entails the construction of one modern and efficient building to replace four aging buildings, as well as the construction of a parking structure on Ogden Drive to replace the surface parking spaces on the previous Spaulding Avenue parking lot.
To retrofit the existing buildings would have been extremely costly while still failing to provide the ideal setting for the collections and visitors. Almost 20 years ago, and again in 2014, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and LACMA’s Board of Trustees considered repairing the structures, and in both cases they found the retrofitting cost prohibitive. In 2014, the minimum estimated cost to retrofit just the visible deterioration was $246 million. New construction allows the museum to create both a safer building and new galleries designed to be more accessible, more functional, and more enjoyable.
The horizontal design offers a non-hierarchical experience of LACMA’s diverse collections. Displaying all art on a single level avoids giving more prominence to any specific culture, tradition, or era, offering visitors a multitude of perspectives on art and art history in a more accessible, inclusive way. The single-level gallery floor will also be more intuitive to navigate and easier to access, especially for wheelchairs and strollers, and its perimeter of transparent glass will provide energizing natural light and views to the park and urban environment, with views from outside into the galleries.
The new building spans Wilshire in order to provide 3.5 acres of new park and outdoor space for visitors in Hancock Park and space for the Natural History Museum’s ongoing and future research. This public outdoor space will be home to even more public sculptures and is an invaluable resource in our dense urban community.
The new building totals 347,500 square feet, replacing approximately 393,000 square feet of existing buildings (major functions such as art storage and offices were moved off campus). There will be approximately 110,000 square feet of gallery space, replacing approximately 120,000 square feet of gallery space. The building also includes a new theater, education spaces, three restaurant/cafes, a museum shop, and covered multipurpose event spaces. Much-improved ancillary and back-of-house facilities will support LACMA’s public programs, including two loading docks and enhanced security, facilities operations, visitor services, transit art handling, and more.
The reduction in total size from that of the existing buildings is made possible by moving functions not needed within the building itself: the museum has moved offices across the street, expanding our existing office space at 5900 Wilshire, and moved art storage out of Hancock Park.
By the time the new building opens, we will have expanded our total gallery space on campus from approximately 130,000 in 2007 to 220,000 square feet.
LACMA’s Board of Trustees and the County Board of Supervisors believe that after doubling our exhibition space over the last decade, this is the appropriate size for our campus on Wilshire.
Of the $750 million campaign goal, the total building budget is $650 million, which includes construction costs, soft costs, and contingencies. Of the $650 million, the construction costs (“hard costs”) are estimated at $490 million. A rigorous cost estimating and cost management process was followed throughout the preconstruction phase to be within budget and a guaranteed maximum price contract was signed with our general contractor, Clark Construction, in mid 2020 and in line with our budget. The construction cost is in line with similar projects and the cost per square foot of LACMA's Renzo Piano–designed gallery buildings, BCAM and Resnick Pavilion (adjusted for inflation).
The building cost is funded through an unprecedented public-private partnership by which the new County-owned building will be 80% paid for by private donations. The County has contributed $125 million and $525 million has come from private donations. The County, which will own the building, will receive a 4:1 match for its contribution.
As of August 2023, LACMA has met and exceeded the campaign goal of $750 million.
The construction cost is approximately $1,400 per square foot, which is toward the low end of the range for new museum construction (the comparable national market range for new museum construction in major metro areas is $1,250 to $1,800 per square feet). Out of the $650 million budget, the total construction cost is approximately $490 million. $490 million divided by 347,500 square feet is equal to $1,400 per square foot.
Yes. Private donations are generally paid over a period of time. Therefore, as part of the plan of finance approved by LACMA’s Board of Trustees and the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, $300 million of debt was issued by the County of Los Angeles in November 2020 to be fully paid for by LACMA from private donations.
No. LACMA will never sell art to fund construction, operating, or other costs.
No. The new building gives us the flexibility to display collection areas for longer periods or to present permanent collections as temporary exhibitions, giving visitors opportunities to see more art from the permanent collection in greater variety. Additionally, LACMA has always displayed works from the permanent collection in special exhibitions in BCAM and the Resnick Pavilion, and will continue to do so. The first floor of BCAM also exhibits some of our most treasured permanent collection works, such as Richard Serra’s Band and Robert Irwin’s Miracle Mile.
Yes. Several changes to the original project design were made as the design process advanced and as a result of the environmental review and discussions with neighbors and community groups. The fence on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard has been moved back from the sidewalk to create more publicly accessible outdoor space and allow the café with outdoor seating to activate the street. Outdoor art will be added to the Spaulding Lot, and all ground-level pavilions have been reconfigured with more glass to create a greater sense of openness and connection with the surrounding park, sidewalks, and street. In addition, the new building will be smaller than originally proposed and the maximum height of the buildings has also been reduced. The color of the concrete will be light natural gray instead of the previous sand concrete.
Thousands of works in our collection (sculpture, tiles, ceramics, and more) can be safely displayed in natural light, and are in fact wonderful to view in that setting. The new building will have a range of exhibition spaces, from galleries with natural light to galleries with controlled artificial lighting. The majority of galleries in the new building are designed to be able to display light-sensitive works. Natural light and views to the park along the perimeter of the building also will reduce fatigue in our visitors.
Concrete was chosen to give the building a sublime aesthetic character and beautiful sense of gravitas. Concrete walls have been utilized successfully in other museums like the Kimbell, the Guggenheim, and Kunsthaus Bregenz. Not one artist whose work was displayed at Bregenz has ever covered that museum's walls with sheetrock. Additionally, many objects and antiquities in our collection originated in buildings or other settings built from stone, so it is particularly fitting to display them in concrete-walled galleries.
LACMA is committed to achieving as high a level of sustainable design, construction, and operating principles as possible. The project will incorporate LEED features achieving Gold certification. Excavated earth and demolished materials will be recycled to the fullest extent possible, and landscaping will require minimum water and conform to the natural flora of the area. Water conservation measures in addition to drought-tolerant planting may include a variety of features such as the installation of dual plumbing in order to use reclaimed water for toilet flushing, self-closing faucets, and storm water retention through cisterns in which water would be filtered, treated, and recycled for use in toilets, urinals, irrigation, and cooling towers. The new building will replace older, much less efficient buildings that did not meet current sustainability standards, and wasted scarce resources.
Urban Light will stay in place and visitors will continue to be able to enjoy the artwork.
Half of LACMA, which at 100,000 square feet is still the largest art museum in the western United States, is open during construction, including the Resnick Pavilion, BCAM, and outdoor public spaces.
Construction hours are Monday–Friday, 7 am–7 pm, and Saturday, 8 am–6 pm.
Our general contractor, Clark Construction, continues working diligently to provide a safe work environment for the crews working on the site. To that end, and in accordance with Cal/OSHA standards, Clark Construction and its subcontractors have taken all necessary protective measures in accordance with government guidelines, which include the following:
During construction, the permanent collection will continue to be on view at LACMA in different exhibitions and also throughout the County of Los Angeles and the world on loan and in traveling shows.
LACMA is pursuing the next phase of its expansion through additional museum spaces across L.A. County, enhancing the accessibility of our collections and bringing art and art education to communities throughout our vast county. We already have ongoing exhibition, education, and public programming at Charles White Elementary School in MacArthur Park, collaborations with the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park, and a museum facility currently being planned in South L.A. LACMA is also planning to participate in the SELA Cultural Center, designed by Frank Gehry, in Southeast L.A.