Demolition of LACMA’s first buildings currently underway

Bulldozing Bing

Demolition of LACMA’s first buildings currently underway

Earlier this month, AN reported that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had planned on continuing demolition of its first buildings amid stay-at-home orders to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. A more recent trip to the site proved that the museum wasn’t kidding around.

Work began last Monday to tear down the Leo S. Bing Center, a 600-seat theater designed by William Pereira and Associates as part of the original three-building campus in 1965. Like the Ahmanson and Hammer buildings, the Bing Center was a boxy, marble-clad structure designed in a monumental style with a wraparound colonnade to signify an air of importance at a time when the art world had generally overlooked Los Angeles. The center played host to countless events, lectures, film screenings, and musical performances in its 55 years of operation.

cars and people in front of museum buildings at LACMA
The recently-demolished Bing Center (right) is one-third of the original LACMA campus. (Wikipedia Commons)

LACMA spokeswoman Jessica Youn confirmed in an email that demolition of the remaining three buildings—the Ahmanson Building, the Hammer Building, and the street-facing Art of the Americas building designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in 1986—“will be completed in parallel and the work will take several months.”

To clear up a misunderstanding that has made its way onto Twitter, it should be emphasized that the other elements of the multi-acre campus will be incorporated into the redevelopment, including the Pavilion for Japanese Art and Urban Light, an assemblage of restored street lamps created by Chris Burden that had quickly become a crowd favorite since being installed in 2008. Following the remaining demolition, construction will begin on the $750 million Peter Zumthor-designed addition that is slated to open to the public in 2024.

Construction on several projects around Los Angeles has been permitted by the city, provided that construction workers follow all required safety measures. According to LACMA spokeswoman Jessica Youn, Clark Construction has been operating under the precautions described by the city, county, state, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The expansion of the Los Angeles Metro system further west on Wilshire Boulevard has similarly continued during the COVID-19 pandemic.