LACMA continues demolition of original buildings amid quarantine

Full Steam Ahead

LACMA continues demolition of original buildings amid quarantine

Construction workers pace the front of the Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates-designed addition to LACMA along Wilshire in late March. (Edwin Nourian)

While construction sites around the world have been paused in their tracks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has decided to move ahead with its plans to demolish its structures on the site to prepare for the addition designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, now estimated to cost a total of $750 million. “Los Angeles is counting on us, more than ever, to keep our construction going,” Michael Govan, the director of LACMA, wrote in an email to the Los Angeles Times. “Thousands of workers will be part of the project over the coming few years. LACMA will be an engine of job creation and economic recovery.”

Construction barriers have been erected along the site over the last several months, while the four buildings in question—three designed by William Pereira as part of the original campus from 1965, and one designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates in 1986 to would represent the facade of the museum along Wilshire—have slowly been emptied of their contents and internal walls. Hoping to not lose momentum, the team hopes to finish the process and begin demolition this month to meet its completion deadline in 2024.

LACMA representative Jessica Youn has expressed that the construction team on site is following the necessary protective measures in keeping with an official statement from the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) released on March 31 that reads: “Construction industry employers shall develop a comprehensive COVID-19 exposure control plan, which includes control measures such as social distancing; symptom checking; hygiene; decontamination procedures, and training. An exposure control plan and the following practices must be followed to prevent any onsite worker from contracting COVID-19, as many people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic and can potentially spread disease.” Temporary hand-washing stations have recently been installed throughout the site for the benefit of its construction workers.

Meanwhile, Twitter has been alight with opposition to the plan to proceed as scheduled. Residents have generally expressed discomfort with the thought of living near an active construction site, while the local nonprofit SAVE LACMA has regarded the decision as a misuse of funds in uncertain times.

On the same block, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which announced December 14 as an official opening date only two months ago, has paused all construction until further notice.