MAD Architects’ and Stantec’s swooping Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was supposed to have been a 2022 triumph; after shifting from Chicago to Los Angeles in 2016 over on-the-ground pushback, the museum was on track to hit its major construction milestones later this year. Now, as first reported by the New York Times, the opening has been postponed a year to 2023.
The curvilinear museum broke ground in L.A.’s 160-acre Exposition Park in 2018 and the rising spaceship (or insole)-like form of the building instantly added a unique icon to the area. As Shane Reiner-Roth pointed out, the 185-foot-wide archway at the building’s center helps open and lighten the massing of the 115-foot-tall Lucas Museum to avoid overshadowing the park it sits in. An undulating, and at points, occupiable, rooftop landscape will connect with and provide views of the greenery below, while the glass fiber–reinforced plastic (GFRP) panels used for the building’s facade were light and pliable enough to realize the unique form while still allowing for use of a base isolation system to help resist seismic events.
According to the L.A. Times, despite the ongoing pandemic and related closure of all museums in L.A. County, construction of the Lucas Museum was still making good progress. The building topped out on March 12 and the museum has been on a hiring and acquisition spree in the lead-up to its opening; on March 31, the institution announced it had acquired Judith F. Baca’s The History of California archive. The archive contains over 350 pieces of site plans, drawings, correspondences, and other materials related to the creation of the half-mile-long mural, which documents L.A.’s history from prehistoric times through the 1950s in Social Realist style.
“We are thrilled to house The History of California Archive,” said Lucas Museum director and CEO Sandra Jackson-Dumont on March 31, noting that Baca was the first female muralist in the museum’s collection. “This monumental work by an iconic artist contributes to shaping a more inclusive view of life in the United States and California. This incredible repository uniquely positions the Lucas Museum to illustrate the significance of public murals to storytelling.”
Despite the momentum, however, significant COVID-related construction slowdowns owing to health and safety procedures have delayed the museum’s opening to 2023. The interior still needs its 80,000 square feet of exhibition spaces built out and the accompanying artwork installed, so though “major components” of construction are on track to wrap up in 2022, the opening will come the year after. The 11-acre landscape from the L.A. office of Studio-MLA also needs to be laid down.
Once complete, patrons will be treated to a history of narrative storytelling drawn from George Lucas’s sprawling collection of 100,000-plus paintings, photographs, murals, sculptures, multimedia works, and pretty much every other artform.