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Rendering of the exterior view east from BCAM. Photo: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary.
Rendering of the exterior view east from BCAM. Photo: Atelier Peter Zumthor & Partner/The Boundary.

LACMA Moves Ahead with Demolition Amid Coronavirus Quarantine

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) has come under scrutiny for moving forward with the construction of its controversial new $750 million Peter Zumthor–designed building as other museum projects were stalled, the Los Angeles Times reports. Work on the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has come to a halt, but LACMA is planning to go ahead with its plan to raze four existing structures on its campus in April.

Since construction is considered an essential business in California, LACMA will not face repercussions for attempting to keep the building of its new home on schedule amid the pandemic, and museum director Michael Govan insists that it is essential that the project not be delayed. “If anything, Los Angeles is counting on us, more than ever, to keep our construction going,” Govan told 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.”

One of the points of tension over this decision is the $117.5 million that was given to the museum by the county last April. “Should we be using county funds for this building project during a humanitarian crisis?” Rob Hollman, the board chair of the Save LACMA group, asked. Activists, as well as those opposed to the project, have raised questions about whether country funds should be diverted at this time to acquiring medical supplies and to helping other efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Museum representative Jessica Youn told the publication that all construction workers are wearing personal protective gear and that the museum is taking “all necessary protective measures in accordance with guidelines” implemented by the county, including ensuring that workers remain six feet apart. She also said that portable sinks have been brought in to increase the number of hand-washing stations and that meetings are taking place outside rather than in confined quarters indoors.

The Hammer Museum at UCLA, which recently laid off 150 part-time student employees, is also continuing with a building expansion that will create more than 60 percent more gallery space and is monitoring developments involving the novel coronavirus outbreak in California.