AIA Gold Medal winner Renzo Piano’s newest museum opened last month in Los Angeles. The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) is a 72,000-square-foot, three-story addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) campus. Piano’s dual-volumed addition is meant to stitch together what had become a “mess” of an art campus, as Piano and museum founder Eli Broad have been wont to admit.
The new BCAM addition consists of two symmetrical travertine blocks connected by a glass core containing a 30-person elevator Piano calls a “moving room.” Drivers speeding along Wilshire Boulevard will likely first notice the saw-toothed sunshade and skylight roof of the building. In a hint at the exposed exterior circulation that Piano became famous for at the Pompidou Center, a bright red escalator system called “the Spider” brings visitors up to the third floor main entrance. “It’s part of the almost anthropological idea of rising up slowly. . .like levitation,” Piano said in an interview with the LACMA’s benefactor journal. “So in this building you start from the top and come down.” Once patrons are inside, they have 6 column-less, 8,500-square-foot galleries (one of each floor in both volumes) to house the museum’s collection, which includes pieces by Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman, and massive Richard Serra sculptures. A new open-air pavilion and campus plaza surrounds the BCAM.
With its exuberant red steel twists, repeated vertical striations, and sleekly simple forms, the BCAM has a uniquely pop sensibility for such a storied house of contemporary art. “I’ll never forget, one day I was on the telephone with Eli to explain that we cannot use marble because marble is monumental, marble is passive, marble is for eternity, marble is this and that,” Piano said in the benefactors’ journal. “I wanted to suggest something more ephemeral in feeling, more vibrant. The reason was always the same, fighting monumentality. ‘Monumentality’ was for me a bad word.”