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Los Angeles County Museum of Art galleries by Peter Zumthor
Image courtesy Peter Zumthor & Partner and The Boundary

Brad Pitt hails Peter Zumthor as "master of light and shadow" as LACMA gets approved

Peter Zumthor's latest plans for Los Angeles County Museum of Art have been approved at a planning meeting, with movie star Brad Pitt speaking up for the Swiss architect.

Pitt praised the Pritzker Prize-winning architect at a planning consultation for Zumthor's LACMA project organised by the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

"There's no way to understand his work from a computer-generated image," said Pitt in defense of the project. "You really have to stand in them to see his mastery of light and shadow."

Brad Pitt championed Peter Zumthor at the LACMA's hearing with the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors
Brad Pitt championed Peter Zumthor's design at the LACMA's hearing. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Pitt championed Zumthor as a guest speaker at the meeting, which was held to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the architect's scheme.

LA's board of supervisors also confirmed it will contribute $117.5 million (£89.56 million) towards the cost of the project, which is estimated to cost $560million (£428.7 million) in total.

Celebrity Diane Keaton and museum trustees also defended Zumthor's design at the hearing. The meeting was broadcast live, and logged in a Twitter thread by Curbed's Alissa Walker.

LACMA approved despite criticisms

The environmental approval and financial boost mark a major step forward for the LACMA development, and comes in spite of severe opposition to Zumthor's proposal.

First unveiled in 2013, the David Geffen Galleries proposal was intended to allow LACMA to accommodate its growing collection. However the latest iteration, revealed by LACMA last month, is 10,000 square feet (929 square metres) smaller than the existing space.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Peter Zumthor
Pitt praised Zumthor for his masterful design of the LACMA galleries

"LACMA has become the Incredible Shrinking Museum," said Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight. He critiqued the scheme in a piece that called for the board to not approve the environmental report.

"I couldn't name another art museum anywhere that has ever raised hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on reducing its collection space," said Knight.

As revealed in Knight's article the size of the LACMA proposal has varied since it was first revealed.

The original 2013 scheme comprised an undulating black form that matched the size of the current buildings. However a smaller, revised version that would bridge a road, was revealed one year later after concerns were raised that the building would damage the nearby La Brea Tar Pits.

The latest iteration is even smaller. Renderings released by LACMA show a curved structure elevated above ground atop a series of of semi-transparent pavilions.

LACMA will be Zumthor's first US project

This curvilinear upper level will have approximately 110,000 square feet (10,000 square metres) of galleries in a continuous space, not including the lower level.

An earlier design had a total of 37,000 square metres of exhibition spaces.

With the go-ahead now received, construction is slated to commence on Zumthor's LACMA galleries next year. Once complete, it will be his first building in the US.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Peter Zumthor
LACMA revealed updated details of the curvilinear proposal ahead of the hearing this week

Zumthor, 75, has designed numerous buildings in Europe including the Therme Vals spa in Switzerland, the Zinc Mine Museum in Norway and the Brother Klaus Field Chapel in Germany.

He has received a number of high-profile awards, including the Praemium Imperiale in 2008, the Pritzker Prize in 2009 and the RIBA Gold Medal in 2013.

Pitt's support forms ongoing fascination with architecture

Pitt's support of Zumthor's aesthetic is part of the actor's ongoing interest in architecture and design.

Pitt established housing charity Make it Right in 2006 to house people who lost their homes when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art Peter Zumthor
Galleries are located on the upper level in a continuous glazed volume

Many well-known architects – including Frank GehryDavid Adjaye and Shigeru Ban– developed housing designs for the charity.

The charity is now facing a lawsuit as residents reported water leaks, black mould, foundation issues and ill health.

Images are courtesy Peter Zumthor & Partner, unless stated otherwise.