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LACMA Projects Continue Despite COVID and Campus Demolition

JAMA engineers and production team members have been busy with a myriad of art/exhibition designs at LACMA. This work, which started about a year ago, comes despite demolition of approximately 50% of the campus to make way for the future expansion designed by Swiss Architect Peter Zumpthor. JAMA’s efforts are conducted in collaboration with LACMA’s Exhibition Design and Production team. Typically the work has involved engineering and permitting for loads expected to safely stand for months on often freestanding partitions as high as 18 feet. Working on the display of priceless art poses very different design and logistic challenges from typical construction projects. Material sizing and procurement is an issue – no heavy steel pieces or welding – as well as considerations for existing building impacts and reuse and dismantling provisions.

While some spectacular work is mentioned below, a truly challenging and unique project is currently underway and expected to open this year. Referred to as the Modern Galleries, this large-scale exhibition is a design collaboration with architects from Gehry Partners, intended to be a long-term exhibition with construction by an outside contractor. Despite the atypical team, LACMA goals are still forefront, but increased as a result of Gehry’s desire for exceptionally tight tolerances. One of the central features, for the gallery and within our work, is a 55’ long, thin-boxed beam that creates a cantilever knife edge. Normally, this type of member would be created using trusses or deep steel beams, but museum restrictions required engineering a brand new beam section from ordinary steel studs with detailed consideration on every screw, overlap, splice, and flange. Conversations with the contractor led us to use light weight gypboard panels so that we could minimize the metal stud thickness and weights.

Outliers & American Vanguard Art Exhibition – 18’ high art display walls for more than 250 pieces. Special considerations were given to minimizing impact on the saw-tooth roof skylights above.

Flora Exhibition – a free-floating projection screen with built in speakers. Special consideration was given to post-tensioning the screen to the floor in the case of movement or someone leaning on it. The team custom-designed the screen framing in collaboration with the curators.

Slowly Turning Narrative Video Installation – a 12’x12’ rotating screen and mirror for a video piece by Bill Viola. The design reused and re-engineered a beam from Flora but accounted for the torque generated by the motor. Yoshitomo Nara Exhibition and Miss Forest Sculpture – exhibition displays of his widely recognizable portraits of menacing figures and engineering for the base of a 26’ bronze sculpture outdoors