The 1960s-era campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is being transformed by a new entrance plaza and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, both designed by world renowned architect Renzo Piano. The new building will house billionaire Eli Broad's collection and other art, while the glass-encased entrance plaza is intended to bring a sense of unity to the sprawling grounds. Work is expected to be completed in February. (Left to right: Rendering of Broad Museum; construction of entrance plaza.)


Developer: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Paris
Contractor: Matt Construction, Santa Fe Springs
Engineer: Arup Group, London


Rob Jernigan calls his LACMA work "one of the most challenging projects ever done" from a technical standpoint. He also calls it the fulfillment of a dream, despite the dangers of digging next to the La Brea Tar Pits.


Jernigan, managing director and technical leader in the L.A. office of the architecture firm Gensler, worked as executive architect. That means that Renzo Piano, the Paris-based design architect, provided the overall conceptual direction, while Jernigan's office produced the blueprints and supervised construction.


"Being an executive architect is not our vision or goal, but in this case working with Renzo Piano it was a childhood fantasy come true," said Jernigan.


The collaboration worked because Jernigan shares Piano's approach to architecture namely, to knit together the past and the future in a functional package. Piano landed the job after LACMA decided not to pursue a more costly plan by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, who proposed demolishing all current LACMA structures to build a visually unified campus.


"The concept of tearing everything down and starting from new was so wrong," Jernigan said. "For the architecture, the benefactors, the history everything."


On a deeper level, the demolition/rebuild strategy represents a master plan approach, while Jernigan believes institutions, buildings and cities should evolve organically over time. According to Jernigan, Piano's old-world perspective helped in that regard, since the Italians have a heritage of buildings where the past and present co-exist.


Before joining Gensler in 1998, Jernigan worked at L.A.-based DMJM/Keating and co-founded Keating Mann Jernigan Rottet. He currently sits on the boards of the Los Angeles Business Council and the Los Angeles Headquarters Association.


Although Jernigan calls the LACMA project "as big and powerful a statement as an architect can make," he questions how loud architects should talk. Buildings that overshadow their contents don't make sense for the public or the institutions they house. In the case of LACMA, he believes the finished product will provide a variety of lighting conditions and spatial contexts for the museum's varied collections.


"I very much believe that form should follow function, and that's a real issue for art museums," Jernigan said. "I don't think the building should be more powerful than the art or compete with the art."


- DEVELOPER: MELODY KANSCHAT
President, Chief Operating Officer, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Notable Projects: "I'm home-grown at LACMA. With the exception of a tiny home remodel, all my construction experience has been at LACMA, starting in 1997."
LACMA: "We are using strong and bold colors. Red signifies movement, either across our campus or through the grand entrance. I love that we're being a little fun. It's not a stoic, gray-stone building."
Local Favorite: Los Angeles Central Library. "It's such a program-driven building. The proportions are perfect. It wonderfully bridges L.A. past with L.A. future."
Dream Project: "Top-to-bottom rehab of the LACMA East Building. If it's really a dream, then add a subway stop in the middle of that building."


- ARCHITECT: ROB JERNIGAN
Technical Director, Gensler
Notable Projects: Univision Inc. headquarters, Los Angeles Convention Center Hotel
LACMA: "You're digging in a tar pit, loaded with gases. Dealing with that site and its issues, and Renzo's desire for perfection and volatility in the construction market that was a real challenge."
Local Favorite: Charles Eames House, Pacific Palisades; Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
L.A.: "The residential stuff from truly post-War Los Angeles is as good or better than anywhere in the country. The shortcoming has been civic and commercial architecture. Now we're going to be able to show our stuff and create a larger scale of architecture that is truly Southern California."


- CONTRACTOR: BART SHIVELY
Senior Project Manager, Matt Construction
Notable Projects: USC off-campus video production center
LACMA: "Renzo Piano is known for taking simple material and taking them to their limit. You still have steel and stone and concrete in this building, but the finishes are precise, the tolerances are tight. That's his trademark but the difficult part to execute."
Local Favorite: Disney Concert Hall. "It's a very interesting building with unique architecture."
Dream Project: "Buildings aren't the dream so much as the client and design team you work with. If you have a client that's happy when you've done and a design team that helps make the client happy, that's a good project in my mind."


- SUBCONTRACTOR, STONE: MICHAEL TWISS
President, Columbia Stone
Notable Projects: Portland City Hall, Oregon; Crocker Towers, Los Angeles
LACMA: "The exterior on LACMA is a travertine material, but they call it Coliseum Cut stone. Travertine is very linear with lots of veins. They cut the blocks the other way to make it look like limestone. That material has a dual finish a bush hammer finish and a water jet finish. I'm not aware this texture and finish has been used anywhere else."
Local Favorite: Getty Center, Los Angeles Central Library
Engineering: "The project has 60,000 square feet of stone. We put it on large panels, 20 pieces of stone on a steel frame. We designed the framing system and the anchors between the stone, the framing system and the building."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.