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L.A. Welcomes One of the World's Largest Naturally-Lit Spaces

The "Baby Piano" at the L.A. museum, by starchitect Renzo Piano, is about to open.

L.A. Welcomes One of the World's Largest Naturally-Lit Spaces

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has another new building on its campus, and the second building to be designed by starchitect Renzo Piano and his Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The Linda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion is the second of three phases for the 20-acre museum's revitalization, dramatically named Transformation. The buildings in each phase, plus the master plan, are all designed by Piano.

This pavilion, affectionately called the "Baby Piano," is Piano's second building for LACMA — in 2008 he completed the museum's Broad Contemporary Art Museum building on the other side of the campus. In many ways the buildings are like siblings, with the same white travertine facades, bright red duct-work and his glass ceiling with signature louvers jutting up into the sky like sailboat masts.

Far from being just architectural whimsy, those jagged windows and slats allow even, natural light to flood into every corner of the building. Which is good for energy consumption, and great for viewing art.

[Pictured on the floor is Walter DeMaria's The 2000 Sculpture]

Unlike the five-story BCAM, the Resnick Pavilion is a large single-story, flexible space. In fact, says the museum, the 45,000 square foot structure is the "largest purpose-built, naturally-lit, open-plan museum space in the world." The building is named for local philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick who gave the museum $45 million for the building as well as $10 million worth of art.

The Resnick Pavilion and LACMA campus is somewhat of a return to form for Piano. The architect has designed plenty of museums and other institutional buildings, but before he reached starchitect status, he was best known for the Menil Collection, which was built in the '80s in Houston. It was architectural landmark ahead of its time due to a series of high-tech adjustable louvers that could control the amount of natural light allowed into the building — critical for safely illuminating works of art. (Most modern galleries, even now, feature huge windows that let in hot, slanting rays of light which curators loathe almost as much as vampires do.)

You'll also see structural similarities with other Piano works, like the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which Piano collaborated on with Richard Rodgers, with its exterior staircases and bright red accents. Inside the galleries, the LACMA buildings also have a lot in common with the interiors of the New York Times Building in New York, emblazoned with the same shade of Renzo Red.

The pavilion was briefly open this summer for a test installation and officially opens to the public October 2.

[Images: Alex Vertikoff/via Museum Associates/LACMA]