Zumthor in La-La Land

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Reclusive Swiss architect Peter Zumthor has been lured out of his Alpine hideaway for the bright lights of the big city, and Los Angeles may never be the same again --- if the projects he has secured in the city ever get built.

First came word from the Architect's Newspaper that Zumthor would redo part of the sprawling Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus. Then we heard that Spiderman star Tobey Maguire (pictured) had snagged the Pritzker Prize winner to build a house in the city, according to blogger Edward Lifson.

Nothing like starchitect power to create buzz in the design world and make donors and clients reach for their wallets, although so far nobody knows exactly what Zumthor is plotting. That could make raising money tough for LACMA, considering how a $300 million Rem Koolhaas overhaul of the museum fell through a few years back.

Zumthor hasn't built much, and never in the U.S. What he has created is renowned for its strikingly beautiful austerity, and refined materials and craftsmanship. Check out the museum he conjured out of a bombed out church in Cologne, his isolated chapel, also in Germany, and his Thermal Baths in Vals, Switzerland.

His plans for Casa Maguire in Brentwood aren't known either. But planning officials -- not too mention locals -- might balk at any design that strays too far from ranch-style homes and faux Mediterrean mansions.

Cost might also be an issue. No doubt Maguire isn't hurting for cash, but the notoriously picky Zumthor has a reputation for not worrying too much about stretching client budgets. And I don't think he'll be using Chinese drywall.

We know that Maguire did some homework before hiring the Swiss, interviewing L.A. architect David Herz, and perhaps others. Nothing wrong with asking a renowed architect to parachute in -- especially if a city goes for risky and bold. Los Angeles has embraced experimental architecture before, so how about it, L.A.?
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