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Brad Pitt and Diane Keaton show up at L.A. County meeting to support museum renovation

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $117.5 million to renovate the Los Angeles County Museum of Art after a hearing that included appearances by celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Diane Keaton and some patrons of the museum. The renovation calls for demolishing existing buildings on the museum's sprawling Wilshire Boulevard campus west of downtown Los Angeles and replacing them with a futuristic-looking structure designed by architect Peter Zumthor that would span the wide boulevard.

The structure will be built across and above Wilshire Boulevard using the bond financing matched by $525 million in private money raised by the museum, CBS Los Angeles reports. The project will cost $650 million, which includes parking and other infrastructure costs that may not be included in that square footage calculation.

Pitt praised Zumthor, calling him "one of the great architects of our time ... (who) builds from the soul, for the soul."

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

Keaton used the prestigious Oscars to illustrate Zumthor's renown in the architectural community.

"This architect, Mr. Zumthor, has been honored with 16 awards," said Keaton. "So if you were an actor, that means you would have won 14 Academy Awards, which is never going to happen. So I think we're sitting pretty."

Critics say the project is too costly, will reduce gallery space by 10 percent and have accused LACMA Director Michael Govan of working to silence opposition to the project, arguing that the museum shouldn't be saddled with millions of dollars in bond debt.

Residents like Oscar Pena criticized the process as "autocratic and openly hostile to the public."

Despite a unanimous board vote, Sheila Kuehl of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors noted that she supported the design and had no reservations about offering her support, implying that some of her colleagues were not as enthusiastic.

After the redesign, LACMA will boast a total 220,000 square feet of exhibit space.

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