At the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, on the southwestern edge of LACMA’s campus, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is constructing the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The project is led by Renzo Piano – the starchitect of LACMA’s adjacent Broad and Resnick pavilions – and will include a renovation of the landmarked May Company Building.
The May Company Building dates to 1939 and its facade is considered a primary example of that decade’s Streamline Moderne style. Its cylindrical gold tower marked the entrance to LA’s leading department store and the western entrance to the Miracle Mile district. Its long horizontal lines suggested the aerodynamic shapes of airplanes and ocean liners with the same modernity but less ornamentation than Art Deco. The city of Los Angeles designated the facade a historic cultural monument in 1992. Nothing of architectural significance remains inside the building, but the exterior will be preserved for the Academy Museum.
A five-story glass “spine” building with stairs and elevators will connect the May Company building to a large, glass spherical addition to the north that will contain a theater and roof terrace. The glass sphere, already dubbed “the spaceship,” will be adjacent to LACMA’s Resnick Exhibition Pavilion and will occupy the rest of the western border of the campus, facing Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass that is permanently installed on LACMA’s lawn.
The street level of the May Company building will become the museum’s entrance and lobby, with a cafe and a shop, and access to LACMA’s campus to the north and east from a 15,000 square foot public piazza. The street level will also contain galleries and access to the sub-level which will contain permanent exhibition galleries and a demonstration stage.
Moving up from the street level, the mezzanine level will feature a multifunctional space leading to the entrance of a 1,000 seat theater inside the massive glass sphere. The state-of-the-art theater inside the spaceship will be the museum’s most recognizable feature and will host film premieres, Academy screenings, and other special events. The theater will be named for David Geffen, the entertainment executive who has made the largest gift to date – $25 million – to the Academy Museum’s $300 million capital campaign.
The second and fourth floors will include more galleries and two smaller 141-seat theaters, and the third floor will be the museum’s education center. The fifth floor will open to a rooftop terrace with panoramic views to the Hollywood hills, as well as another special events and garden terrace that will accommodate 1,000 guests.
Construction will begin in late 2014 and the museum is expected to open in 2017. Kerry Brougher, whose resume includes the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC and MOCA in Los Angeles, has been selected as director.
- LA-based Zoltan Pali was already working on a renovation of the May Company building when Renzo Piano was selected for the Academy Museum project in 2012. It is reported that Pali left the project in May, 2014.
- The Academy has a collection of more than 10 million photographs, 165,000 films, 80,000 screenplays, 50,000 posters, and 20,000 design drawings.
- LACMA owns the May Company building and adjacent property where the Academy Museum will be constructed. The Academy will pay LACMA $36.1 million for what is effectively a 110-year lease.
courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
and The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures