Motion Picture Academy Unveils Designs for Renzo Piano-Designed Museum

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures © Building Workshop, Studio Pali Fekete architects, AMPAS

It’s surprising to think that Los Angeles - the home of the U.S film industry – doesn’t have a museum solely dedicated to its homegrown artform. However, all that is about to change should the Academy of Motion Pictures have their way.

Last Thursday, plans were unveiled for the long-touted Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a new museum designed by Renzo Piano and native Los Angeleno architect Zoltan Pali, which will be located in the streamline-moderne Wiltshire May Company building at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, on the campus of the County Museum of Art (LACMA). Although the designs are at an early stage, the released drawings propose to convert the historic building into a museum, while marrying it with a 140-foot-diameter glass dome.

Read more about the project after the break…

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures © Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Studio Pali Fekete architects, AMPAS

The propsed six-story, 290,000-square-foot complex promises to be “the worlds premier museum dedicated to exploring and curating the history and future of the moving image”. The Wiltshire May building, a former department store designed by Albert C. Martin Sr. in 1939, will be refurbished to contain a mixture of galleries, temporary exhibition spaces, event venues, and a small 144-seat theatre, which will screen experimental, independent and foreign films. The basement will be converted into a living-storeroom of sorts, allowing visitors access to various items of movie paraphernalia, such as props, scripts and posters, which aren’t currently on display.

But what about that dome? The new globe, dirigible, or soap-bubble, as Piano is wont to describe it, will be attached to the northern side of the building and will house a premiere-sized theatre underneath a glass-covered rooftop venue. Offering vistas stretching from the Hollywood sign to the Pacific Ocean, the terrace is slated to be L.A’s new go-to spot for ritzy receptions and industry events. While back on ground level, a wide public piazza will stretch underneath the dome and through the ground floor of the building, connecting the museum to the LACMA campus and the city.

The Wilshire May Company Building, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While is still at the schematic stage, the academy are clearly hoping that the Piano-Pali design will bring closure to the long running campaign to create a film-museum in Los Angeles. The new plan replaces a failed proposal for a museum in central Hollywood, designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc. When those plans, which were never made public, didn’t materialize, the Academy struck a deal with LACMA to take out a 110-year lease on the iconic building, which the museum had acquired in 1994, but rarely used.

While sticking a giant glass globe on the side of a protected building might be considered a strange move, Pali disagrees. “This glass dome is our architectural manifestation of another world, because cinema is about taking you to another world”, he said, “Streamline Moderne architecture involves stripping down the ornament of Art Deco—it starts expressing strength and transportation, and has the sensibility of large ocean liners…What we’re doing with the theater and large glass dome is about the same thing—it’s about the sense of flotation and going somewhere.”

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures © Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Studio Pali Fekete architects, AMPAS

Both Piano and Pali should feel right at home on the site, as Piano was previously hired by LACMA to redesign their campus masterplan after a pricey Koolhaas proposal fell through due to lack of funding. Piano’s contributions to the site include two galleries, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the Resnick Pavilion. And prior to the Academy showing up, Pali had been already working with LACMA on restoring the May building for the museum’s own uses.

Piano admits to being drawn to the idea of creating a movie museum in the birthplace of film-making. “The design for the museum will finally enable this wonderful building to be animated and contribute to the city after sitting underutilized for so long”, he said ,”Our design will preserve the Wilshire May Company building’s historic public profile while simultaneously signaling that the building is taking on a new life.”

The academy launched a campaign to raise funds for the building in December 2011. The campaign, chaired by Disney CEO Bob Iger and co-chaired by actors Annette Bening and Tom Hanks, has so far managed to raise about half of the $300 million funding needed for the project. If everything goes smoothly, the new complex should be rolling out the red carpet and opening it’s doors in 2017.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures © Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Studio Pali Fekete architects, AMPAS

More information about the building, as well as an enthusiastic description of the planned exhibits are available on the Academy’s website

via The LA Times 

Cite: Rackard, Nicky. "Motion Picture Academy Unveils Designs for Renzo Piano-Designed Museum" 16 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=360297>

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