Academy Museum reveals architectural, cultural vision

| November 2, 2017 | 0 Comments

LAURA DERN discusses the new Academy Museum with architect Renzo Piano. Museum director Kerry Brougher is at right.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new museum on Wilshire Blvd. is still under construction, but the Larchmont Chronicle and other members of the press were recently invited to take a glimpse at what is to come.

“People from across the globe come to Los Angeles to be inspired and to see things they have only imagined become real through storytelling. It is only fitting that the filmmaking capital of the world will soon have a space dedicated to its industry and artistry,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti as he addressed the crowd gathered Sept. 27 for a hardhat tour to preview the project’s progress.

Other guest speakers included John Bailey, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Kerry Brougher, director of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Bob Iger, chair of the Academy Museum Campaign, Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the Academy Museum Committee, Ron Meyer, chair of the board of trustees for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, as well as Cheryl and Haim Saban.

To open in 2019

When it opens to the public sometime in 2019, the Academy Museum will be the world’s premier institution devoted to exploring the art and science of movies and moviemaking.

Located at the northeast corner of Wilshire and Fairfax, the museum will be housed in a two-structure campus, which combines the former May Company Building — now called the Saban Building, but more on that later — with a glass-topped steel and concrete sphere, connected by multiple walkways.

RENZO PIANO’S design for the Academy Museum creates two structures, the restored May Co. (now Saban) Building and a new, soaring spherical addition.

Renzo Piano

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the sphere and renovated department store will produce 300,000 square feet of museum space with more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space dedicated to an immersive permanent exhibition. There will be a space for temporary exhibitions, two film and performance theaters, a state-of-the-art education studio and dynamic spaces reserved for public and special events.     

Piano and museum director Brougher discussed the project in a mid-October conversation moderated by actress Laura Dern. Held before a nearly-full house in the Academy’s 1,000 Samuel Goldwyn Theater at its Beverly Hills headquarters, the session allowed Piano to expound upon his analyses and design decisions leading to what now is under construction. The co-designer of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, Piano also was the architect for the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (2008) and the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion (2010) at LACMA.

CROSS SECTION of the museum illustrates the six stories of exhibition spaces, theaters, and education studio, special event spaces, conservation areas, a restaurant and café, a museum store and a sphere that houses the David Geffen Theater and the rooftop Dolby Family Terrace.

Recent donations

Building a world-class museum isn’t cheap. The Academy’s capital campaign is seeking $388 million in donations “to support the construction of the buildings as well as its opening exhibitions and programs.” And thanks to the generous donation from Cheryl and Haim Saban, the project is closer than ever to meeting its goal.

The Saban family’s recent donation of $50 million is the largest single gift to the Academy Museum Campaign.

“We are deeply grateful to Cheryl and Haim for understanding the need for a superb museum of film in the moviemaking capital of the world,” said Bob Iger of the donation.

In recognition of the Saban gift, the historic May Company Building will be renamed in their honor.

The Academy Museum has since announced additional contributions from Netflix, Bloomberg Philanthropies, producer Charles Roven, and Tom Spiegel, which bring the project to nearly 80% of the $388 million goal.

Museum experience

According to the museum’s director, Kerry Brougher, visitors will experience the magic of cinema and the creative, collaborative process of filmmaking through the lens of those involved.

“Film lovers from everywhere will come,” he predicts.

More than a museum, Brougher describes the campus as a dynamic film center that is simultaneously immersive, educational and entertaining. (See a cross section rendering of the museum on this page, which provides a glimpse of the vertical campus layout.)

On the second and third floors of the Saban Building, a permanent exhibition will be housed that traces the evolution of moviemaking. The collection will combine sets, large-scale moving images, costumes and props. Bound to be one of the museum’s biggest attractions, the “Oscars experience,” also located on the third floor, will allow visitors to “win” their own Academy Award, where they can walk a red carpet and even hold a real Oscar. 

Inside the sphere, visitors will find a 1,000-seat theater, which will serve as a hub for major film events, and a more intimate 288-seat theater in the basement. A rooftop terrace topped with a spectacular glass dome sits on top of the theaters.

For more information, visit

By Billy Taylor

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Category: News

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