Renzo Piano completes construction of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in LA

Renzo Piano adds a sculpturesque glass dome, a sprawling rooftop and various multi-purpose theatre and gallery spaces to a famed 1930s department store in western Los Angeles.

by STIRworldPublished on : Mar 12, 2021

Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the Paris-based firm led by architect Renzo Piano, has completed the construction of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in western Los Angeles. The Pritzker-winning architect has added new additions to this former 1939-built May Company Building (now called the Saban Building), originally designed by American architects Albert C Martin and Samuel Abraham Marx.

An aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures designed within a 1930s department store in Western Los Angeles | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
An aerial view of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures designed within a 1930s department store in Western Los Angeles Image: ©Academy Museum Foundation

Located on LA’s famed Miracle Mile and at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the building features a former gold-tiled cylindrical section at one of the corners of the otherwise typical steel reinforced concrete structure. The architecture was once cited by the Los Angeles Conservancy as the 'grandest example of Streamline Moderne' - an International Art Deco style of the 30s defined by curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements. Having embraced a new avatar while celebrating its history and architectural rigour, the 300,000 sq ft facility will now be devoted to the art and science of movies and moviemaking.

  • The concrete and glass dome designed by Renzo Piano features the David Geffen Theatre  | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    The concrete and glass dome designed by Renzo Piano features the David Geffen Theatre Image: Josh White, JWPictures/©Academy Museum Foundation
  • A visualisation of the dome | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    A visualisation of the dome Image: ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Academy Museum Foundation/Image from L’Autre Image
  • Glass rooftop on the new spherical building | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    Glass rooftop on the new Sphere building Image: Josh White, JWPictures / ©Academy Museum Foundation
  • David Geffen Theatre | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    David Geffen Theatre Image: Iwan Baan/©Iwan Baan Studios, Courtesy Academy Museum Foundation

Piano’s intervention reveals a soaring new glass and concrete dome structure added to the north of the Saban Building. It houses a 1000-capacity David Geffen Theatre for cultural events and is topped by a spectacular glass rooftop called the Dolby Family Terrace that captures views of the Hollywood Hills. An outdoor piazza has also been designed around the entrance of the dome.

  • Pedestrian glass bridges link the facilities of the Saban Building and the Sphere Building | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    Pedestrian glass bridges link the facilities of the Saban Building and the Sphere Building Image: Josh White, JWPictures / ©Academy Museum Foundation
  • 288-seat Ted Mann Theatre | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    288-seat Ted Mann Theatre Image: Josh White, JWPictures / ©Academy Museum Foundation

Elsewhere inside the 250,000 sq ft Saban Building, new temporary and permanent exhibition galleries, a 288-seat theatre, project spaces, studios and a restaurant will host various formal and informal programmes within the museum.

  • The museum has restored the façade of the Saban Building | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    The museum has restored the façade of the Saban Building Image: Josh White, JWPictures / ©Academy Museum Foundation
  • Museum’s cross-section | Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | Renzo Piano Building Workshop | STIRworld
    Museum’s cross-section Image: ©Renzo Piano Building Workshop/©Academy Museum Foundation

The project, as per Piano, embodies possibility of many futures while honouring the past. Describing the architectural experience, the 83-year-old Italian architect says, “The historic Saban Building is a wonderful example of Streamline Moderne style, which preserves the way people envisioned the future in 1939. The new structure, the Sphere Building, is a form that seems to lift off the ground into the perpetual, imaginary voyage through space and time. You go from sequence to sequence, from the exhibition galleries to the film theatre and the terrace, with everything is blending into one experience".

Designed by RPBW in collaboration with local firm Gensler, the museum has been designed for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, an organisation popular known for hosting the Oscars. The project is scheduled to open to the public in September 2021.

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