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A+D Settles Down
LA design museum moves into permanent digs
A rendering of the new A+D museum, which opens tonight.
Courtesy A+D Museum

After a decade of nomadic existence, LA’s A+D Museum is finally unpacking its suitcases for good. Tonight, the design institution, created in 2001, is opening its new space at 6032 Wilshire Boulevard. A gala event will be held at the museum's new locale right across the street from LACMA and next to the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Since its founding, the A+D has bounced around the city, occupying locations donated by philanthropists beginning with developer Ira Yellin, who gave the museum its first facility in Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building in 2001. It then moved to Santa Monica (2003), West Hollywood (2003-2005), and finally to its most recent location in Miracle Mile (2006-2009), a large space donated by developer Wayne Ratkovich.

The new 5,000 square foot venue, a pristine space a couple blocks west of the most recent home, is situated on the ground floor of a small mid-century office building, filling a space once occupied by an unremarkable furniture store. The building team has transformed what was a poorly-aging building, removing clunky decorative panels between the windows, painting the building white, and adding sleek metallic signage emblazoned with the museum’s logo. Under the sign the museum now has new recessed glass doors and completely glazed frontage.

The A+D Building prior to its renovation.
Courtesy Google Maps

Inside, the museum has a 3,500 square foot main gallery, a 500 square foot smaller gallery, as well as office and support space. Drop ceilings were removed to open up the space, a sleek lighting grid was added, and eco-friendly concrete floors were installed. The team also brought the space’s deteriorating structural issues up-to-date.

Design work was preformed pro bono by Kanner Architects—principal Steven Kanner co-founded the museum—Richard Meier and Partners, and Gensler. Construction was overseen by Hinerfeld-Ward with a huge team that included Turner Construction, Hathaway Dinwiddie, Matt Construction, and Minardos Group. Museum Director Tibbie Dunbar pointed out that all are competitors who came together on the museum’s behalf.

Dunbar estimates that the donated services added up to at least $250,000. “It’s amazing that these people came in with what’s going on in the construction business,” she said. Major funding for the project, and for the museum’s subsequent work, came from a fundraising effort called 20/20, in which $24,000 each came from a lengthy list of noted architects and designers.

The new location now affords the museum a level of planning and foresight it has rarely enjoyed in the past. “We had been on ten-days notice for the last two years,” Dunbar said. “This is a huge shift in the paradigm for us. I know what my fall 2011 exhibit will be. I couldn’t have done that before without a stable location.” She also noted that the new location should bolster fundraising efforts.

Upcoming exhibits this year include “Come In,” a spatial intervention at the museum featuring the work of young designers; the *AIA LA Design awards; and “Never Built,” a collaboration with the Getty Research Institute displaying unbuilt work once planned for LA.

The opening event, called “Celebrate 2010,” will be hosted by KCRW radio host Frances Anderton with keynote speaker LA city councilman Eric Garcetti and music provided by KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel. Be sure to check the blog tomorrow for a full accounting.

Sam Lubell