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Temple of Art
Why Design to convert Los Angeles' historic Masonic Temple into an art museum.
Sam Lubell / AN

Eli Broad isn’t the only philanthropist building a new Los Angeles art museum. In August, Maurice and Paul Marciano, the founders of fashion company Guess, announced that they will open a new museum for their 1,000-piece contemporary art collection inside a Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard.

Temple detail.

The adaptive reuse project, designed by Culver City firm why design (formerly wHY Architecture), will contain 90,000 square feet of exhibition space, including a double-height, 15,000-square-foot grand hall in the room once containing the building’s theater. Smaller galleries and “project rooms” commissioned to specific artists, will be located on upper floors.

Why will maintain the facade and many of the quirky interior details of the austere, four-story temple, including deco chandeliers and Egyptian-inspired ornamentation, like eagle and pyramid etchings. Legendary LA artist and architect Millard Sheets designed the long-vacant structure. Why will punch skylights and light wells into the north side of the building and add an outdoor sculpture gallery.

“This will launch the Marciano’s into the next level,” said wHY principal Kulapat Yantrasast. It will also help launch why design, which has built houses in LA but no major civic buildings there. The firm’s largest commission to-date is the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. Why is also building the new studio arts hall for Pomona College, which should be open by the end of next year.

The Marciano project is scheduled for completion in 2015.

Sam Lubell