The design for the complex extends out of the historic May Company Building on Wilshire Boulevard into an adjacent, 140-foot-tall orb. The top section of the globe will be an open terrace and project space housed under a huge arcing glass dome, and the bottom section will be a crimson-walled, steel-encased theater. This theater will feature a state-of-the-art projection facility able to screen 35mm, 70mm, and nitrate prints for an audience of up to one thousand people. All told, the project will cost $388 million to build.
The May Company Building, a 1939 structure that epitomizes the Streamline Moderne style, will be home to three stories of exhibition space (two permanent, one temporary). One of these spaces will be an entire floor dedicated to the “Oscars Experience,” an exhibit commemorating the annual film ceremony for which the organization is best known. The building was previously home to a satellite space for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, once referred to as “LACMA West,” but the Academy inked a long-term lease on the structure and an adjacent parcel in 2014 for $36.1 million. The new renderings show that most of the iconic features of the building will be preserved, including the giant golden cylinder at its Wilshire Boulevard entrance.
An additional, smaller theater and a flexible education space will be constructed underground between the older building and Piano’s orb. The two above-ground structures will be connected on three levels by glass-encased catwalks. An outdoor seating area will also be build at the ground level of the orb, extending into the central lobby area of the May Company Building.
As Kerry Brougher, director of the Academy, told Architectural Record, the museum was designed primarily from a filmmaker’s perspective. “I think the fact that the Academy is part of the project makes it take on a different characterization than it might if it were a film museum in Milan or Paris,” he said.
With completion projected for 2019, the Academy Museum hopes to join the ranks of other movie museums around here and abroad, from the National Cinema Museum in Turin, Italy, to the controversial Lucas Museum, or New York’s own Museum of the Moving Image, which Leeser Architecture revamped in 2011.