Renzo Piano's design vision for the Academy Museum will revitalize the historic Wilshire May Company building, weave it back into the fabric of the city, and create a coherent arts campus that seamlessly connects with LACMA. Their design for the Academy Museum fully restores the historical Wilshire and Fairfax street-front facades and includes a soaring spherical addition at the northern end of the original building. Designed to represent the marriage of art and technology, the addition will house the Museum's state-of-the-art premiere-sized theater as well as a spectacular roof terrace with expansive views of the city.
"The design for the museum will finally enable this wonderful building to be animated and contribute to the city after sitting underutilized for so long. I am very inspired by the Academy's mission, and the idea of the arts and sciences working together to create films. Our design will preserve the Wilshire May Company building's historic public profile while simultaneously signaling that the building is taking on a new life—a life that celebrates both the industry and art form that this city created and gave to the world."
Restoring & Preserving the Wilshire May Company Building
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will reimagine one of Los Angeles' most iconic and important landmarks—the celebrated Wilshire May Company building.
Opened in 1939 and designed by Albert C. Martin and Samuel A. Marx, this landmark was once one of Los Angeles' leading department stores. Its prominent cylindrical gold tower signaled the western entrance to the Miracle Mile shopping district. In 1946, a northern annex, also designed by Martin and Marx, was added to the Wilshire May Company building.
The façade of the original Wilshire May Company building is a perfect example of the Streamline Moderne style of architecture that emerged during the 1930s. This architectural style emphasized aerodynamic elegance, curving forms, long horizontal lines, and the simplifying of Art Deco ornamentation.
The design of Streamline Moderne buildings conveyed movement and innovation and drew inspiration from the industrial, scientific, and technological innovations of the time: modern age transportation modes such as airplanes, trains, and ocean liners, and cost-effective industrial materials like glass, cement, and steel.
In 1992, the original façade of the Wilshire May Company building was designated a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (#566). The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will serve as a vital preservation and adaptive reuse initiative that will restore the façade to its Streamline Moderne splendor.
The Academy has a history of building preservation and adaptive reuse projects.
The Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study, home of the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, is a restored, refurbished and expanded Spanish-Romanesque building that originally housed the City of Beverly Hills Water Treatment Plant No. 1. Built in 1927, the building was abandoned in 1976 when Beverly Hills began to purchase its water from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District. In March of 1988, the City of Beverly Hills accepted a proposal by the Academy that the Waterworks be restored to house the Library and the Academy Film Archive. Work on the 40,000 square-foot building was completed over the next two years, and it reopened in January 1991.
The Academy also restored the former Don Lee Mutual Broadcast Building, the oldest surviving studio building designed for television and radio broadcasting, located in the heart of Hollywood at the corner of Vine and Fountain. Built in 1947 and designed by Claude Beelman and Herman Spacker, the Late Moderne style building was rehabilitated in 2001 by the Academy and is now home to the 286-seat Dunn Theater, and several Academy departments, including the Academy Film Archive, the Science and Technology Council, and the Grants and Nicholl Fellowship programs.