Honor the past while creating a building for the future

Renzo Piano Building Workshop as Architects

When it opens in the heart of Los Angeles, at the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be the world’s premier movie museum.

Situated on the famed “Miracle Mile,” the museum will preserve and breathe new life into the former 1939 May Company department store, now re-named the Saban Building. Celebrating its history and imagining new possibilities, the additions to the building that date from 1946 have been removed and replaced with a spherical building that features the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater and the Dolby Family Terrace with views towards Hollywood. The revitalized campus will feature more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space, two theaters, cutting-edge project spaces, an outdoor piazza, the rooftop terrace, an active education studio, a restaurant, and store.

“The Academy Museum gives us the opportunity to honor the past while creating a building for the future—in fact, for the possibility of many futures. 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 that is moviegoing. By connecting these two experiences we create something that is itself like a movie. You go from sequence to sequence, from the exhibition galleries to the film theater and the terrace, with everything blending into one experience.”

- Renzo Piano

 

“The Academy Museum will be a hub for film lovers where people from across the city and around the world can enjoy, learn, and engage with movies and moviemakers. For more than 120 years, cinema has been central to global culture and the way we perceive, question, and, at times, escape the world around us. We want to give visitors a place to explore and discuss the impact of film. We hope to transport visitors to a cinematic environment, somewhere between reality and illusion. Like watching a movie, visitors will enter a waking dream—one in which they go inside the movies to experience their magic, as well as the art and science that makes that magic possible.”

- Kerry Brougher, Academy Museum Director

The glass rooftop dome

Saflex as Manufacturers

The dome design required careful attention to material selection and design detail and lasted several years. Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineeringdesigned a unique “shingle” system to accommodate the complex geometry and high load requirements of the dome.

The glass rooftop dome consists of a single-layered, braced steel structure covered in shingled glass panels—two panes per grid. They were manufactured with Saflex Structural (DG41) PVB interlayers and installed by Permasteelisa North America. While the inner glass pane is supported by an invisible, custom dead-load pin connection, the outer glass pane is supported by the interlayer—making a stiff interlayer essential. Due to Saflex Structural’s strength and rigidity, the engineers found that it met both requirements.

Since the glass edges are exposed to varying weather conditions, Saflex Structural helps protect against delamination, preserving the dome’s beautiful appearance. It can also be combined with other Saflex PVB interlayers without any negative visual impact, which also contributes to the dome’s clarity. Low-iron glass without a coating created the final effect.

Because Los Angeles is earthquake prone, the dome’s superstructure is supported by base isolators, which allow the structure to move by up to onemeter during the swaying and racking that occurs in a seismic event.

With the collaboration of some of the best architectural and engineering minds from both Europe and America, the motion picture industry will be celebrated for years to come.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles is as unique as the industry it represents. And because one part of the brand-new museum—thesphere—has a glass rooftop dome, it required the superior structural capacity found in Saflex® Structural (DG41) PVB interlayers instead of standard PVB interlayers.

In a town where glamour and glitz are practically a requirement, the giant glass sphere sparkles appropriately. The museum gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look into how films are made while celebrating the power of the movies. Hollywood superstars Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks helped spearhead the project. And its designer, “starchitect” Renzo Piano, is as well known as many of the actors celebrated inside the museum.

Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Genoa, Italy, the Academy Museum is housed in the historic May Company Building (now called the Saban Building) in Los Angeles. Glass bridges lead to the glass dome, designed for viewing the stars—both the Hollywood and celestial varieties. Located in the lower half of the sphere is the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theater. The all-glass top half of the sphere resides over a rooftop terrace with jaw-dropping views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Hills.

World’s premier institution devoted to exploring the art and science of movies

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as Client

Opening announcement

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the ABC Television Network today announced the 93rd Oscars® ceremony will move to Sunday, April 25, 2021, as a result of the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. The show, which will air live on ABC, was originally scheduled for February 28, 2021.  Coinciding with the Oscars celebration, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, initially scheduled to open to the public on December 14, 2020, will now open on April 30, 2021, also as a result of the health crisis.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will be the world’s premier institution
devoted to exploring the art and science of movies and moviemaking. Visitors to
the museum will experience the magic of cinema and the creative, collaborative
process of filmmaking through the lens of those who make it. Built in Los Angeles,
the movie capital of the world, the museum will be housed in the renovated and
expanded May Company—now the Saban Building—on Wilshire Boulevard and a
distinctive spherical addition designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo
Piano with Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The 300,000-square-foot museum will
feature more than 50,000 square feet of gallery space for both a highly
immersive permanent exhibition and a schedule of diverse temporary exhibitions,
two film and performance theaters, a state-of-the-art education studio, and
dynamic spaces for public and special events.

The Academy Museum has actively been acquiring three-dimensional motionpicture objects since 2008. Its holdings now number approximately 2,500 items
representing motion picture technology, costume design, production design,
makeup and hairstyling, and promotional materials. The museum will also draw
from the unparalleled collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences, which contains a vast range of motion picture production and historyrelated objects and technology, works on paper, and still and moving images
covering the history of motion pictures in the United States and throughout the
world. The collections include more than 12 million photographs; 190,000 film and
video assets; 80,000 screenplays; 61,000 posters; and 104,000 pieces of
production art. Highlights feature more than 1,600 special collections of film
legends such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, and John
Huston.

KEY DATES
1939 The May Company on Wilshire Boulevard opens designed by Albert
C. Martin and Samuel A. Marx
1992 The Streamline Moderne façade is designated a City of Los Angeles
Historic-Cultural Monument (#566)
May 2012 Renzo Piano Building Workshop selected as architect for new
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Oct. 2012 Initial design is unveiled
Oct. 2015 Construction begins
2019 Estimated completion of construction

SQUARE FOOTAGE
Total project: 300,000 square feet
Saban Building (formerly May Company): 250,000 square feet
Sphere Building: 45,000 square feet

PRINCIPAL DESIGN
The 300,000-square-foot Academy Museum will feature six stories of dynamic
spaces, including more than 50,000 square feet of immersive permanent and
temporary exhibition galleries, an education studio, two state-of-the-art theaters, as well as dynamic public and special event spaces that include a spectacular roof
top terrace with sweeping views of the Hollywood Hills.

THEATERS
The new 1,000-seat Geffen Theater located in the sphere will become a center for
all visitors and feature daily screenings, major film events including previews,
openings and special presentations with the world’s leading filmmakers. A more
intimate 288-seat theater will offer screenings ranging from Saturday morning
matinees for children of all ages to a global cinema series. Both theaters will be
home to an array of live performances, lectures, panels, and other events that will
bring the most notable film artists of today to Los Angeles. Theaters will be
equipped to present film with multidimensional sound experiences and superior
screen quality.

MATERIALS
Saban Building: concrete; steel; steel-reinforced concrete; glass; gold leaf mosaic
tile from the original manufacturer, Orsini, of Venice, Italy will be used to restore
the iconic cylinder; limestone from Austin, Texas will be used to restore the
historic building façade. 

Concrete, precast, steel; steel-reinforced concrete; and specialty glass for its dome to be fabricated in Steyr, Austria by St Gobain.

DESIGN ARCHITECT
Renzo Piano Building Workshop with contribution to concept design by Studio Pali Fekete architects.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

iGuzzini as Lighting

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, opened in 2021, is the most important cinema museum in the world.

Situated on the famous "Miracle Mile" In Los Angeles, the museum has restored and revitalised the former May Company warehouse (built in 1939) and renamed it the Saban Building. The architect Renzo Piano has designed this entire area as a place that transmits a sensation of travelling in time and space, as this is what people go to the cinema for. This is also why the museum felt it was important to keep the Saban Building as it represents an idea of the future that people may have had, back in 1929. This sense of the past is then joined to the startlingly contemporary forms of the Sphere Building that evoke the shapes of the airships that landed here back in the early 1900s when the area was an airfield. 

To conserve the historic value of the former May Company Building and with new functions and possibilities in mind, Renzo Piano chose to remove the 1946 additions to the building and replace them with a spherical structure that houses the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theatre and the Dolby Family Terrace with its spectacular Hollywood views. 

Caption

The complex now encompasses 4,700 sqm of exhibition space, two theatres, an open air plaza, a roof terrace, an education studio, a restaurant and retail areas. 
The Motion Pictures Academy, the organisation that manages the Oscar Award ceremony every year, owns a collection of over 13 million items ranging from film scripts to photographs, costumes, storyboards and film sets that are displayed mainly inside the Saban Building.

The design of the artificial lighting was extremely complex as it involved illuminating environments with very different architectural features, functions and natural light input. Inside the glass part of the Sphere Building, for example, 55 units of Woody luminaires have been used. These are fitted with standard optics, and special coupling systems have been designed that respect the curve of the sphere’s metal structure while creating homogeneity on the ground and the right lighting and highlighting for filming social events.

Caption


An element that unifies the interiors and exteriors is the so-called “Jelly Jar”. This luminaire, created specifically for this project, is inspired by an industrial-style emergency lamp that has been adapted to create the type of effect desired by Renzo Piano. 

With a concentrated optic only in the central part of the optical assembly, the luminaire is effective and extremely easy to adjust so it suits the locations in which it is installed. 
The Jelly has been used in the exteriors on the double ramp of stairs located on the two sides of the theatre and, at night, the luminaire has a distinctive industrial site style. 

Caption

The Jelly Jars pinpoint the stairs and inside, the four balconies in the auditorium. They succeed in creating a very soft and “confidential” light reminiscent of the lamps located inside historic theatres like La Scala. In the entire site, including interiors and exteriors, there are approximately 350 Jelly Jars.

In the auditorium, the effect of the Jelly Jars is combined with a coloured effect created by Trick luminaires that are positioned horizontally at 180° and project lines of blue light under the screen and all around the auditorium. In the film theatre, to indicate and illuminate the steps, Orbit luminaires have been fitted into the base of the Frau armchairs.

Going back to the outside, an extremely uniform effect has also been obtained at the base of the David Geffen Theatre - this is a highly visible part of the structure that welcomes guests - and also adds to the large glass sphere’s sense of levitation. Approximately 170 recessed Orbit luminaires have been used with an 80 mm diameter and a wide flood optic that creates a homogeneous effect on the ceiling, while ensuring guests are not dazzled as the luminaires are deeply recessed. 

Caption

In the exhibition areas that are all located in the Saban Building, Le Perroquet luminaires have been used with different coupling systems. The most complicated challenge was the elevator zone, where pendant Le Perroquet luminaires run along the entire height of the building. These Le Perroquet luminaires are in such a high position that their attachments had to be “secured” with other horizontal cables that limit their movements in the event of an earthquake. This space also displays “Bruce”, the last model left of the shark used for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie “Jaws”. A popular exhibit that also required new luminaire positions and specific coupling systems to be designed. 

Caption

For the exterior façade of the Saban Building, a decision was made to highlight the large golden cylinder located on the corner of the building as well as the golden line that stretches right along the building. To achieve this, iPro projectors were used with a 9° optic and a white visor.The building is part of an area that Renzo Piano had already worked on when he designed the extension, completed in various stages, of the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA). A project that iGuzzini also worked on between 2003 and 2010.

Read more here.

 

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