Hammering out a new museum

Nick Myall
Friday 03 Feb 2017

LA museum announces a major transformation plan including 40,000 sq ft of new space and a dramatic new presence along a full city block

The Hammer Museum in LA has released details of a major multiyear plan to renovate the museum’s existing facility and activate 40,000 sq ft of newly acquired space in the adjoining office tower. The ambitious project, led by renowned architect and longtime Hammer partner Michael Maltzan, will completely reimagine the existing building by 2020. 

Michael Maltzan, FAIA received the AIA|LA Gold medal at the AIA|LA’s annual awards celebration in Los Angeles last year. Michael has been credited for reinventing the architectural texture of Los Angeles, with buildings such as New Carver Apartments, Star Apartments, and Inner-City Arts, which also change social interaction in highly urbanised landscape.

The museum will have a major presence along Wilshire Boulevard, fronting a full city block with the museum lobby and gallery spaces. Moreover, it will dramatically increase visibility and accessibility in anchoring the corner of Wilshire and Westwood.

“After years of continuous growth, the Hammer is in need of a physical expansion and upgrade to provide more art for our audiences, more places to study, and more places to gather,” said Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin. “This transformation will provide 60% more exhibition space including collection galleries and a works on paper gallery to highlight our growing collection of photographs and drawings. We invite all of Los Angeles to enjoy the first stage in our transformation as we open major exhibitions by Jimmie Durham and Jean Dubuffet—this is just the beginning.”

“The Hammer has become an essential destination in Los Angeles. This transformation will make it dramatically more visible and inviting, more connected, more immersive. It will mark a major new chapter for what the Hammer is, and what it can be,” said Michael Maltzan.

The current renovation plan builds on Maltzan’s longstanding partnership with the Hammer, which includes the design of the museum’s Billy Wilder Theater (2006), courtyard (2012), and John V. Tunney Bridge (2015). Originally built to showcase a private collection of historical paintings, the Hammer Museum has grown over 25 years to become an internationally recognized institution devoted to contemporary art and culture. Having outgrown the physical space for exhibitions, programs, and staff, the museum plans building improvements that encompass everything from the lobby to the courtyard to the galleries to the office tower.

Beginning with the recent renovation of the third floor galleries to modernize and enlarge the existing exhibition space, the Hammer now has 10,000 square feet of contiguous gallery space which is required for major traveling shows. The transformation will continue to improve every facet of the building and every aspect of museum work. Key project goals include:

  • Expanding the galleries by 60% including two major newly constructed galleries to highlight our growing collection
  • Increasing visibility of the museum with a dramatic new presence along a full city block of Wilshire Boulevard
  • Enhancing 20,000 sq ft of community spaces to make the museum more accessible and inviting to both visitors and passersby
  • Creating premier facilities to showcase L.A.’s third largest collection and make the Hammer’s outstanding works accessible to students, scholars, and the public
  • Supporting the museum’s intellectual, creative, and operational capacity with a two-story expansion of workspace

The Hammer Museum building was originally designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes, and has over the last decade been enhanced and renovated by architect Michael Maltzan. The office tower building, now owned by UCLA, was designed by architect Claud Beelman, a leader in the Art Deco and Modern movements on the West Coast in the middle of the last century.

Nick Myall

News editor

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United States

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