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Academy Museum Architect: "I Don't Think It Will Be That Bad"

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There's been a lot of drama this year over Italian starchitect Renzo Piano's work on the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, an adaptive reuse of the 1939 May Company department store building at Wilshire and Fairfax that also includes the addition of a giant glass sphere (which will house an enormous theater and viewing deck). In May, rumor's popped up that Piano had pushed partnering architect Zoltan Pali off the project (by threatening to quit) and that officials at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought there were "serious issues" with his design. LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne also tore the design to pieces this spring, saying the sphere resembled a "giant albino Pac-Man." (That's bad, right?) But Piano was frank about it all when he met with Hawthorne in Paris this week: "Ha. The academy is a good story … I don't think it will be that bad … Actually, I'm struggling to do something good."

Piano also insists he's getting along well with Academy museum director Kerry Brougher, who was appointed in April, "saying he had already helped make the design stronger." He said the pair meet frequently and "talk about the essence of cinema, the technology cinema, and all of that"; they've also watched Citizen Kane and Michelangelo Antonioni's psychedelic protest orgy movie Zabriskie Point together, which could make for some pretty crazy design choices.

Piano designed the western portion of LACMA's campus (BCAM, Resnick Pavilion, Ray's), with uneven success, and he alluded to some of the issues there too: "Everything we've made at LACMA has been extremely complicated." In contrast to those very grounded buildings, he says he hopes to make the adjacent Academy museum's sphere "look weightless and 'dematerialize.'"

The May Company building will be pretty in your face, on the other hand, as outlined on Ban Billboard Blight yesterday—three of the building's corners will be wrapped in five-story supergraphic signs and 16 storefront windows will be converted to digital displays "with full animation." The project's environmental report also asks for temporary digital displays in 11 fifth floor windows and "[p]rojected signs with color and animation covering entire building faces, for up to 12 special events per year on either Wilshire Blvd. or Fairfax Ave. frontages, or up to 6 special events on both frontages." Hey, that sounds not that bad.
· Renzo Piano defends academy museum plans [LAT]
· Preserving L.A.'s Past? Motion Picture Academy Wants to Festoon Historic Building with Advertising Signs [BBB]
· See How the Movie Museum Will Transform the Miracle Mile [Curbed LA]
· Starchitect Renzo Piano's Drama Reportedly Screwing Up Academy Movie Museum Project [Curbed LA]
· The Worst Burns on the Academy Movie Museum, With Dogs [Curbed LA]

May Company Building

6067 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA