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Starchitect Renzo Piano's Drama Reportedly Screwing Up Academy Movie Museum Project

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[Latest renderings of the Academy Museum design]

Los Angeles-based architect Zoltan Pali and his firm SPF:a are OFF the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures project, a renovation of the May Company Building on the LACMA campus, the Academy confirmed with the LA Times. Neither Pali nor his collaborator Renzo Piano have spoken out yet, despite rumors going around for about a week now. The Academy went on to reassure that Pali's departure is all part of the plan ("nothing unexpected"!), but The Hollywood Reporter hears quite a different story from anonymous sources inside the Academy: they reported over the weekend that Pali was ejected because of "tension" and clashes with the internationally-renowned Renzo Piano (a Pritzker winner), who sources paint as a textbook difficult genius. They say Piano was upset that Pali (who LACMA tapped to renovate the May Company Building long before the Academy decided to move in) was chosen without his input or approval. From the beginning, the two supposedly butted heads over multiple aspects of the design: "Renzo wanted Zoltan out and got his way," one insider says.

The Academy apparently "never says no" to the prestigious Piano, who designed the neighboring BCAM and Resnick Pavilion buildings for LACMA, neither of which is considered any great masterpiece. (There were many reports during BCAM's conception that he tangled with donor Eli Broad, who was guiding the project, but Broad is also notoriously controlling.) Piano supposedly told Academy CEO Dawn Hudson he'd quit if Pali wasn't taken off the project and over the past several months, Academy officials have made "many trips to Italy, New York and even Paris to try to corral him."

"There were big fights in New York about the theater, for example. There are serious issues with audience flow, the projection room, the acoustics, pretty much everything .... He has to think he's in charge and has to think everything is his idea," says one source. "The fear is we're going to be saddled with whatever Renzo gives us, not what we need."

The Academy staff aren't the only ones worried about Piano's design—last month, LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne had some very harsh words about the project, which he pronounced "one of the more strained designs of [Piano's] long career." Things better shape up quickly over there: the Museum is set to break ground this year and open in 2017.
· Museum architect Zoltan Pali no longer on the project, academy says [LAT]
· Academy Museum Architect Exits Amid Tension [THR]
· Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures [Curbed LA]

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