First Look: L.A. Scores a Bold New Museum by Diller Scofidio + Renfro [Video]

A $130 million art museum backed by philanthropist Eli Broad hopes to anchor a revitalized cultural center for the city’s downtown.

Anxiously anticipated designs were released today for the Broad, a new museum for Los Angeles’s downtown which nearly everyone agrees is the biggest project to hit L.A., maybe since Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (which is, incidentally, just up the hill). The honeycomb-textured cube was created by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, designers of the High Line and newly renovated Lincoln Center, who were announced as the architects by philanthropist Eli Broad in August. The Broad (not to be confused with the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at another city museum, LACMA), will house not only exhibitions from Broad’s extensive collection but also the headquarters for his foundation, in 120,000 square feet of space.


Calling the concept the “veil and the vault,” DS+R’s design consists of a cast-concrete “veil” that wraps the building with a distinctive pattern and floods the interiors with that must-have for any museum: natural light. The second-story core of the building is the “vault” for the Broad Art Foundation, including Broad’s massive collection — over 2,000 works by 200 artists — with windows that allow visitors to peek at the holdings as well as at the day-to-day operations of the foundation itself. The top floor features a completely sky-lit gallery that offers 24-foot ceilings and almost an acre of unobstructed gallery space.

The design also employs a similar technique that DS+R used at Lincoln Center, with a sort of cutaway corner at the northern edge of the property, bringing the museum’s activity out into the streets. Visitors will use this corner as the entrance, walking into a glass atrium that bubbles up into the center of the ground floor, and be whisked upstairs to the gallery via escalator.


When DS+R was first awarded the project, the architects also hinted that they would acknowledge the pedestrian experience, and according to the L.A. Times will include plans for a public plaza at the south end, and wider sidewalks all around the museum.

The $130 million project, which will be completed in 2013, has quite lofty ambitions for the community. The museum hopes to deliver a much-needed burst of development to an area which has been largely ignored since plans to reimagine downtown’s Grand Avenue were abandoned a few years ago. The museum will also sit opposite L.A.’s new Civic Park, which broke ground in 2010, making for a revitalized cultural hub for the city’s downtown.

About the author

Alissa is a design writer for publications like Fast Company, GOOD and Dwell who can most often be found in Los Angeles. She likes to walk, ride the bus, and eat gelato.