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First Look at the Broad, L.A.'s Newest Architectural Marvel

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This Sunday, September 20th, more than five years after work began, L.A.’s new contemporary art museum -The Broad- will open to the public. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro the $140-million, 12,000-square-foot building houses some 2000 works of art that comprise Eli and Edythe Broad’s collection.

“We were essentially building a warehouse that happened to have gallery space,” said Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Kevin Rice, project director. “So we decided to use that as a protagonist. Instead of putting storage in the basement we put it in the middle, as an element you’re always moving around, under, through.”

The call it the vault, the second floor storage space, some of which you can peek into from a couple of points along the stairs. It’s temperature controlled as appropriate (Cindy Sherman photography, for example, is in 60-degrees). Lecture rooms and administrative offices complete the second floor. Displayed art fills the first and third floors, accessible by glass-roof elevator or long escalator (take the stairs down).

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The opening exhibition, roughly chronological, starts under the 33-foot third floor ceiling (including 10-feet from skylight start) with Rauchenbergs, Warhols and Jasper Johns’ White Flag (hanging in a room full of pieces from the Broad’s home) and ends with the likes of Robert Therrien’s giant, literal Under The Table, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room (one minute entry per person) and Robert Longo’s charcoal drawing of Ferguson, Missouri police in riot gear (the most recently acquired piece).

“Standing at the base of the escalator one can see full extent of the perforated veil running along three facades of the lobby, and glimpse the skylight monitors running across the roof of the third floor galleries through the top of the escalator,” said David Pakshong, Gensler project director. “This view captures the design concept in a single moment.”

Gensler, the designated local architect, began its work in 2008, assessing possible locations. The firm designed the lobby retail shop, the first thing visitors will see upon entering the museum (there’s no reception desk nor ticket window; look for staff members who will guide entry, answer questions of all depths, and even provide security).

The veil Pakshong refers to is the building’s façade and the top surface. It’s separated from the interior glass walls by 9-feet, except at the Broad Street-side dimple, called the oculus, where it bends in (to a lecture room) and appears to pass through.  Engineered to absorb lateral and vertical forces in case of seismic event, the veil’s 2.5-foot-thick concrete panels and 650-ton steel lattice frame, filters daylight and allows glimpses in and out. Look north and you’ll see the shiny Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry.

“It was exciting and daunting to work next to one of the most important architectural projects in America,” said Rice. “The geometry was always going to be quieter than Disney. There was no way to have anything but a box.”

The other architects in the design competition agreed: each submitted the same. The nature of the site was also a factor, said Rice, citing limitations like 75-foot height and the literal square shape: 200 by 200 square feet. “We wanted to fill out the limits of the site but a box was a given.”

So they created a box with lifted corners. Liz Diller says the veil lifts its skirt to welcome visitors, said a spokesperson for The Broad. You’ll enter and exit underneath. DSR also worked to complement Disney’s metallic, reflective nature as well, said Rice, describing the mineral quality of the concrete, deliberately acting in opposition to Disney. “We amplify them and they amplify us.”


The Broad, 221 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA. Reserve free tickets for timed entry through December here. Closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. A restaurant is in the works.

Read story on InteriorDesign.net: First Look at the Broad, L.A.'s Newest Architectural Marvel


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