The Academy’s new mu­seum

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION -

The Academy of Mo­tion Pic­ture Arts and Sciences — the or­ga­ni­za­tion that awards the Os­cars — is poised to build a new mu­seum stretch­ing across 208,000 square feet on Wil­shire Boule­vard just west of the Los An­ge­les County Mu­seum of Art. Ded­i­cated to the history of movies and the art of film­mak­ing, the Academy Mu­seum of Mo­tion Pic­tures will take over the his­toric May Co. build­ing, but its most dra­matic fea­ture will be an oth­er­worldly glass orb, which will func­tion as a 1,000- seat theater.

Of course, you don’t just land such a thing in mid- city with­out jolt­ing the neigh­bors. The pro­ject, which is pri­vately funded but needs city ap­proval, pro­voked the ire of neigh­bor­hood groups mainly be­cause it of­fered what they in­sisted was too lit­tle park­ing and in­cluded too many gi­ant dig­i­tal signs. The Academy has since made sub­stan­tial changes to its plans and hopes to forge an of­fi­cial agree­ment with com­mu­nity groups re­gard­ing traf­fic and park­ing. The City Coun­cil should ap­prove this pro­ject.

The mu­seum would be built right where it should be — in the heart of a com­mer­cial and cul­tural cor­ri­dor, count­ing as its near­est neigh­bors LACMA, the Petersen Automotive Mu­seum and the La Brea Tar Pits. But ad­di­tional events and visi­tor traf­fic could be a bur­den on the residential streets just off Wil­shire. The mu­seum was al­lowed a 10% re­duc­tion in re­quired park­ing spa­ces be­cause it will be within 1,500 feet of a “fixed transit sta­tion” — in this case, the sta­tion at Wil­shire and Fair­fax on the planned Metro West­side Pur­ple Line ex­ten­sion. But that sta­tion isn’t ex­pected to be com­pleted un­til 2023, and the mu­seum will open in 2017. And the 482 to­tal spa­ces the mu­seum was re­quired to have were in a garage and a lot al­ready uti­lized by LACMA.

The Academy heard the crit­ics and, wisely, in­creased the to­tal park­ing, se­cur­ing long- term leases for 800 more spa­ces in two nearby of­fice build­ings and the Petersen. ( There will be park­ing for 88 bi­cy­cles as well.) The Academy also scotched plans to drape ban­ners and dis­play dig­i­tal signs from up­per win­dows of the May Co. build­ing. There will be two dig­i­tal signs in the street- level win­dows f lank­ing the May Co. en­trance and a dig­i­tal sign on the sphere that won’t face a street. And the Academy plans to dis­play a gi­ant out­line of an Os­car stat­uette in front of the four- story gold cylin­dri­cal tower that is a defin­ing fea­ture of the May Co. build­ing.

The mu­seum is go­ing up at a time when L. A. of­fi­cials are en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to rely more on public transit. In a nod to that, the mu­seum’s ar­chi­tect, Renzo Pi­ano, has made the Wil­shire doors the main en­trance so that peo­ple can stroll easily from the sub­way stop into the mu­seum.

The Academy says it is still look­ing to ac­quire more park­ing nearby. That’s a good idea. And it should con­tinue to con­sult with com­mu­nity groups to en­sure that the new mu­seum is an as­set to the neigh­bor­hood, not an in­va­sion.

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