New Star in L.A. Skyline – the Broad Museum

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The BroadThe new star shining in the downtown Los Angeles skyline, The Broad, was designed as a contemporary art museum to house and display the masterpieces of the last 50 years collected by Eli and Edy Broad (pronounced like Road with a B). The building, which opens to the public today, reflects the growing downtown cultural scene on Grand Avenue, home to the Ahmanson Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Walt Disney Hall, Grand Avenue Park, the Museum of Contemporary Art and other notable fixtures. But, given the breadth and depth of the collection – as well as the unique architectural design – it will draw attention even without its distinguished neighbors.

The Broad_photo by Iwan Baan_4854One of the richest men in America, Broad made his initial fortune in real estate as the B in KB Homes, one of the largest home building companies in the world. He and his wife have also amassed one of the outstanding collections of contemporary art, with over 2,000 works. So they wanted their museum to be an appropriate work of contemporary architectural art too.

Once the location on Grand was selected in August 2010, it was obvious there was one daunting obstacle. “How do you design a building next to Disney Hall that doesn’t clash with (Frank) Gehry’s masterpiece?” Broad asked rhetorically remembering the dilemma.

The BroadTo complement the Gehry building to the North, the architectural firm of Diller Scofidio + Renfro opted for “the relationship of contrast, shiny versus porous,” according to Elizabeth Diller, principal-in-charge of the firm. The result was an eye-catching geometric, honeycombed structure with an interior even more unique than its exterior.

The Broad’s Architectural Design

The 120,000-square-foot, $140-million building features two floors of galleries. That includes 35,000 square feet of column-free space on the third floor, with filtered light from skylights (facing north with UV coating and adjustable electronic screens to protect the art from damage).

The unique interior design employs an innovative “veil-and-vault” concept, which addresses the two key programs of the building: displaying galleries of art and providing storage space to support The Broad Art Foundation’s extensive worldwide lending activities. (The Broads have reportedly made 8,000 loans to over 500 museums and galleries through the years.)

“The proportions are more weighted to storage, which is typically relegated to off site,” explained Diller. The heavy, opaque volume of the “vault” holds the collection, floats in the middle of the building. Its carved cantilevered underside shapes the lobby below and the routes through the public areas. The porous veil, with a façade like coral, is made of glass fiber reinforced concrete and steel. It basically sits over the building, supported at three points.

“Our goal has been to honor the responsibilities of the museum as a collecting institution by making the curatorial functions visible front and center,” said Elizabeth Diller, principal-in-charge of Diller Scofidio + Renfro. “The porous exoskeleton that we call the veil admits filtered natural daylight, channeling light into the public spaces and galleries.”The Broad_photo by Iwan Baan_5425

The experience for museum visitors is unique. Enter through the light, bright veil into a cavernous darkened lobby. They shoot up two floors in a tunnel-like escalator, past the vault to the third-floor, skylight-filled galleries. Visitors then descend through the vault via a winding staircase with windows that offers glimpses into the vast holdings of the collection through windows into storage areas. On the ground floor, there is also more gallery space. There is also a futuristic round glass elevator, somewhat reminiscent of the one at The Louvre in Paris.

The new star in the L.A. skyline – The Broad museum – is located in the heart of downtown L.A., accessible via buses and the subway. Right off two freeways, and this being car-centric Los Angeles, The Broad has also constructed a 155,000-square-foot, three-story parking garage that can accommodate 344 vehicles.

Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss

Preview visit to the Broad Sep. 16, 2015
Los Angeles Times: An early look in the Broad museum reveals a show that doesn’t quite gel
New York Times: The Broad Is an Old-Fashioned Museum for a New Gilded Age
Smithsonian: The Big Names of Art (and a Bit of the Unexpected) Debut at the Broad Museum in L.A

Front exterior and interior photos by Iwan Baan, courtesy of The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Photo with neighboring Disney Hall by Dyanne Weiss