Academy Museum of Motion Pictures | SPF:architects
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Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Movies are the world’s most popular form of visual art and they captivate us like no other creative medium can. They inspire and challenge us to see each other and the world in different and meaningful ways—often crossing ethnic, political, geographic and socioeconomic lines to do so. And yet in Los Angeles, the movie-making capital of the world, no museum had been dedicated to preserving, presenting, and celebrating this influential art form. We collaborated with the Renzo Piano Building Workshop on the early design of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in hopes of filling this void. The project would take the LA County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) old, underused May Company building and revitalize it into a modern museum dedicated to film.

A Change to the Regularly Scheduled Program

The museum would become a dynamic hub for the film community, establishing a locus where professionals and movie fans could interact and explore different facets of cinema.

The program would include permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, screening rooms, event spaces, library, café, bookstore, design store, video labs, study centers, art handling and curatorial offices, a rooftop terrace, and a landscaped public piazza that would serve as a gathering space for visitors and connect the museum with the LACMA campus. Beyond this, and unique to the museum, would be a premier-level 1000-seat theater, called Filmscape.


The Filmscape would provide a new kind of movie-going experience, one with no separation between wall and screen, where the audience can be truly enveloped in film. This multi-story, immersive space would provide filmmakers with an innovative medium to explore time, space, form, and content in unexpected ways. The theater would not be a place to passively sit and watch a film, rather a place to come into contact with the content, artifacts, and technology of film. The experience would be realized through a varied set of technologies, including LED lighting programmable to form low-resolution displays covering large areas, state of the art OLED screens, as well as traditional projection technology. As displayed through this concept, the science and mechanics of light and cinema would be exposed.

The Gown

On the exterior, the new design scheme would respect the historic façade of the May Company, a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, recognized as one of the finest examples of the streamline modern style of architecture that emerged during the 1930s.

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Our collaboration went through the design development phase, and we additionally addressed infrastructure upgrades, programmatic area designs, circulation, an FF&E package, and exterior upgrades. As communicated by the client, our design was efficient, logical, cost-effective, and well-planned for a 20-year life.

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  • AIA|LA Presidential Honor Award, Building Team 2021
  • Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Awards, Museum 2016