Renzo Piano's vision for the Academy Museum will revitalize the historic May Company building on Wilshire, return it to its status as a landmark for the city, and helps establish Miracle Mile as a cultural center in Los Angeles. The design for the Academy Museum fully restores the historical building on Wilshire and Fairfax and includes a soaring spherical addition—housing a 1000-seat, state-of-the-art theater and terrace—at the northern end of the original building. Designed to represent the marriage of art and technology, the addition will house the Museum's state-of-the-art premiere-sized theater as well as a spectacular roof terrace with expansive views of the city.
"The design for the museum will finally enable this wonderful building to be animated and contribute to the city after sitting underutilized for so long. I am very inspired by the Academy's mission, and the idea of the arts and sciences working together to create films. Our design will preserve the Wilshire May Company building's historic public profile while simultaneously signaling that the building is taking on a new life—a life that celebrates both the industry and art form that this city created and gave to the world."
Restoring and Preserving the Wilshire May Company Building
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will reimagine one of Los Angeles' most iconic and important landmarks—the celebrated Wilshire May Company building.
Opened in 1939 and designed by Albert C. Martin and Samuel A. Marx, this landmark was once one of Los Angeles' leading department stores. Its prominent cylindrical gold tower signaled the western entrance to the Miracle Mile shopping district. In 1946, a northern annex, also designed by Martin and Marx, was added to the Wilshire May Company building.
The façade of the original Wilshire May Company building is a perfect example of the Streamline Moderne style of architecture that emerged during the 1930s. This architectural style emphasized aerodynamic elegance, curving forms, long horizontal lines, and the simplifying of Art Deco ornamentation.
The design of Streamline Moderne buildings conveyed movement and innovation and drew inspiration from the industrial, scientific, and technological innovations of the time: modern age transportation modes such as airplanes, trains, and ocean liners, and cost-effective industrial materials like glass, cement, and steel.
In 1992, the original façade of the Wilshire May Company building was designated a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (#566). The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will serve as a vital preservation and adaptive reuse initiative that will restore the façade to its Streamline Moderne splendor.
The Academy has a history of building preservation and adaptive reuse projects.