The Reimagined Hammer Museum Opens
Right on Wilshire
25. March 2023
Hammer’s new entrance at Wilshire and Westwood (Photo Eric Staudenmaier, courtesy of the Hammer Museum)
Michael Maltzan Architecture led the two-decade-long transformation of the Hammer Museum on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The newly named Lynda and Stewart Resnick Cultural Center opens to the public on March 26.
Maltzan's firm expanded, renovated and transformed the museum's existing building at the corner of Wilshire and Westwood Boulevards, incorporating a new street level entrance at the prominent corner. With a greater presence across from the planned Metro station, the new entrance “announces the gateway to Westwood Village and UCLA,” according to the architect. The museum is part of the School of the Arts and Architecture at UCLA, whose collection occupies five galleries.
For its opening, the lobby incorporates a site-specific artwork by Chiharu Shiota from Japan. Maltzan’s new annex contains a gallery and outdoor sculpture terrace on the corner of Wilshire and Glendon, where Sanford Biggers’ tall sculpture, Oracle, is located. A new street-level gallery features Rita McBride’s Particulates.
Hammer Projects: Chiharu Shiota, Installation view, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, March 26 – August 27, 2023. (Photo: Jeff Mclane)
Maltzan has worked with the Hammer since 2000. In 2015 UCLA acquired the adjoining office tower, known as Oxy Tower, which allowed the Hammer to inhabit two additional floors. Since 2015 the Hammer has renovated its galleries, event spaces and restaurant; it added a new gallery and study center for works on paper; and it renovated its store. The museum has grown by 40,000 square feet, increasing gallery space by 60 percent.
“We had a clear vision of what the Hammer should become,” Maltzan said, “from the moment we began designing the master plan for what was then a cloistered, private museum of historic European painting.” The Hammer’s transformation began with expanding the program and opening up the museum designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes in 1990.
View of Hammer Museum at the intersection of Westwood Blvd. and Lindbrook Dr., with Oxy Tower at right and Kirkeby Building in the background at left. (Photo: King of Hearts/Wikimedia Commons)
Barnes designed the Armand Hammer Museum with John M.Y. Lee and Partners and Gruen Associates for the Occidental Petroleum Company and its founder, Armand Hammer, with a striking gray and white marble facade. The Kirkeby Building (1962, later the headquarters of Occidental Petroleum Company), designed by Claud Beelman, looms above the Hammer to the south.
In 2012, the museum's central courtyard was transformed into the Pritzker Family Commons and, in 2015, the John V. Tunney Bridge connecting the third-floor galleries was added. That same year, the Hammer signed a 99-year lease with UCLA for 40,000 square feet in the former Oxy Tower (Occidental Petroleum moved to Houston in 2014), which led to a new studio and terrace, a reimagined entrance on Lindbrook Drive, a renovated restaurant, the expansion and renovation of back-of-house spaces, a new gallery and study center, and a renovated Hammer Store.
Architect Michael Maltzan and Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin on the John V. Tunney Bridge. (Photo: Mark Hanauer, courtesy of the Hammer Museum)
A cylindrical, one-story-high column set into a concave fold in the pavement marks the corner. It supports the edge of a porch that has been carved out of the tower to provide a point of entry. One side of the entrance has a video wall for projecting artworks and information, while the other side is access to the lobby. Ramps, stairs, and an elevator around an elliptical information desk lead visitors to the galleries. Above the entrance outside is a large sign rising two floors, to the height of the adjacent Barnes building. With its expansion into Oxy Tower and new entrance at its base, the museum now fills an entire city block.