The years-in-the-making Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center of California—or simply the Armenian American Museum—will at long last break ground this summer in Glendale. Situated on the eastern edge of Griffith Park in the Verdugo Mountains, the Los Angeles County city is home to the largest Armenian community in the region and among the largest overall in the United States outside of the former Soviet Union. In fact, residents of Armenian descent represent a demographic majority (roughly 40 percent of the population) in this bustling, LA-adjacent burg of over 200,000 people.
Because of Glendale’s status as the de facto capital of the Armenian diaspora in Southern California, it’s a fitting home for a landmark educational and cultural hub that celebrates the Armenian-American experience while honoring the 1.5 million lives lost in the Armenian Genocide.
“The highly anticipated groundbreaking of the Armenian American Museum represents a historic accomplishment for our community, and we believe it will be a symbol of hope and spirited resiliency for America, Armenia, and Artsakh during these challenging and unprecedented times,” said Berdj Karapetian, executive chairman of the Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center of California Board of Trustees, in a statement.
While the museum has been in the works since 2014 (the board of trustees was formally established a year later), a major milestone came in 2018 when Glendale City Council greenlit the design of the museum and approved a one-dollar-per-year ground lease agreement at the city-owned Glendale Central Park with an initial 55-year term with the option to extend up to 95 years. At the time, construction was expected to kick off in the summer of 2019 but was obviously delayed. According to the museum, the “refined museum building design” was approved just weeks ago, a move that officially kicked off the “historic groundbreaking” year.
Designed by Glendale-based Alajajian Marcoosi Architects (AMA), the 50,800-square-foot museum will rise in the southwestern corner of Glendale Central Park, a 1.7-acre green space in downtown Glendale that’s being dramatically revamped as part of an $18.5 million makeover and expansion project led by SWA Group. When complete, the refreshed park will be home to a number of new amenities including an amphitheater, a children’s play area and splash pad, and an expansive lawn linking the new museum to Glendale Central Library, a hulking 1973 Brutalist landmark renovated in recent years by Gruen Associates, on the northern end of the park. Per a press announcement, the museum and the city plan to collaborate on outdoor event programming once both projects are complete.
Situated atop a semi-subterranean parking garage, AMA’s monolithic bi-level museum complex is set to include permanent and temporary exhibition galleries on its upper level while the ground level will be home to an auditorium, demonstration kitchen, gift shop, learning center, and administrative offices. As noted by Urbanize LA, the cube-shaped structure’s distinctive facade is meant to evoke rock formations found in the Armenian Highlands.
According to the museum, cultural and educational programming will revolve around “producing and hosting powerful, immersive, and thought-provoking permanent and temporary exhibitions, leading meaningful dialogues and discussions through engaging public programs, providing educational programs for adults, youth, kids, and families, preserving Armenian heritage through the museum’s collections and archives, and serving as an iconic venue for memorable experiences, gatherings, and celebrations.”
Founding for the Armenian American Museum (not to be confused with the existing Armenian Library and Museum of American in Watertown, Massachusetts) has come from a variety of sources including grants and contributions secured as part of a $14 million Groundbreaking Campaign, $8 million in support from the State of California, and $1 million from Los Angeles County.