This spring UCLA’s Hammer Museum will come out of a major renovation project, refreshed, expanded, and more visible than ever. The transformative project began way back in 2000 with Michael Maltzan Architecture in on the ground floor—literally—since day one.
The Hammer Museum, under the purview of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, opened in 1990 and hosts a robust collection of contemporary works. Under this transformation the Los Angeles–based institution’s size will increase by 40,000 square feet, which equates to a 60 percent increase in gallery space. Upon its completion on March 26, 2023, the building will occupy an entire city block. This drastic increase in size builds upon the original Edward Larrabee Barnes–designed structure with the new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Cultural Center, a new entrance for the museum. Its expanded footprint also occupies ground and lower levels of the adjacent Occidental Petroleum Building, a midcentury office tower designed by architect Claud Beelman in 1962.
Since a master plan for the museum site was first envisioned, a number of projects and interventions have already completed. These include the Billy Wilder Theater (2006); the Pritzker Family Commons (2012), a public gathering space; the John V. Tunney Bridge, a connection point designed by Michael Maltzan that joined third floor galleries; the 2018 expansion into two floors of the adjacent midcentury office tower. The most recent projects created new gallery space, and delivered the Annenberg Terrace as well as an updated restaurant, staff offices, and new museum store.
“When we began collaborating with Michael Maltzan more than 20 years ago, he was an ‘emerging’ architect, so it has been a joy to work together and see him gain international acclaim for his work,” said Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin in a press release. “From the start, our goal was to make the Hammer into a welcoming, public-facing, university affiliated institution engaged with today’s art and artists and the urgent issues of our time.”
Named for The Wonderful Company co-owners and philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick, the building will accommodate a redesigned lobby made for hosting temporary installations and works. The project was supported by the Resnick’s $30 million gift—the largest in the institution’s history.
When this next phase concludes visitors will be ushered into the new Lynda and Stewart Resnick Cultural Center, an entrance marked by a one-story column with a stocky build inserted on top of a sunken barrier abutting Wilshire and Westwood boulevards. Discerning, bold graphics rendered in black and white flank the reimagined entryway. Although these are eye-catching, Maltzan says the hanging wall art within the lobby is the building’s “true facade.”
“Thanks to Ann Philbin and her team, we had a clear vision of what the Hammer should become, from the moment we began designing the master plan for what was then a cloistered, private museum of historic European painting,” Maltzan said. “That clarity sustained us through a process that demanded extraordinary persistence and inventiveness, because we needed to work in phases as we reshaped, reconfigured, opened, and expanded the Hammer. This was truly a case of building the airplane while you were flying it. I can’t think of any other client that would have had the daring and imagination to carry it off.”
While the bulk of the architectural work on the expanded and updated museum will conclude in March with the cultural center, new gallery space, and the addition of an outdoor sculpture garden, there are future plans to connect the new gallery space along Wilshire and Glendon boulevards, with the redesigned lobby. This transformation would create additional exhibition space spanning the length of the block.
As for the planned art, the lobby will display a work by Chiharu Shiota, while the ground floor gallery will show off Particulates by Rita McBride. The sculpture garden will host Oracle, a 25-foot-tall bronze sculpture by Sanford Biggers.
AN will follow up again at the Hammer Museum when the design and construction is complete.