The Marciano Art Foundation

The invitation to convert a historic masonic temple into a new private museum was an unprecedented opportunity to create a playground for contemporary art. The result is a dreamlike yet strategically designed environment that preserves the idiosyncrasies and integrity of the original building. The spaces are ideally suited for immersive installations and ambitious exhibitions, and lofty exhibition halls intersect with smaller, more intimate spaces characterized by surprising detailing and glimpses into the building’s past.

Key info
Design Architect
Executed by WHY Architecture Workshop Inc.
Los Angeles
  • Completed 2017
  • 100,000 sq. ft.; Site: 1.56 acres
Architect, Landscape Designer, Furniture and Object Designer

WHY and the client reviewed numerous sites together before discovering the deserted masonic temple in Hancock Park; an extraordinary building originally designed in 1961 by the architect and artist Millard Sheets, former director of the Otis Art Institute. The high-ceiling rooms, wide-span structures, and expansive, windowless wall spaces meant that the building was ideal for an art space. Sheets himself had conceived of the building as a type of “city” – a vast, interconnected environment of strange contradictions and infinite possibility.

"I felt that Los Angeles didn’t have anything like this and there should be something that people would look at with a different view… I felt if we could get some sense of bigness of spirit, it would be exciting."

Millard Sheets
Original architect

Rather than gutting the building and starting from scratch, WHY’s intention was to preserve and amplify the structure’s characteristic features through a process of acupuncture architecture – rejuvenating the building with a series of careful and localized architectural interventions. The exterior integrity of the building is maintained, restoring the Italian marble cladding, the grand mosaic on the east wall, and the eight travertine sculptures of Masonic figures. Meanwhile, the building is strengthened from within through a series of treatments and system upgrades; the interior circulation has been sensitively reconfigured to allow for ease of navigation, and the introduction of new walls, ceilings and lighting systems adapt the building for its new role.

A variety of exhibition spaces, from the very large to the more intimate, provide the Foundation with a flexible environment for exhibitions of a single artist’s work, parallel exhibitions, and special events. In the main galleries, the bones of the building are dramatically revealed, whereas more enclosed spaces maintain the original details and motifs revealing the traces of the building’s past. A café and lounge with WHY-designed bookshelves provides a space to relax, and outdoor spaces have been reconfigured to connect the building to is surrounding urban environment.

“Yantrasast’s careful devotion to coaxing the past lives out of this building—rather than gutting it until nothing remained but a shell—is exactly why Maurice Marciano wanted the architect for the job.”

Carolina Miranda
The Los Angeles Times
Structural Engineer
  • Kurt Fischer Structural Engineering
MEP Engineer
  • AME Design Group Inc.
Civil Engineer
  • KPFF Consulting Engineers
Lighting Consultant
  • Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design
Acoustical Consultant
  • Newson Brown Acoustics, LLC
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