Los Angeles’s newest contemporary art museum, the Broad, sits across the street from Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Few buildings could be expected to rival the space-age angles of Gehry’s iconic 2003 structure, but the Broad certainly tries, presenting itself as a work of art on par with the contemporary masterpieces it was built to house.
When it opens on September 20, the Broad will become the city’s second richest museum behind the Getty—its endowment of $200 million is more than the endowments of the neighboring Museum of Contemporary Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art—as well as the latest edition to the developing downtown arts district. Commissioned by the billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, the $140 million museum will showcase and store the couple’s more than 2,000-piece collection.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York architecture firm best known for the High Line in Manhattan and the Contemporary Institute of Art in Boston, designed the 120,000-square-foot museum with the dominating Walt Disney Hall in mind. In contrast to Gehry’s smoothly curved titanium panels, which make up a haphazardly layered, extroverted facade, the Broad is solidly square with an asymmetric base and a matte exoskeleton of an exterior made of fiberglass-reinforced concrete. The honeycomb facade diffuses natural light inside the building and compliments the skylights on the roof while keeping the Broad’s considerable collection of post-war art safe from overexposure.
The cavernous lobby, finished with undulating walls, is stark, with attention directed toward a massive escalator that takes visitors up to the third floor gallery, the museum’s main exhibition space.
On their way out, visitors descend through a staircase that was constructed so that works stored in the museum’s central vault can be glimpsed—a tease to inspire future visits and reveal the extent of the Broads’ collection.
Christopher Hawthorne, the architecture critic at The Los Angeles Times, finds the museum’s “veil and vault” design—referring to the “veil” of the external honeycomb and the “vault” of the building’s central storage and administrative areas—“perfectly clear, if rather prescriptive.” The Broad, he says, is “a far more rational and constrained building than it initially appears.” However, Hawthorne commented that the museum’s design has personality on the periphery: in the museum’s glass elevator, in the small gallery adjacent to it, and in the delicately lifted edges of the building’s facade.