The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, opened in 2021, is the most important cinema museum in the world.
Situated on the famous "Miracle Mile" In Los Angeles, the museum has restored and revitalised the former May Company warehouse (built in 1939) and renamed it the Saban Building. The architect Renzo Piano has designed this entire area as a place that transmits a sensation of travelling in time and space, as this is what people go to the cinema for. This is also why the museum felt it was important to keep the Saban Building as it represents an idea of the future that people may have had, back in 1929. This sense of the past is then joined to the startlingly contemporary forms of the Sphere Building that evoke the shapes of the airships that landed here back in the early 1900s when the area was an airfield.
To conserve the historic value of the former May Company Building and with new functions and possibilities in mind, Renzo Piano chose to remove the 1946 additions to the building and replace them with a spherical structure that houses the 1,000-seat David Geffen Theatre and the Dolby Family Terrace with its spectacular Hollywood views.
The complex now encompasses 4,700 sqm of exhibition space, two theatres, an open air plaza, a roof terrace, an education studio, a restaurant and retail areas.
The Motion Pictures Academy, the organisation that manages the Oscar Award ceremony every year, owns a collection of over 13 million items ranging from film scripts to photographs, costumes, storyboards and film sets that are displayed mainly inside the Saban Building.
The design of the artificial lighting was extremely complex as it involved illuminating environments with very different architectural features, functions and natural light input. Inside the glass part of the Sphere Building, for example, 55 units of Woody luminaires have been used. These are fitted with standard optics, and special coupling systems have been designed that respect the curve of the sphere’s metal structure while creating homogeneity on the ground and the right lighting and highlighting for filming social events.
An element that unifies the interiors and exteriors is the so-called “Jelly Jar”. This luminaire, created specifically for this project, is inspired by an industrial-style emergency lamp that has been adapted to create the type of effect desired by Renzo Piano.
With a concentrated optic only in the central part of the optical assembly, the luminaire is effective and extremely easy to adjust so it suits the locations in which it is installed.
The Jelly has been used in the exteriors on the double ramp of stairs located on the two sides of the theatre and, at night, the luminaire has a distinctive industrial site style.
The Jelly Jars pinpoint the stairs and inside, the four balconies in the auditorium. They succeed in creating a very soft and “confidential” light reminiscent of the lamps located inside historic theatres like La Scala. In the entire site, including interiors and exteriors, there are approximately 350 Jelly Jars.
In the auditorium, the effect of the Jelly Jars is combined with a coloured effect created by Trick luminaires that are positioned horizontally at 180° and project lines of blue light under the screen and all around the auditorium. In the film theatre, to indicate and illuminate the steps, Orbit luminaires have been fitted into the base of the Frau armchairs.
Going back to the outside, an extremely uniform effect has also been obtained at the base of the David Geffen Theatre - this is a highly visible part of the structure that welcomes guests - and also adds to the large glass sphere’s sense of levitation. Approximately 170 recessed Orbit luminaires have been used with an 80 mm diameter and a wide flood optic that creates a homogeneous effect on the ceiling, while ensuring guests are not dazzled as the luminaires are deeply recessed.
In the exhibition areas that are all located in the Saban Building, Le Perroquet luminaires have been used with different coupling systems. The most complicated challenge was the elevator zone, where pendant Le Perroquet luminaires run along the entire height of the building. These Le Perroquet luminaires are in such a high position that their attachments had to be “secured” with other horizontal cables that limit their movements in the event of an earthquake. This space also displays “Bruce”, the last model left of the shark used for Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie “Jaws”. A popular exhibit that also required new luminaire positions and specific coupling systems to be designed.
For the exterior façade of the Saban Building, a decision was made to highlight the large golden cylinder located on the corner of the building as well as the golden line that stretches right along the building. To achieve this, iPro projectors were used with a 9° optic and a white visor.
The building is part of an area that Renzo Piano had already worked on when he designed the extension, completed in various stages, of the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts (LACMA). A project that iGuzzini also worked on between 2003 and 2010.
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