In 2013, the Marciano Art Foundation (MAF) selected the architectural firm wHY to transform a deserted Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California into a new center for contemporary art. With more than 100,000 square feet of space, the building was originally designed by Millard Sheets in 1961.
The building’s unique characteristics allow for exhibitions in a variety of both traditional and unconventional exhibition spaces, as it was the Foundation’s intent to maintain and preserve Sheets’ original architectural design and layout as much as possible.
In addition to the various interior gallery spaces, the Marciano Art Foundation also features climate-controlled art storage, a bookstore, a café, an outdoor sculpture garden and on-site parking.
Dedicated to the presentation and production of contemporary art, the 110,000 square foot building is conceived as an ‘Art Playground’, an interconnecting and flexible environment that balances the unique integrity of the historic building while tailoring it to support the Foundation’s mission.
wHY’s intention was not to re-design or alter the building but to preserve and safeguard it for many years to come through extensive waterproofing, hazardous material abatement and building system upgrades. For the grounds and parking in the rear, a contemporary reinterpretation of the historic landscape — a process closely involving the planning commission and other agencies of the City of Los Angeles — gives Marciano Art Foundation a dynamic street presence and urban life.
Once inside, visitors feel transported back in time as a result of the meticulously restored historic architecture — its original features, motifs and details. At the same time, a fresh and vibrant ambiance is created through the introduction of new walls, ceilings and lighting systems to make perfect spaces for contemporary art.
A variety of exhibition spaces, from the very large featuring exposed structure to the more intimate, provide the Foundation with a flexible environment for exhibitions of a single artist’s work, numerous exhibitions at one time, or special events. wHY’s strategic design synthesizes the variety of spaces throughout with the final addition of a wHY-designed café/lounge and bookshelves.
wHY’s 25-person team, led by founder and creative director Kulapat Yantrasast and managing principal Misa Lund, encompasses architects, landscape designers, makers and strategic thinkers, who work as four independent yet interconnected workshops — 1) ideas, 2) buildings, 3) grounds and 4) objects.
With offices in Los Angeles and New York City, wHY’s team members and network of experts share a commitment to collaboration and approaching projects from many different angles to deliver holistic, sustainable solutions across scales. The firm’s projects strive to convey clarity of thought and attention to detail with an openness and flexibility for the making of a dynamic experience.
All photos ©Yoshihiro Makino.