Courtyard bridge by Michael Maltzan to open at Hammer in February

Michael Maltzan builds a bridge for the courtyard at the Hammer Museum in Westwood

A new pedestrian bridge by architect Michael Maltzan that crosses the courtyard of the Hammer Museum will open early next year, officials said Wednesday, and will connect the most trafficked galleries to those that new visitors are most likely to miss.

The 33.5-foot bridge will probably open for use at the beginning of February, the Westwood museum said. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 24.

"We have long wanted a bridge built to improve the flow of our space and connect the permanent and temporary galleries," Hammer Director Ann Philbin said. She added that the bridge will help new visitors find their way to the permanent collection gallery.

The bridge is also a piece of art unto itself, Philbin said. Made of steel painted white, it's pinched at its center and flared at the ends, punctuated by lines of open circles.

"This building is very right-angled and this bridge has two beautiful, graceful curves that are just a wonderful punctuation and really soften this place," Philbin said.

The bridge is named after the former chairman of the Hammer's Board of Directors, John V. Tunney, who stepped down after two decades of service.

Maltzan has been collaborating with the Hammer since 1999 on projects such as the museum master plan, the museum cafe and the 300-seat Billy Wilder Theater.

"He knows this institution and building intimately," Philbin said. "The bridge design speaks to the architecture and enhances it in a way that is beyond just function."

A bridge has been discussed for more than a decade but was never a top priority. Tunney's departure prompted the museum to move forward.

"A bridge is the perfect metaphor for the role that Tunney played for two decades," Philbin said. "He was a consummate diplomat -- literally a bridge-builder between the entities that exist here."

The bridge will lead to the Armand Hammer permanent collection and a temporary gallery that doesn't get as much attention as the main temporary galleries across the courtyard.

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