The new Broad museum, though efficiently designed, really only comes alive on the periphery

A wall of glass peeks out from under the Broad museum’s honeycomb facade, a striking element on a stretch of Grand Avenue that also features Disney Hall. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It's a depressingly reliable fact of Los Angeles architecture: Nothing comes easily on Bunker Hill.

In the five decades since city planners radically remade Grand Avenue in a burst of urban-renewal ambition, demolishing its Victorian-era houses and apartment buildings and carving the hilltop into vast super-blocks, architects have struggled to make sense of its peculiar, wide-open scale, which can swallow subtlety whole.

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Arata Isozaki, Rafael Moneo and Wolf Prix are among the prominent architects to produce disappointing buildings along Grand. Even Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, ultimately a triumph, suffered agonizing delays and fundraising crises and took nearly 15 years to complete. 

Arata Isozaki, Rafael Moneo and Wolf Prix are among the prominent architects to produce disappointing buildings along Grand. Even Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, ultimately a triumph, suffered agonizing delays and fundraising crises and took nearly 15 years to complete. 

Arata Isozaki, Rafael Moneo and Wolf Prix are among the prominent architects to produce disappointing buildings along Grand. Even Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall, ultimately a triumph, suffered agonizing delays and fundraising crises and took nearly 15 years to complete. 

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

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An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

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An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

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An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

An efficient three-story box of exhibition and archive space wrapped in an eye-catching, bone-white honeycomb of fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels, it was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R for short), which won a small invited competition organized in 2010 by Eli Broad, the billionaire philanthropist and art collector.

Positioning that box at the top of Bunker Hill, though, was hardly simple. Grand's postwar makeover, faithful to the modernist planning dictates of the era, turned it into a street that operates for much of its length on two levels, with room for deliveries and parking below, on Lower Grand, and pedestrian and car traffic above. (Broad, founding chair of the MOCA board and major player in the extended Disney Hall drama, is as familiar with the complexity of that landscape as anyone.) Instead of rising directly from the corner of 2nd and Grand, the Broad bellies up to the existing bi-level roadway so that its lobby meets the sidewalk of Upper Grand.

Positioning that box at the top of Bunker Hill, though, was hardly simple. Grand's postwar makeover, faithful to the modernist planning dictates of the era, turned it into a street that operates for much of its length on two levels, with room for deliveries and parking below, on Lower Grand, and pedestrian and car traffic above. (Broad, founding chair of the MOCA board and major player in the extended Disney Hall drama, is as familiar with the complexity of that landscape as anyone.) Instead of rising directly from the corner of 2nd and Grand, the Broad bellies up to the existing bi-level roadway so that its lobby meets the sidewalk of Upper Grand.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

The result is a streamlined ratio of exhibition to ancillary space, something increasingly rare in an age of museum bloat. The Broad has 50,000 square feet of gallery space -- 35,000 on the third floor and 15,000 more on the first — in a building totaling 120,000 square feet. Renzo Piano's new Whitney Museum in New York has the same amount of interior exhibition space in a building covering 220,000 square feet.

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