Renzo Piano defends academy museum plans

Renzo Piano gestures as he talks in his Paris studio
Renzo Piano in the Paris studio of his firm, Renzo Piano Building Workshop in 2014.
(Christopher Hawthorne)

A few minutes after sitting down to talk with Renzo Piano in his large, airy Paris studio Tuesday, I asked the architect about the progress of the film museum he is designing for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wilshire Boulevard.

“The academy?” he asked. “Ha. The academy is a good story.

“Look, I know you don’t like that scheme,” referring to my recent coverage of the design.

“I don’t think it will be that bad,” he said with typical self-deprecation. “Actually, I’m struggling to do something good.”


He added, referring to his two recent gallery buildings for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, adjacent to the academy site: “Everything we’ve made at LACMA has been extremely complicated. From the beginning -- Eli Broad, Andrea Rich, Michael Govan coming. But you have to accept that. You have to hope.”

He said the museum’s spherical theater, the centerpiece of the design, was in part inspired by the geodesic domes of the inventor and polymath Buckminster Fuller.

The theater will be a success, Piano said, if it begins to look weightless and “dematerialize.”

Piano praised Kerry Brougher, who in April was named the film museum’s director, saying he had already helped make the design stronger.

Brougher, Piano said, has been traveling to the architect’s other office, in Genoa, Italy, to work with him on the academy plans.

“He often comes to Genoa. We look at films together,” Piano said. “We look at ‘Citzen Kane,’ we look at ‘Zabriskie Point.’ We talk about the essence of cinema, the technology of cinema, and all of that.”

Follow Christopher Hawthorne on Twitter @HawthorneLAT