Museum architect Zoltan Pali no longer on the project, academy says


Zoltan Pali, one of the architects hired to work on the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences’ future museum, has left the project, the academy has confirmed.

Pali, of the Culver City firm SPF:a, had been working with Italian architect Renzo Piano, who remains on the job at the site of the former May Co. building on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus.

The academy is scheduled to break ground on the $300-million museum later this year, with a planned opening in 2017. The 290,000-square-foot space will include galleries and movie theaters devoted to the art of cinema.


In a statement, the academy couched the move as standard procedure on a large architectural project.

“There is nothing unexpected or untoward about the transition currently taking place within the Academy Museum’s design team,” the statement said. “As is customary with projects of this nature as they move closer to a final design, we are engaging an executive architecture firm to realize the vision created by the primary architects, Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali. This being the case, Pali will now be stepping back from the project. Pali has been an instrumental part of the design team from its inception and we thank him for his incredible creative ingenuity, hard work, and dedication. Moving forward, the executive architectural design firm will be responsible for creating the detailed construction drawings as the project prepares for groundbreaking.”

The academy has not named the executive design firm it plans to hire.

Pali, who recently transformed the Beverly Hills Post Office into the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, was already working on a renovation of the 1939 May Co. building when the academy decided to place its long-discussed movie museum there in 2012, and brought on Piano, a Pritzker Prize winner.

Piano and Pali would seem to have been an ideal partnership -- Pali was such a fan of Piano’s work, he named a son after him.

But last week the Architect’s Newspaper reported on rumors that Pali was being quietly removed from the project, and over the weekend, the Hollywood Reporter said the two architects had clashed.


Neither Pali nor Piano could be reached for comment.

Some in the architecture world have panned Piano’s early renderings for the museum, which include a 1,000-seat dome-shaped theater he calls “the spaceship.”

Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne called the theater “an oversized bauble that looks as if it’s just touching down for a short stay.”

“As a piece of urban design, the theater is trapped in a kind of retro-futuristic limbo, with little to say about contemporary Los Angeles,” Hawthorne said, in a scathing review of Piano’s plans.

The museum, which the academy had been discussing for decades, is a high priority for the more than 6,000-member group of movie industry artists and professionals.

“We are moving along, picking up speed,” academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said of the project in an interview in February. “It’s taken us very far to have an actual physical space to discuss the future and the plans through the next four years.”

In April, the academy named Kerry Brougher, who spent 14 years as a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, as the museum’s director.

Last week it renewed the three-year contract of academy CEO Dawn Hudson, who has played a key role in the development of the project, including advocating for Piano.