Academy Museum of Motion Pictures / May Company Wilshire | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo courtesy the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures / May Company Wilshire

The former May Company Building on Wilshire Boulevard became the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 30, 2021! The high-profile museum is Los Angeles' newest landmark and it focuses on the complete history of moviemaking—an art form that continues to define the City’s identity around the world. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Project renovated the original portion of the May Company Building. It demolished the rear addition (Albert C. Martin, 1946) to make way for a 140-foot-diameter spherical addition of glass and steel. Often referred to as the "Death Star," the sphere was designed by architects Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali to house the museum's theater and viewing deck. 

The Historic Resources Group (HRG) monitored the massive, three-year adaptive reuse project and a preservation plan was implemented to support conformance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards in order for the Historic-Cultural Monument to retain its significance as a historic resource. HRG also reviewed construction plans, provided guidance, and worked to resolve code-related issues that could potentially impact the building’s character-defining features. Perhaps the Saban building’s most defining feature is its eye-catching four-story tower, which is comprised of over 300,000 gold glass mosaic tiles. These were carefully surveyed for areas of delamination and any damaged or missing historic tiles were replaced with custom tiles from the original family-owned manufacturer in Venice, Italy.

 Since its opening, the museum has made an immediate contribution to Los Angeles—helping to solidify Museum Row on the Miracle Mile as a major cultural institution and visitor destination.

The May Company Building, constructed in 1939, is a designated Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM #566), and all substantial changes were reviewed by the City of L.A.'s Office of Historic Resources.

The Conservancy recognized the Academy Museum’s stunning adaptive reuse project with a 2022 Preservation Award.

After decades as a premiere shopping destination, this unique landmark faced demolition in 1991 for a massive new development project. The building’s co-owner at the time, Forest City Development, submitted plans calling for its demolition, to be replaced by a new development comprised of a hotel, two office towers, retail uses, and underground parking.

The Conservancy worked closely with neighborhood residents and elected officials, culminating in the late Councilmember John Ferraro's influential support that led to the building's preservation.

The Conservancy had earlier attempted to nominate the building for Historic-Cultural Monument status in 1982, but the nomination had been tabled. The nomination was resubmitted with new information by the Conservancy in 1991 and was declared a landmark the following year.

Former Supervisor Ed Edelman worked with the May Company and the Museum Associates to acquire the building for LACMA. The building reopened as LACMA West in 1999.

The Conservancy submitted written comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for this project, strongly encouraging a project that meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. 

We worked closely with the project leadership to successfully resolve a number of issues, including maintaining the eligibility of the May Company Building for the National Register of Historic Places; the proposed signage program; and the potential to lose key elements of the historic building. 

In particular, we worked with the project team to make sure the building's original exterior cladding is retained and that significant elements of the Tearoom, one of the few remaining intact interior features, is preserved.