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Hammer Museum Set For An Ambitious Michael Maltzan-Helmed Expansion

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It goes without saying that the Hammer Museum is a great museum. Though, some people take issue with the physical space. As noted by Christopher Hawthorne, the L.A. Times' sagacious architectural critic, the building is "a largely windowless box wrapped in bands of white and gray marble" and is "pushed awkwardly against the back of Claud Beelman’s 1962 Occidental Petroleum tower on Wilshire Boulevard."

Well, the museum's planners have heard the public complaints, and they're going to do something about it. The museum announced Thursday that it will undergo a four year plan to "completely reimagine the existing building." This includes adding 40,000 square feet in the adjoining office tower, as well as renovating some of the existing facilities. According to Hawthorne, UCLA purchased that adjoining tower for $92.5 million in 2015. The top 11 floors will be used by UCLA for administrative purposes, while the lower five will be taken up by the Hammer.

"This transformation will provide 60% more exhibition space including collection galleries and a works on paper gallery to highlight our growing collection of photographs and drawings," said Museum Director Ann Philbin in a statement.

Included in the project is a new museum store and bookshop. The store is anticipated to host readings and other public events. And it seems that another main objective is to make the building more engaging on the outside. As noted in a release, planners will be "increasing visibility of the museum with a dramatic new presence along a full city block of Wilshire Boulevard" and enhancing "20,000 square feet of community spaces to make the museum more accessible and inviting to both visitors and passersby."

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The overhaul will be helmed by architect Michael Maltzan, whose firm also worked on the museum's Billy Wilder Theater. The slew of upgrades is expected to be completed by 2020.

According to The Architects Newspaper, renovations for some of the galleries have already been completed, and will debut to the public this weekend with exhibitions from American sculptor Jimmie Durham and French painter Jean Dubuffet.