Famed Frenchman chosen to design AMPAS museum

Facility will be in heart of H'wood

French architect Christian de Portzamparc has been chosen by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to design its Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, to be built in Hollywood.

De Portzamparc is known for such projects as Paris' Cite de la Musique, a museum and concert hall, and the Cafe Beaubourg, near the Centre Pompidou, as well as the French Embassy in Berlin.

He also is responsible for New York's LVMH Tower, the Moet Hennessy-Louis Vuitton headquarters, which was inspired by a collection of perfume bottles.

De Portzamparc was lauded as "a gifted composer using space, structure, texture, form, light and color all shaped by his personal vision" when he was awarded the Pritzker Prize, architecture's highest honor, in 1994.

The Academy Museum, which will include multimedia displays and a theater, will be located south of Sunset and Vine on a two-block, eight-acre site bounded by Delongpre and Fountain on the north and south and Cahuenga/ Ivar and Vine to the west and east. The Academy's Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study is now located on the site, and it will be incorporated into the overall plan, which will include campus-like green space as well as a number of buildings that have not yet been determined. (Currently, the Academy has assembled all but one parcel of land at the location.)

Set amid an area that is undergoing rapid redevelopment, the site is near the Cinerama Dome and looks north toward the Hollywood Sign.

Speaking by phone from New York, de Portzamparc explained that he has always felt there was a relationship between architecture and cinema, since both involve a participant moving through time to discover a new place. "The movies taught a lot to me about this art of time, this art of traveling," he said. "I'd like to contribute to this extraordinary legend of Hollywood and the movies. It is very, very exciting."

He said that he hopes the completed museum "will welcome both a large public but also people who are very fond of movies and knowing a lot about them."

The selection of de Portzamparc's Paris-based firm, formally known as Atelier Christian de Portzamparc, was approved by the Academy's board of governors based on the recommendations of its Architect Selection Subcommittee, chaired by Academy member Jeannine Oppewall.

In searching for an architect, the Academy didn't hold a formal competition. Instead, it considered a a number of architects — Los Angeles' Frank Gehry was among those mentioned — before meeting with a number of them to discuss the Academy's goals and to get to know the architects, their working processes and their design teams.

"We saw much of Christian's work," said Academy president Sid Ganis, who visited the architect's workshop in Paris along with other members of the committee, "and I can tell you that, personally, the building that took my breath away was the French Embassy in Berlin."

De Portzamparc hasn't yet begun to draw up formal plans, saying that the committee "wanted more to discuss about the way we would be working, the type of thinking we have about architecture, the way my team is working. The people at the Academy are so passionate about their subject that it is going to be a very interactive process."

As he and his team, some of whom will relocate to Los Angeles, begin work on the project, de Portzamparc also will be collaborating with Gallagher & Associates, the firm that has been chosen to design the museum's exhibits detailing the history and processes of filmmaking, and E. Verner Johnson and Associates, the site's master planners.

The Academy is planning to begin fundraising efforts next year — an overall budget has not been announced — with an eye toward breaking ground in 2009. Also on the schedule is finding and naming a museum director.

In addition to Ganis and Oppewall, the committee consisted of Academy members Charles Bernstein, Arthur Cohen, Arthur Hamilton, Curtis Hanson, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Pierson, Robert Rehme and Steven Spielberg.