Los Angeles, CA


Like shooting stars against a night sky—or a glowing game of pick-up sticks—thin rods of white light dynamically charge the black-box auditorium of the Billy Wilder Theater in the Hammer Museum at UCLA. These LED rods, hovering beneath the ceiling with barely visible means of support, don’t literally move, yet they generate an immediate sense of velocity, as if streaking by. “The idea,” says the architect, Michael Maltzan, FAIA, “was to transport you experientially from the world outside, much as the old movie palaces did—but in a more contemporary way—before you’re spirited away by the film itself.”

The $7.5 million theater—named for the Academy Award–winning screenwriter and director of Sunset Strip and Some Like It Hot and made possible by a $5 million gift from his wife, Audrey Wilder—provides a cinematèque for UCLA’s Film & Television Archive. With cutting-edge as well as rare, archaic technologies, the 295-seat screening room presents the full historical range of motion pictures in the original formats: from silent footage with variable-speed projection to highly combustible nitrate film (requiring a fire-shuttered booth) and state-of-the-art digital video.

Capturing the spirit of movies, but without the clichés, Maltzan envisioned the theater’s radiating strips of light as a metaphor for film. But the screening room, which doubles as a lecture and small performance hall for the Hammer, is just one key and dramatic component in the architect’s larger, yet-unrealized master plan to remake and reprogram the museum’s entire 1990 Edward Larrabee Barnes–designed building.

To give the existing, “otherwise-opaque structure transparency and translucency, we had to make sense of the spaces without adding lots of signage,” says Maltzan. “The overall lighting scheme needed to provide the ‘breadcrumbs’ that guide you.” Working closely with lighting consultant Paul Zaferiou of Lam Partners to create stronger visual connections both internally and with the museum’s surroundings, the architect introduced daylight in key locations and developed a language of long, linear fluorescents, some behind glass, others in front of it, many in striped configurations. In the theater lobby, for example—a space dominated by lenticular photomurals of Wilder and his work—semirecessed, bare T6 fluorescent lamps without end caps (the contact pins lie on the back side of each tube) hover overhead like a procession of elegantly luminous railroad ties.

“You come from this regular pattern into the theater, where the lines of light seem to accelerate randomly through space,” as Maltzan describes them. Though he considered using neon here, Lam convinced him instead to install 3500K LED sticks, which come in 4- and 8-foot lengths and can be butted together end-to-end. With the LED dots diffused by a tubular, bullnosed acrylic casing, these glowing rods appear as pure, crisp lines of light. The advantages of LED over neon, explains Zaferiou, include easy installation, extreme light weight, low-voltage wiring, absence of buzzing or other noise, minimal maintenance, color consistency, and tube ends that appear as pure points of light. Also, he suggests, such innovative technology sends exactly the right message for a leading-edge venue.

Seemingly afloat, the 128 LED strips clip into almost invisible supports: thin struts, painted black, that stem 6 to 18 inches off the black walls and ceiling, virtually disappearing into darkness. (The fixtures are wired to remote transformers behind accessible wall and ceiling panels.) The luminous rods have a spectacular presence not only against the contrasting backdrop, but also above the seating’s deep-raspberry leather upholstery, chosen to evoke luxury in the spirit of great movie palaces.

Though the theater has a “supporting cast” of subtle yet purely practical lights—spot or accent fixtures for lecturers on stage, dimmable recessed halogen house lights, a motorized floodlight for the stage, as well as egress and emergency illumination—the real stars are the “flying” LED sticks. A dimming system for the various fixtures, programmed with 16 preset scenes, helps transform the space to its different uses and transitional modes or moods. But most dramatically of all, in the moments just before a screening begins, the LEDs, set on 12 dimmers at varying intensities, fade from front to back of the theater, “as if,” Zaferiou suggests, “sucking the light back into the projector.”



Hammer Museum
Ann Philbin, Executive Director
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
ph: 310.443.7000

Michael Maltzan Architecture
2801 Hyperion Avenue
Studio 107
Los Angeles, CA 9002
ph: 323.913.3098
fx: 323.913.5932

Design principal:
Michael Maltzan, FAIA

Project managers:
Stacy Nakano, Tom Goffigon

Senior technical coordinator:
Hiroshi Tokumaru

Design team:
Wil Carson, Wendi Gilbert, Nora Gordon, Sevak Karabachian, Yong Kim, Yvonne Lau, John Murphey, Edward Ogosta, Kyle Peterson, Nadine Quirmbach, Kurt Sattler, Krista Scheib, Jeff Soler, Owen Tang, Jessica Tracey, Yan Wang

Lighting designer
Lam Partners
84 Sherman Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
ph: 617.354.4502
fx: 617.497.5038

Paul Zaferiou

Senior Associate:
Jennifer Pieszak

Design architect and architect of record
Michael Maltzan Architecture

Structural engineer
John A. Martin & Associates
950 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015
ph: 213.483.6490
fx: 213.483.3084

MEP engineer
Innovative Engineering Group
14130 Riverside Drive
Suite 201
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
ph: 818.377.8220
fx: 818.377.8230

Building code and fire protection consultant engineer
Rolf Jensen & Associates
One Pointe Drive
Suite 210
Brea, CA 92821
ph: 714.257.3555

Roofing and Waterproofing Forensics
22765 La Palma Avenue
Yorba Linda, CA 92887
ph: 714.970.7400
fx: 714.970.7474

Hardware consultant
Finish Hardware Technology
12035 Saticoy Street
Suite F
North Hollywood, CA 91605
ph: 818.982.2102
fx: 818.982.5062

Communications technology consultant
Brooks Fleming Associates
144 S. First Street
Suite 200
Burbank, CA 91502
ph: 818.559.2205
fx: 818.559.2386

Construction cost management
C.P. O’Halloran Associates
Construction Cost Management
2659 Townsgate Road
Suite 213
Westlake Village, CA 91361
ph: 805.494.3703
fx: 805.497.7721

Acoustical engineer
Charles Salter & Associates
130 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94104
ph: 415.397.0442
fx: 415.397.0454

Specifications writer
C+C Consulting
John Carter
12526 Neon Way
Granada Hills, CA 91344
ph/fx: 818.360.7300

Signage and wayfinding
Biesek Design
2829 See Canyon Road
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
ph: 805.595.2640
fx: 805.595.7917

General contractor
Matt Construction
9814 Norwalk Boulevard
Suite 100
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
ph: 562.903.2277
fx: 562.903.2290

AV contractor
16751 Knott Avenue
La Mirada, CA 90638
ph: 714.367.2900
fx: 714.367.2910

Wil Carson
ph: 323.913.3098




Curtain fabric
Rose Brand – Theatrical Fabrics, Fabrications and Supplies

American Seating

Spinneybeck Volo perforated leather, custom-dyed pink

Lobby bench lenticular mural
Big 3D
Image courtesy Paramount Pictures

Lobby and vestibule mural
Gangi Studio
Images: courtesy June Newton and the Helmut Newton Estate; courtesy Norman Seeff

Lobby flooring
Epmar epoxy flooring 2901 (Sta-crete 2900 series 100% solids high gloss self-leveling epoxy coating) with stone tone wax

Stretch acoustical fabric walls

Perforated metal panels
Ceilings Plus

Main auditorium lights
iLight Technologiex Plexineon light strips

Main lobby lights
Nippo Electric Seamlessline T6 lamps

Recessed halogen and compact fluorescent downlights (theater and lobby)
Edison Price Lighting

Recessed rectangular halogen wallwashers(vestibules)
Kurt Versen

Track lighting (theater)
Lighting Services

Fluorescent cove uplight (lobby)

Box office
Se’lux recessed 4-inch-wide linear fluorescent with opal lens

Recessed linear fluorescent wallwasher
Focal Point

Wall recessed steplights (theater)

Theatrical motorized floodlight with optical zoom and color wheel
Robe ColorWash