There’s a Huge New Museum Coming to Downtown LA, and Eli Broad Isn’t Involved

The new Old Bank District Museum. Couortesy Tom Wiscombe Architecture.

Los Angeles-based property developer Tom Gilmore and the architect Tom Wiscombe are planning a vast new museum in Downtown LA to showcase contemporary art by LA-based artists. The institution, tentatively dubbed the Old Bank District Museum—after the area in which it’s located—will stretch across three linked buildings on Main and Fourth streets, and will include a rooftop sculpture garden, the Architects Newspaper reports. A large portion of the exhibition spaces will be located in the refurbished buildings’ basements and sub-basements.

“It will be an underground museum in every sense of the word,” Gilmore told the Architects Newspaper, referring to the project as “insanely organic.” He added: I want to lock in the context, not let it be destroyed in favor of commerce.”


A rendering of the interior of the Old Bank District Museum.
Courtesy Tom Wiscombe Architecture.

Per the museum’s location in the Bank District, its basement spaces will incorporate more than a half-dozen bank vaults, while the restoration will preserve details like pneumatic delivery tubes and submarine doors. The institution will be spread over the Bank House Garage, the Farmers and Merchants Bank, and the Hellman Building. The roof garden’s first sculpture, created by the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)—where Wiscombe teaches—will be a steel structure inspired by Lebbeus Woods (who, incidentally, is the subject of a fascinating show at New York’s Drawing Center that closes Sunday).

As far as how and when the institution will get built, the process of creating a museum board has not yet begun, but Gilmore and his partner Jerri Perrone will fund its initial construction. Demolition inside the buildings is due to begin in July 2014, with construction getting underway in 2015, and completion slated for 2017. Plans for the museum show it occupying the bottom and top levels of the three buildings, with no specific plans outlined for the many floors in between, but given Gilmore’s day job—his website boasts “Gilmore has been a driving force in the redevelopment of Los Angeles’ urban spaces and a major catalyst for Downtown’s revival and great residential boom”—high-end condos seem like a safe bet.

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