The Architecture of Light at The Broad Museum in Los Angeles

How would you display one of the most coveted contemporary art collections of our time?

Eli and Edythe Broad, by now L.A.’s most famous art collectors, were so particular about how their art was to be displayed, they actually turned down just about every museum in town and commissioned their own $140-million museum by Diller Scofidio + Renfro:

The Broad Museum Downtown LA

The Broad Museum Downtown LA

When we visited The Broad last weekend, we realized that part of the reason might be how to display the art in the proper light.

Art is usually kept away from direct sun light to prevent damage.  Eli Broad knows this well: he once kept a van Gogh in a desk drawer so it wouldn’t get sun damaged.  But art shown under artificial light just looks different.  So The Broad employs a special architectural detail to show its art under perpetual indirect natural light.

Each of the openings in the ceiling and on the side of the museum, dubbed the “veil” by the architects, functions as a light cell, bringing in a small amount of natural light and casting it on a concrete surface:

Light Coming into The Broad

Light Coming into The Broad

The light from many such small concrete surfaces then add up to a bright but indirect light for the interior, dubbed the “vault”:

The Broad art space

The Broad art space

On the side of the museum, the light cells bring in the outdoor light with just glimpses of the outside world, instead of creating distractions to compete with the art:

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Seen from the outside, the museum may look like a bold gesture for the revitalization of downtown Los Angeles, especially next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall:

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But in fact, it is actually a perfected machine for showcasing art in the best light, thus fulfilling the Modernist creed of “Form Follows Function” to a T.

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Have any of you been to The Broad?  If so, we’d love to hear what you thought!  If not, get free tickets to The Broad by clicking here.

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