Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust | Belzberg Architects

Tucked underground in Pan Pacific Park in midtown Los Angeles, the 32,000-square-foot museum may be hardly noticeable to passersby. As part of the design strategy to bolster the visitor’s experience, the architect established a dichotomous relationship between the content of the interior and the light and idyllic atmosphere of the park. This relationship is meant to reinforce the notion of tolerance in a city defined by its diversity.

Exhibit walls do not touch the ceilings, and rooms are undivided. The mood changes dramatically as visitors move from the park to the entry ramp and begin their descent to the lobby. The underbelly of the formed concrete roof is exposed as it folds and compresses the space in response to the unsettling exhibits. As visitors reach the end of the chronologically organized exhibits, spaces open up again, allowing natural light to pervade the atmosphere and relieve the intensity of the journey. The museum reinforces the claim that the distance between normalcy and atrocity is indeed small.

The exhibits and displays were crucial to the design strategy. Rationalizing the geometry of the exhibits provided a severe contrast with the organic interior container and the display cases. The use of a black smooth finish juxtaposed against the rough exposed concrete heightens the intensity of the interior. Display cases perform a variety of other tasks, such as hiding the HVAC ducting and providing illumination of spaces.

The museum emerges from the landscape as a single sinuous concrete wall. The decision to submerge the museum allowed the park’s landscape to continue over the structure’s roof, with existing pathways morphing to connect both park users and museum visitors. The resulting pattern was then appropriated at a variety of scales, defining the building’s surface articulation as well as the paths that traverse its habitable roof. The building is LEED® Gold certified.

Additional Credit

  • Electrical Consultant: A&F Consulting Engineers
  • Engineer – Environmental: EnviroPro
  • Engineer – Mechanical: Dorius & Assoc.
  • Engineer – Methane: Carlin Environmental Consulting, Inc.
  • Engineer – Structural: William Koh and Associates
  • Geologist: Irvine Geotechnical
  • Plumbing Consultant: Tom Nasrollahi & Associates

Photo Credit

© Iwan Baan; Belzgerg Archtiects; Benny Chan

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust

Jury Comments

The simplicity of the material and boldness of form in this project create a deeply personal experience.

Architecture defines the interior, creating a strong synergy between the space, the interpretive displays, and the structure. You instantly understand the intention here, and it is meaningful and well considered.

The whole effect is enhanced by the gradients of the light, which are torqued and reflective on the interior of the space.

2014 Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture Jury

  • David Montalba, AIA, Chair
  • Montalba Architects, Inc.
  • Santa Monica, California
  • Casey Jones, Deputy Director
  • U.S. Department of State
  • Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Mary Morissette, AIA
  • 4M Design
  • Denver
  • Robert H. Quigley, AIA
  • Architectural Resources Cambridge
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Josh Shelton, AIA
  • El Dorado Inc
  • Kansas City, Missouri

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