The 14,000 sf Billy Wilder Theater is the first phase of a larger master plan which transforms the existing Edward Larabee Barnes-designed UCLA Hammer Museum into a cultural “living-room” for the city, creating an animated destination that is distinct in its iconography, materiality, and use, and yet also integrated into the larger context of the museum.


The Billy Wilder Theater serves both the Museum and the UCLA Film and Television Archive—the needs of each contributing to the creation of a space which meets the highest standards for film and video projection. It is one of few facilities nationwide in which it is possible to project historic nitrate cellulose films. The Museum also supports a wider range of use including performance art, readings, and lectures. The theater includes a green room, extensive back-of-house spaces, a deep, flexible stage, and lighting capable of supporting the diversity of uses anticipated for the facility.


The theater lobby links the Hammer’s central courtyard and the Lindbrook Avenue entry to the North, creating a destination along the path of movement extending from the city through the Museum. Within the lobby, visitors move along a fifty foot panoramic image referencing one of Wilder’s most iconic films, Sunset Boulevard. The mural’s lenticular surface forms a shifting moiré of hue and image, animating the lobby as guests traverse its length. Near the theater entrance, the mural’s form slips through an adjacent wall, creating an alcove in which to gather before and after performances. Super-scaled photographs of Billy and Audrey Wilder anchor the lobby to the north and west, transforming as visitors approach their pixelated surfaces.


The theater itself is integrated into this continuous narrative, linked visually to the foyer through a series of transparent full-height glass partitions. Long LED light strips beckon theatergoers toward the stage, tracing a space of movement that envelopes the audience. Beneath the suspended light array, the intense raspberry-pink of the seats and floor offers a saturated luxuriousness, creating a dynamic, charged atmosphere. A single silver seat, “Billy’s Chair,” marks the place Wilder himself would traditionally sit during screenings. As visitors emerge from the theater, the mural of Sunset Boulevard opens before them in its entirety, the panoramic narrative extending with them as they continue on into the Museum or out into the city.

LOCATION / Los Angeles, California
TYPE / Film Theater & Performing Arts Facility
SIZE / 14,000sf
STATUS / Completed 2006
ROLE / Design Architect & Architect of Record
COST / $7.5 million
AWARDS / AIA Los Angeles Design Citation, 2007