Eli Broad’s Victory Lap

A look at the impact of L.A.'s Broad Museum on Grand Avenue, just six weeks after opening. 

The Broad opened in downtown Los Angeles a mere six weeks ago, but the results have been astounding. Reservations are booked through January with 369,000 ticket requests in total to date; the formerly desolate area of Grand Avenue that felt like a studio back lot on weekends now swells with a chorus of children, culture vultures, and selfie sticks. So, Eli Broad can be forgiven for taking a victory lap—around his museum’s aesthetically imposing neighbor no less. Last night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Broad sat down with his lead architect Liz Diller of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro and Joanne Heyler, the director of his art foundation, to revel in the museum’s success at a conversation moderated by architectural critic Paul Goldberger.

Diller joked that they faced three challenges building the Broad: first, keeping the notoriously hands-on Eli happy; second, working to urbanize the arid stretch of Grand Avenue the museum sits above; and third, storing all that art. It was no easy feat; as Goldberg quipped, “warehouses are not generally seen as engines of urban renewal.” But that’s just what’s happened. Where once a severe street bridge dropped off to a parking lot below, now Brazilian and Chinese tourists mingle on an olive-tree lined plaza as they wait to see the collection. And while Walt Disney Concert Hall has always been a triumph of architecture, the crowds didn't arrive until the Broad’s opening. 

A lively Bunker Hill has long been more delusion than dream among L.A.’s civic leaders, resulting in a drastic midcentury act of “urban renewal” that cleared the historic neighborhood of its infamous Victorian mansions-turned-flophouses. But walking around these days, and it’s clear the comparatively compact Broad has achieved what all the monumental buildings around it never could: bring the people back.

As Heyler joked, the surest sign of success is the hot dog truck that has become a regular fixture outside the museum.