Courtesy of Annenberg Center for the Arts
It can take years to get a project off the ground in Hollywood. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.; 310-746-4000; thewallis.org) in Beverly Hills—after a series of stops and starts and 17 years in the making—proves just that, opening on October 17 with its own Hollywood unveiling. (Special guests include Robert Redford and Brad Pitt.)
The spectacular building encompasses the original Beverly Hills post office and a new 500-seat theater—all done by architect Zoltan Pali, who was brought in on the build in 2006 and talks here about what the project has meant to him.
Q: What about this was so challenging and time consuming?
A: Projects like these often take what appears to be some time because of a combination of things. I started working on the project in early 2006, and I must say that even though that seems like a bit of time, it really is not that unusual for cultural projects of this scale. Design was two years, construction was about the same and the entitlement process was about 18 months. There were some gaps in between all that for fundraising and other approvals.
Q: The history of its location is notable.
A: Pre-2006, it was imagined that the 1936 post office would be transformed into a 500-seat theater while adding a new wing for the studio theater, educational classrooms and administration components. It was my opinion that a better scenario would be to reverse that thinking and actually build a brand-new state-of-the-art theater south of the post office and utilize the post office itself for the [rest]. The 120-seat studio theater fit nicely into the original 1936 mail-sorting room, the classrooms fit nicely into the original loading dock and the administration fit nicely on the second floor, where the postal workers had offices and breakout areas. The old and the new are connected below ground and the basement is utilized for back-of-the-house facilities.
Q: What is your favorite area of the new space?
A: As the architect, it is difficult to answer—it is like asking what part of your child is your favorite part. However, gun to my head, the space along the pedestrian walkway between the old building and the new building is quite compelling to me. It feels very urban. You get the understanding of both buildings and read each one’s individuality and how they relate to each other.