Swinging the Hammer
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possibilities lurking in the Hammer's capacious but half-baked physical
plant (what she calls its "great bones" ) combined in
Philbin's mind with the possibilities offered by the museum's relationship
with a university of UCLA's caliber. They also mixed with the possibilities
of Los Angeles itself, with its expanding art scene and its anything-goes
the reason I think I can pull this off is that I don't really understand
L.A.," says Philbin, only half-jokingly and a bit modestly.
Her openness to the city and its art scene are, to say the least,
refreshing; she has not come here full of the usual East Coast gotta
oughtas-although her ideas for the Hammer makeover do not exactly
configure the place as your usual Los Angeles drive-by theme park.
The European coziness of Westwood Village, already recrudescing
after a dismal double-decade of decline, suggests to Philbin the
physical role the Hammer can play: an urban nexus, a meeting place,
a town square of sorts or a park where art and architecture provide
the shade and sustenance.
courtyard design suggests just this role for the museum. All the
handsome square needs is a restaurant, an auditorium, a bookstore
and plenty of seats. Certain of these requisites are already in
place. The Hammer's bookstore happens to be one of the most substantial
museum stores in town. Right now it's on the top floor; Philbin
wants to move it to plaza level. Already on that level is a sizeable
amphitheater, perfect for large public lectures, screenings and
other performances. One catch: There aren't any seats, walls or
other facilities for making the space functional, much less presentable.
When Hammer orphaned his museum, the auditorium was one of the main
casualties of the resulting budget cutbacks. But Philbin is eagerly
bringing the lost facility to life. "I think I decided on the
job when I walked into the auditorium," she recalls. "The
possibilities seemed endless."