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Spring 2000

Swinging the Hammer
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Quote- "I see UCLA as one giant resource for the museum and vice versa."The 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 mentality.

"Maybe 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.

The Hammer's 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."

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