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As L.A. Breaks Ground, the “Star Wars” Museum Comes Into Focus

By David K. Gibson


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L.A.’s Lucas Museum complex will feature 11 acres of parks and a rooftop green space.

Courtesy of MAD

L.A.’s Lucas Museum complex will feature 11 acres of parks and a rooftop green space.

Move over, Apple Mothership: George Lucas’s Museum of Narrative Art promises to be California’s spaciest edifice.

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There is good news for fans of narrative art, which may or may not involve warrior teddy bears from the forest moon of Endor. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has broken ground in Exposition Park in Los Angeles, and it promises to be an impressive and unapologetic monument to the form.

Narrative art, as the museum’s namesake explains it, is art that tells a story, and that includes painting, illustration, photography, film, animation, and digital art. The museum will be a “barrier-free” space that mixes “high” and “popular” art without prejudice, so that you’re likely to find a Renoir next to some Garfield comics, Warhol’s films next to Pixar’s, and the original Star Wars trilogy juxtaposed with the inferior prequels.

Perhaps more impressive than the mission will be the building itself. The 300,000-square-foot building, designed by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, will hover over a portion of the park like a giant space ship coming in to land. (Indeed, it looks like the love child of an Imperial Star Destroyer and a Nike Air Monarch, both of which are associated with Mr. Lucas.) Arches at ground level will allow Los Angelinos to walk along landscaped trails; 11 acres of gardens will replace two asphalt parking lots, and 2,425 parking spaces will move into an underground garage. Five levels up, the roof of the building will feature paths and greenery open to the air, although it is not yet officially known as the “Skywalk.”

The Lucas Museum’s cavernous main hall will lead to galleries, a research library, classrooms, and screening rooms.
In between, the $1 billion+ project will contain a gallery of nearly 100,000 square feet housing the $400 million art and memorabilia collections of Lucas and his wife, Mellody Hobson, as well as a research library, classrooms, lecture halls, and two theaters featuring daily screenings of films ranging from historically legendary to innovatively daring. The project is 100 percent privately financed, easily accessible from multiple public transportation lines, and the pricing for events is promised to be “free or affordable.”

Exposition Park is near hundreds of public schools in South Los Angeles, and the Lucas Museum plans extensive educational outreach. It is also, not coincidently, directly across the street from the University of Southern California, Lucas’s alma mater. This metaphoric space ship will also share the park with a very real one: the Space Shuttle Endeavour is one of the star attractions at the neighboring California Science Center.

The Lucas Museum is expected to open in 2021.
The museum complex will replace two asphalt parking lots with a 2,425-space underground garage.
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