The Main is a new non-collecting museum under construction across three buildings in Downtown Los Angeles, with the historic Hellman building as the anchor. The Main will continue to open in phases over the coming years, unveiling new spaces in its nearly 100,000-square-foot complex. In its current phase of development, The Main is collaborating with Downtown Los Angeles–based architecture firm Land Office, led by Nora Gordon, AIA.
Opened October 2016
In October 2016, The Main opened Beta Main as a space to present public exhibitions and programs while the rest of the museum is under construction. True to its name, Beta Main is a site for testing and learning in anticipation of the creation of The Main. The 3,500-square-foot space features 15-ft high ceilings, original column and tile work from the early 1900s, and windows looking out to 4th Street, and is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday when exhibitions are on view (check current open hours here) with free admission.
- Opening date: October 30, 2016
- Gallery square footage: 3,500
- Studios and office square footage: 1,800
- Phase 1 total square footage: 5,300
Phase 2: Artist-in-Residence Complex, Mezzanine Gallery, and Staff Offices
Opened February 2018
Phase 2 of the museum included the build-out of an artist studio complex featuring five studio spaces and a communal area for The Main’s Artist-in-Residence program, converting the mezzanine into a large gallery space, and converting a new space for the staff offices.
Artist-in-Residence Studios: Central to The Main’s mission is to support Los Angeles art and artists, the most direct way of doing this is through the development of its Artist-in-Residence program. The museum expanded the program by constructing a dedicated complex on the first floor with five new studios and communal spaces.
Mezzanine Gallery: Above the new first-floor studio complex is a 2,750-square-foot mezzanine gallery. The museum transformed space on the mezzanine level into an open-plan gallery with concrete floors, open ceilings, original intact brick walls, and 40 feet of glass windows overlooking the first-floor gallery. The new mezzanine gallery is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday when exhibitions are on view (check current open hours) with free admission.
Staff Offices: The museum’s offices, expanding to accommodate the museum’s growing staff, are in an area adjacent to the mezzanine gallery.
- 5 new Artist-in-Residence studios
- New mezzanine gallery square footage: 2,750
- New artist studio complex square footage: 2,000
- New staff offices and other space square footage: 3,000
- Phase 2 total square footage (includes converting some space from Phase 1): 7,750
- Total square footage open after Phase 2: 11,500
Upcoming Phases: Basement Vaults, Basement Main Gallery, Rooftop, and more
In the coming years, The Main will have the opportunity to expand into and transform historic basement and rooftop spaces—which include numerous original bank vaults, a former industrial machine room, and a mid-century bomb shelter—into public and gallery spaces.
The adjacent Farmers and Merchants Bank will soon be converted into a major new restaurant for Downtown Los Angeles and will connect with The Main's public spaces.
Join The Main’s email list to hear about upcoming phases of construction: themainmuseum.org/subscribe
The Hellman Building is a historic six-story structure located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, constructed between 1903 and 1906. It is a representative example of commercial architecture in the early 20th century with its brick and concrete structure. When it was built, it was the largest steel frame building in Los Angeles. The Hellman building operated as part of the Farmers and Merchants Bank and as office spaces in the first part of the 20th century and was formerly owned by the Rapid Transit District, now recognized as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Abandoned in the 1980's, Gilmore Associates purchased the empty Hellman building in 1999 and converted the historic building into mixed-use spaces, including apartments, restaurants, and retail through the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance.
Nora Gordon is Principal of Land Office, an architectural practice focused on spaces for arts and culture. After receiving a BA in Art History and a Master of Architecture from Tulane University, Ms. Gordon returned to Los Angeles to work with Michael Maltzan Architects on projects for the Hammer Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. Building on this experience, she has played significant roles in realizing the Getty Villa’s research campus and the new museum, The Broad. She founded Land Office in 2008 to support the architectural goals of emerging institutions. Ms. Gordon is a licensed architect in California and Nevada.
Land Office is a collaborative architectural practice with a focus on emerging cultural and public-interest institutions. Led by Nora Gordon AIA, Land Office is committed to an architecture that draws equally on thoughtful design and a strong grasp of construction realities to align the artful with the sensible. Land Office's high level of talent and professionalism reflects our experience realizing major cultural projects at high-profile offices in Los Angeles. We combine well-considered concepts with sensitive expression and materiality to produce deft responses to each client’s expectations. In all our work we strive for the best balance of the ambitious and the achievable.
Land Office was established in 2008 and is located in Downtown Los Angeles. Current projects include performance, cultural, display, and educational spaces.
“Through the process of making the museum, we have had the opportunity to get to know the community and also our buildings. We learned through countless interactions with visitors that what they are most drawn to in the space is not what we expected. Though we imagined the old tile work and pillar capitals would be most noted, it’s a less straightforward beauty that our guests comment on again and again—the enormous jagged holes in our ceilings made during repair work over The Hellman building’s long life. This public response was so pronounced that we decided, contrary to original plans, to leave the holes open. Time in the space has taught us that we want to touch the historic building as lightly as possible.
Though the ceilings in Beta Main are 15-feet high, there is a human quality to the space. It has been used, and not always gently. We believe it’s this show of history, along with the big storefront windows, that make Beta Main feel especially comfortable, even relatable. The space has in so many ways come to reflect who we are: porous, open, imperfect, and engaged with a city that has existed all along. We embrace the possibility of an irregular space and what that signals about our values.
Los Angeles may be considered by some as a place with no history, yet The Hellman is nearly 115 years old. As Los Angeles is cast as a new art world capital in a city finally coming of age, we resist the notion that others have not been here before, living and working. We also resist the notion that LA only loves the new. Challenging the impulse to impress ourselves upon the building is not only symbolic, but it allows us to create a minimal environmental impact, and to reserve financial resources. We cannot yet know what the final result will be as we are truly making the museum in real time, but we do hope that once complete, you’ll find a space treated with great sensitivity toward the past and, especially once we get to our (non-historic) rooftop, with an eye toward the future.”
–Allison Agsten, Director