Project Quick Facts

Building Client

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Structural Engineer

Buro Happold

General Contractor

MATT Construction

Software Used


Structural Components

Steel Framing, Plates, Steel Connections

Year Completed


Project Background

A museum, a theater, and a restoration of history. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ bold renovation and addition celebrates the art, science, and cultural impact of the film industry. This building serves as the Academy’s first museum and restores the original beauty of the 1930s Saban Building while connecting it to the new “otherworldly” 966 seat David Geffen Theater via three semi-enclosed bridges. The separation between the spherical addition and original Saban Building distinguishes old from new, while opening up public outdoor space and pathways that connect to the neighboring institutions on the Miracle Mile.

"The transparency of output and additional information you get out of RISA was essential to designing these structures"

— Andrew Rastetter, PE

About the Structure

The bottom and sides of the spherical structure around the new Geffen Theater are constructed from reinforced concrete that is clad with precast concrete panels. The flat top of the sphere that forms the Dolby Terrace is structured with a steel frame that completes the form and ties the sidewalls of the sphere together. The connections between the historic Saban Building and the new Geffen Theater addition provided a difficult challenge for the structural engineer, Buro Happold, with the new Geffen addition utilizing a different lateral force resisting system, base-isolators, from the rest of the project. This system was the best structural option for achieving the bold architectural vision of the soaring spherical addition, but naturally it was not a feasible solution for the retrofit of the original Saban Building. Instead, the 1930s Saban Building’s steel and concrete structure underwent structural improvements to its lateral systems to meet today’s earthquake codes. These structural improvements included augmenting existing steel framing and the addition of concrete shear walls and collectors. The disparate lateral systems meant that the two buildings’ lateral movement was distinctly different from each other while still needing the connectivity of spaces provided by 3 bridges and exterior stairs. The solution was to design these interface conditions with flexible connections. At the stairs, specifically, Buro Happold utilized custom universal hinge connections designed in collaboration with CastConnex.

How Were RISA Products Utilized?

The connection between old and new was the spirit of the project but also its structural accomplishment. RISA-3D’s additional reporting and analysis output was essential to Buro Happold when designing the three pedestrian bridges connecting the two buildings. The transparency that RISA-3D offers for member analysis was paramount to Buro Happold when utilizing RISA-3D to design the custom hinge connections for the stairs as the egress stairs connect to the base-isolated Geffen Theater but also to the fixed ground. The base isolation of the structure allowed for 30 inches of movement and required the stair elements to have hinges in order to account for this movement. This scenario created large P-delta effects which were included in the RISA-3D finite-element analysis. RISA-3D’s flexibility in reporting results as well as member end releases and options to include p-delta effects created an accurate yet quick representation of the project’s unique structural requirements.

Image 1: Gabe Guilliams | Images 2 & 4: Andrew Rastetter