Griffith Observatory

Renovation and Expansion

Los Angeles, California

Griffith Observatory has long been one of Los Angeles’ most visible and beloved landmarks, hosting over 70 million visitors since opening its doors in 1935. However, after decades of heavy use, the building was badly in need of repairs and upgrades – both to its physical facilities as well as its exhibits. Working within the criteria of preserving the building’s appearance from the exterior, including retaining its expansive front lawn, our approach involved placing over 40,000 square feet of new exhibition space below grade, entirely removing and rebuilding the lawn to its original specifications. The only new elements visible on the building’s western exterior are a café and the Gottlieb Transit Corridor, an accurate astronomical instrument that tracks the transit of the sun along the terrestrial and celestial meridians throughout the year.

Project Data

27,300 sf existing; 39,600 sf addition

Program & Highlights

202-seat lecture hall
298-seat planetarium
Multilevel exhibit hall
Gift shop
An Historic-Cultural Monument


2008 AIA Institute, Honors Award

2007 National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Preservation Honor Award

2007 California Preservation Foundation, Trustee’s Award for Excellence in Preservation

2007 California Preservation Foundation, Design Award, Preservation

2007 California Preservation Foundation, Design Award, Rehabilitation - Large

2007 AIA/LA Design Awards, Citation

2007 Los Angeles Conservancy, Preservation Award

2007 Building Design + Construction Reconstruction Gold Award

2007 Los Angeles Business Council, LA Architectural Award Grand Prize

2007 Hollywood Arts Council, Preservation Award

2007 Society for Environmental Graphic Design, Jury Award for Exhibit Design

2007 AIGA Award for Exhibit Design

2006 Los Feliz Improvement Association, Meliora Award for Besst Public Space

2001 Westside Urban Forum, Westside Prize

Ingrid Spencer,"Honor Awards: Architecture, Griffith Observatory," Architectural Record, May, 2008

Eve Kahn, "Shining Star," Traditional Building, August 2007

Suzanne Stephens, "Not Only a Craft," Architectural Record, June 2007

Russell Fortmeyer, "Griffith Observatory", "The cosmic ballet of the Griffith Observatory," Architectural Record, June 2007

Nick Street, "Jews in Space," The Jewish Journal, November 3-9, 2006

Edward Rothstein, "A Human-Centered Cosmos in Domes to the Stars," The New York Times, November 2, 2006

Christopher Hawthorne, "An icon's hidden virtues," Los Angeles Times, November 2, 2006

Jesse Katz & Felipe Dupouv, "Eye on the Sky," Los Angeles Magazine, November 2006

"Reabren el Observatorio Griffith," La Opinion, October 4, 2006

Loreta Hall, Underground Building: More than Meets the Eye, Sanger, CA: Quill Driver Books, 2004

“It was a world-class facility when it opened in 1935—it now is again in the 21st century.”
—Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa


Associate Architect: Levin & Associates Architects
Civil Engineer: Psomas and Associates
Structural Engineer: Miyamoto International, Inc.
MEP: M-E Engineers, Inc.
Theater/Planetarium/AV: Auerbach & Associates
Acoustics: McKay Conant Brook, Inc.
Exhibits: C & G Partners LLC
General Contractor: S. J. Amoroso
Landscape Architect: Melendrez Design Partners
Lighting: Horton-Lees Brogden Lighting Design, Inc.
Photographer: Tim Griffith

The rotunda with restored Hugo Ballin murals
Excavation of the Observatory lawn for the underground expansion