Los Angeles, CA


Armand Hammer Museum

Design Architect

Michael Maltzan Architecture


John V. Tunney Bridge at the Hammer Museum

MATT Construction has recently completed the John V. Tunney Bridge at the Hammer Museum, the latest project in a long partnership with the museum and award-winning architect Michael Maltzan, FAIA, and his firm, MMA.  Other valued members of the project team included Structural Design Engineer Guy Nordenson and Associates, Engineer of Record John A. Martin & Associates, and steel fabricator Plas-Tal Manufacturing Co.

MATT’s earlier collaborations with MMA and the Hammer enhanced the museum with renovations to the 300-seat Billy Wilder Theater, adjoining lobby, and portions of the exterior façade; and construction of the new “AMMO at the Hammer” café. The theater lobby and café, both glass-fronted, open onto the museum’s center courtyard, itself the subject of an MMA/MATT renovation project completed in 2012.

Photo by Iwan Baan
Photo by Iwan Baan


The latest project opened this week:  named for the former United States Senator and chairman of the Hammer’s Board of Directors, whose recent departure after two decades of service catalyzed this long-awaited project into action, the new John V. Tunney Bridge spans the center courtyard linking the well-attended eastern gallery housing the Armand Hammer Permanent Collection, to a temporary gallery across the courtyard that visitors were previously likely to miss.  “We have long wanted a bridge built to improve the flow of our space and connect the permanent and temporary galleries,” Hammer Director Ann Philbin said.  The new bridge is intended to encourage visitors to explore all sides of the institution and to enhance the flexibility of the venue:  special events can utilize the bridge as an event space in itself or to highlight events on the patio below; while curators now have the option of designing exhibits utilizing both wings of the museum.

Providing a gracefully curving counterpoint softening the Hammer’s strong orthogonal design, the 34ft span tapers to a center “waist” 9ft wide; and flares out at either end where, at its maximum width of 30ft., it connects to the preexisting structural bays at the second floor level of the building’s east and west wings, 18ft above the courtyard below. Echoing the horizontal taper of the deck, the sides of the bridge, made of seamless 3/16” white painted steel punctuated by diagonal lines of open circles, is pinched vertically at the center of the span and rises at its ends where the bridge connects to the building wings.  Maltzan notes that the bridge’s curves allow more sunlight to reach the courtyard, create a feeling of movement, and give it a distinctive look.


The bridge is constructed of white-painted steel.  The bridge floor framing system comprises a finished architectural, integral color topping slab over a composite concrete slab on Epicore metal deck, perforated by fourteen circular frosted glass pavers, which are illuminated by LED strip lighting placed discreetly within the openings in the slab.  Criss-crossing diagonally on the underside of the bridge, the exposed, white-painted steel structure suggests to Maltzan “a cat’s cradle from below.”

By fabricating most elements off-site and then craning them into place overnight, the team minimized the project’s impact on regular museum operations and on the very busy surrounding neighborhood.  Two time-lapse videos demonstrate the efficiency of the process:

Structural Steel

Guardrail construction

With its sculptural qualities, and the way its design connects so well, visually and physically, to the building’s original architecture, the John V. Tunney Bridge transcends mere utility to become a work of art unto itself.  Hammer Director Ann Philbin agrees:  “The bridge design speaks to the architecture and enhances it in a way that is beyond just function.” Maltzan believes that the bridge “will be a destination in itself. …A phenomenal place to look over the courtyard and be among the tree canopies and to even say hi to your friends in the courtyard.”

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