Kulapat Yantrasast, contemporary museum designer
Perhaps the most eye-catching element of the Academy of Cinema’s new museum is Renzo Piano’s Geffen Theater, nicknamed “the Death Star”. But as soon as visitors enter the museum, they will discover interior galleries shaped by a man who has established himself as a go-to designer for cultural institutions: Kulapat Yantrasast of WHY in Culver City.
Originally from Thailand, Yantrasast received his Masters and PhD from the University of Tokyo. He was hired by Pritzker Prize winner Tadao Ando to work on the Japanese architect’s most important American building, the Museum of Modern Art in Fort Worth, Texas.
Yantrasast left Ando’s firm in 2002 and created WHY a year later, eventually opening offices in New York and Paris. The company’s projects include Watts Towers Housing, currently under construction, and Culver City Hall Centennial Garden, but it was WHY’s cultural work that showcased it. A timeline:
Grand Rapids Art Museum in Michigan establishes WHY’s commitment to green design.
When the eminent L&M Art Gallery from New York decides an outpost in LA, he calls WHY do what he does best: explode the concept of the white cube.
The company is reinventing the seven galleries of the Chicago Institute of the Arts to create a unified space for Greek, Roman and Byzantine art.
The Studio Art Hall at Pomona College gives students an open space to create, setting their own boundaries and encouraging porosity between disciplines.
WHY collaborates in the Harvard Art Museums, bringing together three separate museums – the Fogg, the Sackler and the Busch-Reisinger – into one art viewing experience.
For the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., WHY applies what he calls “acupuncture architecture” to the 1927 neoclassical structure in an effort to maintain its historic charm.
WHY is converting an empty downtown LA warehouse into a new home for the old Santa Monica Art Museum, renamed the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
The auction house Christie’s sets up an outpost in Beverly Hills, with WHY an overhaul that can display a variety of artwork.
For the Marciano Art Foundation, WHY preserves the exterior tile mosaics and Italian marble cladding of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple designed by Millard Sheets in 1961, but transforms its interior into a fully WHY space.
For the first Los Angeles installment of Frieze art fair, WHY designs a 62,000 square foot exhibition tent on the grounds of Paramount Pictures, where it withstands torrential rains and wind on opening day.
2020 and 2014
Originally cobbled together from three neighboring companies, the David Kordansky Gallery is undergoing renovation, expansion and the addition of a sculpture courtyard.
For the East Palo Alto Youth Arts and Music Center, WHY designs a pavilion-type structure open to free movement between disciplines, based on community input.
WHY is reconfiguring 31 galleries at San Francisco Asian art museum and adds a 13,000 square foot pavilion.
Work with Renzo piano building workshop, WHY focuses on connective sightlines to create a seamless journey through the history of cinema in the main galleries of the Academy Museum.
A new structure for Tchaikovsky Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet in Perm, Russia, will serve as the centerpiece for the city’s arts district.
A 50 foot long entrance bridge to the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts is part of WHY’s redevelopment plan for the institution.
The master plan in several phases to develop the Jackson Park begins with a site-specific sculptural collaboration with Yoko Ono.
The original Mid-Century Riverside Public Library is being transformed into Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art and Culture, or “the Cheech”.
In New York, the American Museum of Natural HistoryNorthwest Coast Hall was originally designed by anthropologist and curator Franz Boas, often referred to as the “Father of American Anthropology”. He believed that Indigenous cultures should be viewed on their own terms, outside of Western paradigms. Through continuous renovations, WHY seeks to maintain this vision.
At New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, WHY’s renovations include a complete conceptual and physical overhaul of the galleries housing the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas.