Skirball Cultural Center

Los Angeles, California, US, 2013 / Built

Responding to the steep topography at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, the Skirball Cultural Center is organized as a series of building clusters nestled into a planted hillside. Indoor and outdoor spaces flow seamlessly throughout the complex, creating a network of gardens, courtyards, galleries and public event spaces. The center holds a museum dedicated to Jewish heritage and American democracy.

Set in the foothills between the San Fernando Valley and the city of Los Angeles, the specific site constraints led to the composition of a village of pavilions, woven one to the next. At its heart, the Skirball is founded on the notion of the paradise garden, of sacred place, of respect for humanity and diversity in all its manifestations.

The development has been realized in several phases over a 30 year period working in collaboration with the Skirball Cultural Center founder, Dr. Uri Herscher, and his staff to realize the vision of a true gathering place for the community. The Center features a museum of Jewish-American experience, galleries for changing exhibitions, a conference and educational center, a 350-seat auditorium, and Ahmanson Hall (a multipurpose auditorium). The courtyards connect to a sculpture garden located between the building and the hills, providing a contemplative transition zone between the natural and built environment.

Site plan

Aerial view of the center and its gardens.

The architecture seamlessly integrates into landscape, creating a wide range of spaces to be activated by cultural activities.

The network of interlocking indoor and outdoor spaces support a wide range of activity, from exhibitions, concerts and family festivals to classes, performances and conferences.

Throughout the landscape, a series of installations and artworks encourage exploration and activity.


Moshe Safdie shares the founding principles of the Skirball and how the center has grown into a vital community and cultural center.

In Use