Griffith Observatory

A luminous gateway to the stars ignites one of Southern California’s most popular attractions.

Visited by nearly 2 million people per year, the Griffith Observatory is the only institution in California with a science museum, a major public planetarium, and a public telescope. The historic renovation included the restoration of the Art Deco façade, exterior circulation, signage and monuments, as well as conservation of the existing exhibit alcoves and Hugo Ballin murals located in the central rotunda. The building was raised on hydraulic lifts in order to excavate the mountain underneath creating 40,000 square feet of expansion space, including a 200 seat theater, café, bookstore, and new exhibition areas.

Historic fixtures were refurbished and relamped with more energy efficient sources and film was added to lenses eliminating existing lamp imaging issues. The façade was articulated with illumination that accentuates the exposed structural “bones” giving the Observatory a more unique prominence in the Los Angeles skyline. In the historical interior spaces, additional layers of light were added to enhance exhibit niches utilizing contemporary fixtures hidden within architectural elements in order to avoid aesthetic conflict with the existing historic elements. Lighting levels were varied from the historic entry to the descent into the new depths of space, generating a dramatic journey for patrons.

Project Highlights

• Custom fixtures within signage
• Utilized LEDs, cove lights, & low voltage track systems


• Pfeiffer Partners
• Levin & Associates


Project Background

• 40,000 square feet
• $93 million


Illuminating Engineering Society (IES)
• Lumen West Award of Excellence
• Illumination Award of Merit

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