AboutObservatory HistoryRenovation and ExpansionRenovation and Expansion Timeline

Renovation and Expansion Timeline

Though the construction project at the Observatory lasted for only four years from 2002-2006, the planning for the renovation and expansion project started decades earlier, with the creation of Friends Of The Observatory in 1978.

Observatory north doors

Below are the major events that propelled the project forward, starting with the 1990 Master Plan and ending with the reopening of the building to the public.


The Los Angeles City Council approves the Griffith Observatory Master Plan, providing the first outline for the renovation and expansion of the facility.


Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro makes a historic visit to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to request inclusion of Griffith Observatory in the County’s Proposition A bond measure. Voters approve the proposition, and a total of $18.5 million in funds is allocated to the Observatory project.


Voters approve City of Los Angeles Proposition K, and a total of $10.0 million in funds is allocated to the Observatory project.


The Department of Recreation and Parks hires project architect Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates (now Pfeiffer Partners, Inc.) and associate architect Levin & Associates Architects to design the renovation and expansion project.


The Ahmanson Foundation launches the Observatory capital campaign with a lead gift to Friends Of The Observatory.


Friends Of The Observatory signs contracts with Carl Zeiss for purchase of a new state-of-the-art star projector, a Zeiss Universarium Mark IX.

August 2000

The project hires Chermayeff & Geismar (now C&G Partners LLC) to design the new exhibit program.

March 2001

Leonard Nimoy and Susan Bay-Nimoy contribute $1 million to the Griffith Observatory capital campaign, marking the first major individual gift to the renovation and expansion project. In recognition of the gift, the new 200-seat presentation theater is named the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon.

September 2001

Los Angeles Councilmember Tom LaBonge takes the lead in securing a site in Griffith Park for a temporary Observatory satellite facility to serve the public while the Observatory is closed for renovation and expansion.

November 2001

Pfeiffer Partners delivers the completed construction drawing set for the renovation and expansion project to the Department of Recreation and Parks.

January 6, 2002

Griffith Observatory closes to the public for extensive renovation and expansion. Councilmember LaBonge, Dr. Krupp, City and FOTO officials, and Griffith great-great-granddaughter Morgan officially shut the doors during an evening ceremony. The closing draws massive crowds and generates extensive national and international media coverage.

February 2002

The Department of Recreation and Parks releases the Observatory construction project for bid. The Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering, a division of the Department of Public Works, is assigned to manage the Observatory construction project on behalf of the City.

April 2002

Three construction firms submit bids to the Department of Recreation and Parks for the Observatory project.

October 2002

  • The Department of Recreation and Parks issues a Notice to Proceed with construction and selects S. J. Amoroso Construction as the general contractor for the Observatory construction project.
  • The Griffith Observatory Satellite facility opens near the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens to serve the public while the Observatory building is closed.

October 30, 2002

The Governor of California, Mayor of Los Angeles, and other state and local officials officially break ground for Griffith Observatory’s renovation and expansion.

November 2002

S. J. Amoroso Construction begins construction work at the Observatory site. The Observatory building and grounds, as well as most of the parking lot and East Observatory Road are closed to the public.

March 2003

The first major soil excavation of the project takes place in front of the building. Approximately 30,000 cubic yards are ultimately removed, creating a space roughly 240 feet long, 100 feet wide, and 30 feet deep. This more than doubles the Observatory’s usable space.

May 2003

Friends Of The Observatory presents a check for $3.3 million — the first of three cash gifts totaling over $4 million — to the City of Los Angeles to support the Observatory construction project.

September 2003

  • Chermayeff & Geismar (now C&G Partners LLC), under contract to Friends Of The Observatory, begins the development of detailed drawings for the new exhibits.
  • The renewal of Griffith Observatory takes the national stage with a Congressional reception in Washington, D.C., attended by over 250 people. Leonard Nimoy and Congressman Adam Schiff are the featured speakers.

April 2004

Workers finish installing the new copper sheathing and gutters over the restored concrete planetarium dome.

Late Summer 2004

Amoroso workers complete construction of the exterior shell of the underground expansion space under the front lawn and western terrace.

November 2004

Friends Of The Observatory contracts with one of the nation’s leading exhibit fabricators, Maltbie, Inc. to build and install the new exhibits. Maltbie’s previous clients include the U.S. Holocaust Museum, the Clinton Presidential Library, and the National Constitution Center.

December 2004

  • Los Angeles philanthropist Lynda Oschin makes a generous contribution to the Observatory’s renovation and expansion project in honor of her late husband, Samuel Oschin, through the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation. In recognition, the project names the planetarium theater the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.
  • Workers complete installation of the new Spitz perforated aluminum dome in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense and NASA award grants in the FY 2005 Federal budget totaling $2.75 million to Friends Of The Observatory to support development of new Observatory educational programming and exhibits.

January 2005

Friends Of The Observatory funds an extensive visitor access study in coordination with the Department of Recreation and Parks.

March 2005

The Department of Recreation and Parks selects Wolfgang Puck Catering to operate the Observatory’s new Café at the End of the Universe and to provide ongoing catering operations.

May 2005

  • The Department of Recreation and Parks selects Event Network, Inc. to operate the Observatory’s new Stellar Emporium bookstore and gift shop.
  • Workers begin installing the new Zeiss Universarium Mark IX star projector in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium.

August 2005

Amoroso workers remove the large protective structure around the newly-restored Astronomers Monument.

September 2005

Los Angeles Councilmember Tom LaBonge spearheads the development of new public restrooms on the site of the old snack bar in the Observatory parking lot. The restrooms will serve both Observatory visitors and hikers in Griffith Park.

December 2005

Maltbie begins exhibit installation in the Observatory.

January 2006

Selected Griffith Observatory technical staff move back into the building to begin the operational transition.

April 2006

Maltbie workers finish installing The Big Picture exhibit in the Gunther Depths of Space. The exhibit is the largest astronomical image ever created and the largest single element of the new Observatory exhibit program.

Summer 2006

S. J. Amoroso Construction completes work on the Observatory construction project. Griffith Observatory staff and equipment begin moving back into the restored building. Maltbie completes installation of the new exhibit program.

November 3, 2006

Griffith Observatory reopens its doors to the public (in its 71st Anniversary year).