SCI-Arc Arts District Anchor Project

Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc)

Funding Received: 2012
Los Angeles, CA
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
September 22, 2012

The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) was awarded a major grant from ArtPlace to design and build two new arts venues and to help plan arts programming for a third venue. These three venues are in various stages of being planned and built in the Los Angeles Arts District neighborhood. They are: (1) the Hispanic Steps, an indoor amphitheater designed by Hodgetts+Fung, (2) the Outdoor Pavilion, which will be the largest venue for the Arts District when complete and designed by Marcelo Spina, and (3) a 99-seat theater in One Santa Fe, a mixed-use, transit oriented development designed by Michael Maltzan.

SCI-Arc was established in 1972 as an experimental alternative to traditional architecture education. Forty years later, SCI-Arc is recognized as one of the top contemporary architecture schools – and one of the only schools of its kind, with a curriculum solely dedicated to architecture, urban design and emerging systems and technologies. SCI-Arc is housed in a quarter-mile freight depot and has 500 students, 4,000 alumni and 80 faculty members, most of who are working architects.

ArtPlace: Is there a new challenge that engaging in creative placemaking presents for you, your organization and the artists who work with you?

Bennett: The biggest challenges that engaging in creative placemaking present to SCI-Arc are: (1) attracting new audiences to our institution’s home, the Downtown Arts District and (2) exposing and nurturing the creation of new art by Arts District residents. SCI-Arc believes these two endeavors are interconnected. A constant flurry of new cultural events will encourage these audiences to become part of our community. At the same time, new audiences will support and inspire artists in our neighborhood to continue inventing, taking risks in their work, and contributing to the creative industry overall.

If SCI-Arc is able to build these venues as platforms for creative dialogue and art-making, we can also address the two crucial components of creative placemaking, vibrancy and diversity. It is our hope that these venues will generate both artistic and economic success; thereby adding vibrancy to the Arts District neighborhood. As a result of engaging in creative placemaking, SCI-Arc already a leader for community development in the Arts District, becomes a catalyst in creative placemaking with this grant.

ArtPlace: How will SCI-Arc’s venues overcome these new challenges of attracting audiences and inspiring creativity?

Bennett: The Outdoor Pavilion is a perfect example of how SCI-Arc engages in creative placemaking in the neighborhood.  It is SCI-Arc’s hope that the new Pavilion will be a celebration of the culture of the Arts District, which is filled with residents known for their entrepreneurial, experimental, risk-taking and industrious spirit. The neighborhood is pulsating with artists creating in their studios, evidenced by art spilling out onto the walls of buildings, forming one of the largest concentrations of outdoor murals in the world. The neighborhood is also characterized as a place for daring, forward-thinking business leaders, as well as a home to social enterprises; artisanal bars, cafés and restaurants; non-profit organizations; industry leaders in clean technology, entertainment, and fashion; and retail spaces that feature emerging designers and artists. What all these groups lack, including SCI-Arc, is a formal event space.

Marcelo Spina’s design for the Outdoor Pavilion, which he has named the “SCI-Arc League of Shadows,” shows how SCI-Arc will utilize a new arts venue to address the need for an event space to pull in new audiences. Spina has strategically placed the Pavilion at the corner of 4th Street and Merrick, where it can be seen from the 4th Street Bridge as you enter the Arts District. With its towering shapes it will provide shade in a neighborhood greatly lacking in trees and green space. It is Spina’s and SCI-Arc’s hope that the Pavilion also will act as a beacon and will help to evolve the Arts District brand.

ArtPlace: Why did you choose PATTERNS for this project?

Bennett: PATTERNS was chosen from a field of four design studios. Known for its inventive approach to architecture and design research, SCI-Arc felt that PATTERNS was the ideal candidate to create this event space for the Arts District neighborhood because of the versatile design it envisioned for the Outdoor Pavilion, which can be used for both large and small events. The industrious, experimental spirit of the Arts District is reflected in the studio’s approach of fusing advanced computation and advanced composite materials with a deep exploration of form and tectonics. PATTERNS has completed projects in the US, South America and Asia and is represented in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Chicago Art Institute and MAK Museum in Vienna.

IMAGE: Rendering for the SCI-Arc Outdoor Pavilion (dubbed “SCI-Arc League of Shadows”), designed by PATTERNS studio: Marcelo Spina, Georgina Huljich, Matthew Kendall,Daniele Profeta, Elias Arkin, Viola Ago, and Mike Wang.