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
October 18, 2012

Construction in progress at One Santa Fe. When complete, One Santa Fe will add 438 living spaces, 78,000 square feet of retail space, a new Metro Light Rail stop, a gallery and a 99-seat theatre to the Los Angeles Arts District neighborhood.

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. All three venues are in various stages of being planned and built for 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 public arts venue in the Arts District when complete and designed by Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich of P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, and (3) a multi-purpose 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 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.

This month, ArtPlace spoke with Jamie Bennett, Chief Operating Officer at SCI-Arc, about SCI-Arc’s partnerships in the Los Angeles Arts District community.

ArtPlace: Who outside your organization has been key to moving your initiative forward?

Bennett: SCI-Arc’s initiative to design and build three new arts venues for the Los Angeles Arts District is part of a wider collaborative effort to re-energize its neighborhood. The Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA), the Arts District Business Improvement District, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Authority, and the Central City East Association are just a few examples of the many organizations who are investing in the Arts District to add social, economic and cultural value to this neighborhood over the next several years. Of these, LARABA has been key in helping SCI-Arc achieve its initiative to design and build new arts venues for the public.

The Los Angeles Arts District has historically lacked pedestrian-friendly businesses, green space and public arts venues. At the same time, its post-industrial buildings and warehouses have always drawn artists, who build out their studio spaces in the Arts District and, more recently, forward-thinking entrepreneurs who continue to establish new businesses here. Twenty years ago, a group of creative individuals, both artists and entrepreneurs, came together to form LARABA in order to incite positive change for their neighborhood.

A long-time friend of SCI-Arc, Timothy Keating, is the former president of LARABA and current president of the Los Angeles Downtown Arts District Space. Keating recently described LARABA’s history of community involvement in the Arts District, through neighborhood cleanups, planting trees with the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, establishing a dog park for residents, and the launch of Bloomfest, an annual celebration of the culture of downtown Los Angeles. SCI-Arc’s close working relationship with LARABA allows us to ensure that our two new public arts venues will be utilized by Arts District organizations and residents. Already, SCI-Arc has plans to coordinate the use of the Outdoor Pavilion for the well-loved LARABA-sponsored Bloomfest event. For the new multipurpose performance space at One Santa Fe, SCI-Arc will continue its close working relationship with LADAD Space, which will be the managing organization for this new 99-seat theatre. Keating and LADAD Space look forward to SCI-Arc partnering in planning arts programming for the new venue.

ArtPlace: Are there secrets to good partnerships?

Bennett: For SCI-Arc, the secret to good partnerships is to avoid the pitfall of having a “we-they” mindset and to build mutually beneficial relationships within the Arts District, in which neighbors support neighbors and share in each other’s successes. The Arts District supports SCI-Arc by providing an energetic and inspirational environment to work, learn and live. It 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 and forming one of the largest concentrations of outdoor murals in the world. The neighborhood is also a place for daring, forward-thinking business leaders, as well as a home to social enterprises; artisanal restaurants, cafés and bars; non-profit organizations; industry leaders in clean technology, entertainment, and fashion; and retail spaces that feature emerging designers and artists.

At the same time, SCI-Arc supports the Arts District by providing an open campus and presenting rich opportunities for cultural and social exchange. With an annual exhibition and lecture series that is free and open to the public, SCI-Arc fosters design debate and understanding with public programs that are woven into the cultural fabric of the community. Every year, SCI-Arc commissions and presents original artistic works in its galleries that inspire the general public to learn about and experience provocative architecture. SCI-Arc also engages the public with lectures and symposia in its Wednesday Night Public Lecture Series, a 40-year old tradition that brings leaders in the design field to speak on the SCI-Arc campus, now in the Arts District.

SCI-Arc’s campus also provides opportunities for economic exhange, serving as an invaluable resource for Arts District residents with a library, print center and art supply store and by patronizing local businesses. Due to the recent relocation of its Print Center and Art Supply Store, SCI-Arc is now part of the increasing number of pedestrian-friendly businesses who are making their home in the Arts District. SCI-Arc students, faculty and staff patronize the local businesses and SCI-Arc students live locally. We believe that by continuing to provide leadership, resources and new public arts venues, SCI-Arc can continue to have a mutually beneficial relationship with the growing community of artists, business leaders and residents of the Arts District.