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
August 22, 2012

Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) is reaching out into the emerging Los Angeles Arts District around its new facility by constructing two new public performance/lecture spaces and managing programming for a third public programming venue in a new development across the street.

Art Place asked Jamie Bennett, SCI-Arc’s Chief Operating Officer, to outline what SCI-Arc will have to do really (really) well to achieve success and how he expects the downtown Los Angeles Arts District to change as a result of the ArtPlace project:

BENNETT: SCI-Arc, which stands for the Southern California Institute of Architecture, is located in the quarter-mile long 1907 Santa Fe freight depot in the heart of the downtown Los Angeles Arts District. SCI-Arc is one of the only schools of its kind in the nation, where the curriculum is solely dedicated to architecture, urban planning, and emerging design technologies. We recently made a long-term commitment to our Arts District neighborhood with the purchase of our building. We are now making investments in the neighborhood by opening up the campus to serve community groups and artists of all disciplines with new gathering spaces to present, promote, and exchange creative endeavors. These gathering spaces will be an indoor amphitheater, called the Hispanic Steps, and an Outdoor Pavilion.

If we are to achieve success, we must leverage SCI-Arc’s reputation as a leader in design experimentation and innovation to activate social, cultural and economic opportunities in the Arts District. One way to do this is by designing and building the Hispanic Steps and Outdoor Pavilion in such a way that they are easy to adapt and convenient to use. We have already made tangible progress toward this goal with the first project, the Hispanic Steps.

The amphitheater is located within the heart of the SCI-Arc campus, near the café, design studios, computer labs, and most importantly, the parking lot that is the main access point for the general public. The Hispanic Steps will be a multi-functional gathering space, useful for all types of community groups. The Outdoor Pavilion will also be incredibly accessible to neighborhood groups. It will be highly visible from the 4th Street Bridge, a heavily used route into the Arts District neighborhood. When complete, it will be close to many pedestrian friendly restaurants, storefronts, and another ArtPlace grantee, the Cornerstone Theatre. It will also provide a shade structure in an urban area that is greatly lacking in trees.

We envision the Hispanic Steps and Outdoor Pavilion as venues for new arts programming and as assets that will pull in new audiences for the Arts District. This will result in a growth in foot traffic for local businesses and attract new artists and entrepreneurs to the neighborhood. We have informed local, influential community groups, the Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA) and the Arts District Business Improvement District, about the Hispanic Steps in order to mobilize its future use by the neighborhood. By next spring the Pavilion will be built and the community will be brought into the process, allowing it to schedule performance events commencing next summer. It is our hope that community groups and events will benefit from new venue/assembly spaces that are close to home.

By completing the Hispanic Steps and Outdoor Pavilion and igniting their utilization by these neighborhood groups, new artwork will be created, new audiences will come to the Arts District, people in the Arts District will experience new types of art, and businesses in the Arts District will experience increased foot traffic. By inspiring more people to live in and hang out in the Arts District, we hope that economic development and a growing cycle of social and cultural opportunities will follow.

PHOTO: SCI-Arc COO Jamie Bennett spreading the word to the school’s neighborhood association, the Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association, about the design for the Hispanic Steps, a new performance and gathering space in the Los Angeles Arts District neighborhood, made possible with ArtPlace funding.