In January of 2020, the Children’s Institute (CII), a Los Angeles–based nonprofit that serves families and children affected by underinvestment and racist policies, broke ground on a new campus in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles. Designed pro bono by Frank Gehry, the project is now complete, a little over two years later.
Both an architectural gem and permanent representation of CII’s commitment to Watts, the building serves as a community center and therapy center. “When I heard the stories of the people involved, I couldn’t help but want to help,” Gehry told AD. “I hoped that we could make a building that could help people heal and one that could be a nice symbol for the community of Watts.”
The center is adjacent to many single-family homes, and as such, it was important for Gehry to design the building in a way that would feel approachable and welcoming. The façade is broken down into interlocking volumes made from plaster and corrugated metal cladding, which helps the building assimilate into the surrounding architecture. Large windows and skylights welcome an abundance of natural light into the community center, and multiple accessible and transparent entry points facilitate ongoing connection between Watts residents and the nonprofit.