Frank Gehry Explains His Pro Bono Design of L.A.’s Children’s Institute

Talking with AD, the famed architect shares the importance of this project and the impact he hopes it has

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After two years of construction, the Children’s Institute Watts Campus is now complete. All Photos: Courtesy of Children’s Institute/Oltmans

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.”

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The exterior of the Frank Gehry–designed, Children’s Institute Watts Campus.

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.

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The building is flush with stunning architecture, as seen in this interior image of the Children’s Institute Watts Campus.
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A look at the interior of the Children’s Institute Watts Campus.

The center will also display a permanent art exhibition in the public areas of the building, anchored by work commissioned by CII from Frank Romero, a local artist. Other pieces throughout the space were curated in partnership with the Watts Towers Arts Center and include work by Charles Dickson, Mark Stephen Greenfield, Lee Jaffe, and La Mont Westmoreland. “I hope that this building can help facilitate nurturing, care, and healing,” Gehry added. “That’s what we designed it to do. ”

Via Architectural Digest 

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