Gehry and (fer) Making Their Mark In Watts

Architecture News West
Frank Gehry (Bustler)

Frank Gehry (Bustler)

We like to give Frank Gehry a hard time for his foibles, but he has actually undertaken a lot of pro bono work, including a Make It Right home in New Orleans and the Pasadena Playhouse and Jazz Bakery Theater in Los Angeles. His latest effort is in one of the most troubled neighborhoods in Los Angeles: Watts. Gehry Partners has agreed to design a new campus for the Childrens Institute (CII), a social services non-profit. They’re collaborating with Inglewood firm (fer) Studio, who will be Executive Architect.

Project site outlined in red ( (fer) Studio)

Project site outlined in red ( (fer) Studio)

The 2-acre, 50,000-square-foot campus, at 1522 East 102nd Street, will be located near the famed Watts Towers, by far the most recognizable structure in the area, and near what was once downtown Watts. While both teams have been working for about three months, the designs are not developed yet, (fer) Studio’s Chris Mercier told AN. But the program will include a multi-purpose space, an art room, a kitchen, activity rooms, sports facilities, a tech lab, offices, counseling rooms, and observation spaces.

“It will have a friendly, you’re ready to relax atmosphere,” said Mercier. The varied rooms will be scattered and integrated throughout the center and often connected to the outdoors, making people more comfortable going through counseling. The facility will allow the organization to expand its support services to over 5,000 families in the Watts area, said CII.

CII president Nina Revoyr seems optimistic. “We’re not going to build Disney Hall in the middle of Watts,” she told the LA Times. “But that being said, the idea is that this will be something special.” So many efforts to jumpstart the neighborhood have failed in the past, but Revoyr told the Times that the group has “seven figure commitments” for the project, so perhaps this one will move ahead?

Project site as it looks now ( (fer) Studio)

Project site as it looks now ( (fer) Studio)

(fer) Studio principals Douglas Pierson and Christopher Mercier     ( (fer) Studio)

(fer) Studio principals Douglas Pierson and Christopher Mercier ( (fer) Studio)

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