Inner-City Arts is able to serve over 30,000 at-risk youth each year, providing artistic instruction, sophisticated facilities, and a physical oasis in the urban environment. The recently completed, three phase, one-acre campus was conceived as an aggregate of diverse, interwoven forms; the interplay of physical and programmatic elements situates a sensitive, contemporary and progressive institution.
CREATING A NEW CENTER FOR CULTURE AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT WITHIN THE DOWNTOWN URBAN CORE
Just as important as the specific program spaces that make up the campus—a 99-seat black box theater, faculty offices, ceramics studios, animation studios and larger multipurpose rooms—are the ways in which these spaces facilitate learning, connection, dialogue, and exploration. Large roll-up doors, pivoting partitions, black-out shades, and other simple features create programmatic and functional flexibility to allow multiple uses at a range of scales.
Arrayed across the campus, these program spaces interconnect around a network of plazas and courtyards, blurring the threshold between interior and exterior as each building deflects and gestures to mix context and program. This village model informs an understanding of the relationship between the arts and a broader social responsibility. Children individually create works in ceramics, dance, painting, sculpture, or animation, and the products of their exploration are shared and expounded in the larger, more public spaces at the campus’ center. The subtle inflections of the architecture host and provoke this exchange: On its North face, the ceramics tower gives way to an orange inner-volume inviting the student to explore light and color; across the courtyard, a parking ramp slices over a gallery to expose the vibrant chroma of student work, teasing it into the public space; in the theater, a large skylight opens to the western sky, welcoming the natural world into dialogue with the stage. Finally, at the street, taut white walls protect the enclave and rise in contrast to the surrounding sprawl. The campus is secured from its Skid Row context, but not isolated. Deflections in the exterior wrapper open, inviting the students to acknowledge and engage the complexities of the city. Within, the space of the courtyard and the studios weaves a texture of form, light, color, and learning to facilitate the growth of the individual; the ceramics tower beckons, a symbol of the connections forged between students, the community, and the world at large.