Inner-City Arts campus

Located just east of downtown Los Angeles on the edge of the Skid Row, the Inner-City Arts campus provides arts education for over 10,000 at-risk youth from LA public schools each year. The campus houses a range of art facilities and is an oasis in the urban environment. Built in three phases over 15 years, the one acre campus was conceived as a contemporary open air village designed with the contemporary and progressive sensibilities of the founding arts organization in mind.


An aggregate of diverse, interwoven forms, the campus design highlights the interplay of physical and programmatic elements. Arrayed across the grounds, 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. Just as important as the specific program spaces—a 99-seat black box theater, faculty offices, ceramics studios, animation studios, and larger multipurpose rooms—are the ways in which these spaces facilitate connection, dialogue, and exploration.

At the street, taut white walls protect the arts enclave and rise in contrast to the surrounding neighborhood sprawl. The campus is secured, but not isolated, from its Skid Row context. 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 weave a texture of form, light, color, and learning to inspire and embrace the growth of the individual. The ceramics tower beckons as a symbol of the connections forged between students, the community, and the world at large.


The village model facilitates an understanding of the dynamic relationship between the individual and a broader social responsibility. Children 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 students to explore light and color. Across the courtyard, a parking ramp slices over a gallery to expose the vibrant spectrum of student work, pulling 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. 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.

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