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A seven-year-old resident of Inglewood, Emma Bordenave, admires a model of the new Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center in Inglewood at a public unveiling of the design on August 15. Photo by Frances Anderton.

Frank Gehry designs YOLA’s new Inglewood home 9 MIN, 17 SEC

Last week the LA Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, or YOLA, unveiled the model and renderings for a brand new concert and rehearsal space in Inglewood, designed by Frank Gehry.

Gehry loves classical music, and has had a long relationship with the LA Phil. He made changes to the Hollywood Bowl in the early 1980s, he created its landmark Walt Disney Concert Hall on Grand Avenue, and he has been a longtime friend of Gustavo Dudamel, who is the LA Phil’s current artistic and music director.

“It’s not just a venue for YOLA. It is a metaphor that says beauty matters. It will function as a building but it will also act as a catalyst in transforming our children, and I cannot wait to see that happen,” Dudamel said.

The new Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center in Inglewood will occupy a former branch office of Security Pacific Bank, on South La Brea Avenue. The building dates back to 1965.

In its former banking hall, there will be an auditorium. It will descend down a floor and it will project above the ceiling. Gehry says it’s to achieve the ideal acoustics for an orchestra, who need a room 45 feet high.

“We had to drop the floor and raise the ceiling which was it turned out a reasonable cost to do it and it makes all the difference,” Gehry said.

To figure out the ideal sound, Gehry once again worked with Nagata Acoustics, which did the acoustics for the Disney Concert Hall. Dan Beckmann is with the firm and he says there will be several challenges involved in turning a bank into an acoustically perfect space.  

“It requires the building to be very heavy so we don't hear the noises going on outside, and also to reflect low frequency sounds. We also need a very large volume. This building is not a particularly large building at the moment. So in order to make it bigger, to give it that magical 45 feet, we'll have to dig down and to raise the roof,” Beckmann said.

Gehry also added clerestories, which will flood the space with natural light. He proposes a clear glass facade behind the building’s existing overhang and columns, so passersby will see into the lobby and its proposed raised walkway.

YOLA’s 25,000-square-foot center won’t have the visual drama of Disney Concert Hall. But it is designed to provide a sense of drama for visitors, on a budget of $14.5 million.

“It's open and it's in a great spot in the city. It's a powerful location. So we just took everything away. It was clear there isn't money to transform a lot. So we put the money where our needs were. It wasn't that expensive to convert it,” Gehry said.

The scheme appears to have the sense and sensibility of an earlier, and very successful, intervention by Gehry in an existing building; namely, the Temporary, now Geffen, Contemporary for MOCA in Little Tokyo.

Gustavo Dudamel embraces Frank Gehry in front of a model of the new center, at a public unveiling on August 15. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

Dudamel founded YOLA in 2007. It’s stated goal is to provide music lessons for children from low-income communities in LA, and to introduce new audiences to classical music.

Dudamel himself is a product of Venezuela’s famed El Sistema music education program. He based YOLA on that model, and he said Gehry’s new center will serve as more than just a rehearsal and concert space.

YOLA serves about 1,200 young musicians, and Dudamel has said he would like to double that number by reaching out to local kids.

“For me, one of the important things is that YOLA will recruit kids from Inglewood. So it’s not about gentrification. It’s about creating a culture within the community, and that’s special,” Gehry said.

Fears of gentrification are growing in Inglewood as the city prepares for a new train line, the new stadium for the Rams and Chargers, and the Clippers arena.

“Arts has long been a part of the fabric of this city... and it speaks to the development of the soul and fiber of the community. And so we're more proud of this than anything we've been able to accomplish over the last four years,” said James T. Butts, the mayor of Inglewood.

Butts says YOLA’s new home will not be a gentrifying force.

“Far from being a gentrifier, it's an equalizer. It's an educational opportunity. It's an arts and development opportunity. So it's inclusionary. So we love it,” he said.

Rosa Bordenave, a resident of Inglewood, came to the press event with her 7-year-old daughter Emma.

“I want to believe... that they will work and bring this to the low income community and not ignore the kids that are in the Inglewood Unified School District,” she said.

Groundbreaking on YOLA’s new center is set to begin this spring.

Exterior model view of the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center @ Inglewood. Photo courtesy of Gehry Partners, LLP

Frank Gehry, Gehry Partners
Gustavo Dudamel, Los Angeles Philharmonic (@GustavoDudamel)
James Butts, City of Inglewood
Rosa Bordenave, resident of Inglewood

DnA blog: Youth orchestra gets a Frank Gehry-designed center in Inglewood
L.A. Phil's new YOLA Center: Why a youth concert hall in Inglewood has global implications

Living above the store 19 MIN, 12 SEC

Runway at Playa Vista features 217 apartments located over businesses. Photo by Avishay Artsy.

In Los Angeles, if you want to go shopping, you typically have to get in your car.

But more and more, home and retail are being mixed in shopping and living destinations like Americana at Brand in Glendale, the Paseo in Pasadena, or Runway at Playa Vista.

Laura Mitchell Wilde lives in a corner unit over shops on Millenium Drive. This is part of Runway at Playa Vista, the commercial heart of Silicon Beach. It opened for business around three years ago and has 217 apartments.

Wilde lives above Whole Foods, Lululemon, Starbucks, Wells Fargo, Chase, Yogaworks, CVS, workout studios and restaurants.

“I don't leave Playa Vista very often because almost everything is here,” she said.

Wilde works as a holistic health coach for athletes, mainly football and basketball players. She used to be a basketball player and then coach.

She jokes that she refers to Playa Vista as Pleasantville.

“You could walk around with your windows up and notice people walking down the street with their dogs, their children, nodding at each other and it's just this thing that happens that is very slow and very almost movie-like,” she said.

Laura Mitchell Wilde lives at Runway at Playa Vista, a residential/retail development she affectionately refers to as “Pleasantville.” Photo by Frances Anderton.

Besides the amenities like swimming pools on the roof decks, tenants have private parking below. So the concept combines urban and suburban lifestyles.

“In a way it's an old paradigm, but in a city like Los Angeles, full of commercial strips, it's a paradigm we haven't really embraced here. I mean, I suppose European villages going back far enough had the family which controlled the store and lived on the top. These are living over the store but it might not be your particular store that you're living over,” said Scott Johnson, co-founder and design partner of Johnson Fain, the firm that designed Runway.

Playa Vista sits on former wetlands, and the longtime headquarters of Hughes Aircraft Company. If you haven’t been inside the community, you might know it only by its walls of rather generic-looking housing that line Lincoln and Jefferson Boulevards.

Around 30 years ago, owners of the land and their designers started visualizing Playa Vista as a “New Urbanist community.” That is, a walkable, work-live neighborhood with parks, human-scale roads and sidewalks and traditional architectural styling.

Environmentalists and developers fought for years, and there were several changes of ownership, of design teams and of vision, resulting in a similar heights throughout Playa Vista, but different architectural styles.

Runway at Playa Vista is quite mod looking with dark-wood balconies and splashes of color over rectilinear white stucco forms.

“We sort of accepted the walkability, the Sustainable Communities that all seemed sensible to us but we don't really do traditional architecture,” says Scott Johnson. “So we were interested in doing architecture in our own time which meant contemporary.”

Since it was completed three years ago, the managers of the Runway at Playa Vista development decided it needed to lose the cars all together. And now the firm Design, Bitches is redesigning the streets at Runway for pedestrians only.

“I think the changes, the pedestrianisation, the kind of retail tweaking, the amenities... I think that all has to change to to stay current,” Johnson said.

So, are these semi-urban destinations in LA, where you can live over the shops but park underneath, a kind of new archetype?

“I think this is very much a model that works. It supports walkability, it creates density which will enforce the retail, which will enforce the sidewalk activity and security on the sidewalk. So it maybe needs to be done organically over many years, it needs to be done strategically. But it is the next model,” Johnson said.

But what about LA’s actual streets, its commercial arteries with their rows of single-story shops? Why don’t people live above those?

Well, some do. Brett Shaw is an architect and general contractor in LA. He purchased a single-story office on Pico Boulevard in West LA in 2002, and recently he built an apartment for himself above.

“This is basically an architect's dream to build his own living space. And I didn't have a client so I had nobody to say no to me, just the budget requirements. So I just did things that I've always wanted to do in terms of high ceilings, bridges that span from one part of the space to another,” he said.

Brett Shaw’s loft apartment above a row of shops on Pico Boulevard in West LA. Photo by Frances Anderton.

From Brett’s loft you can look towards LA’s tree-lined hills and its single family homes and gardens and, staring at you outside the windows, you can old neon signs for Mattress King and Pico eateries like Don Antonio’s, and billboards.

So how did Shaw pull it off?

As usual, parking was an issue. But in this case, because the building is from 1956, says Shaw, he didn’t need to add extra parking spaces.

There were some other challenges, however. Many commercial buildings weren’t built to withstand the weight of additional floors, so the walls needed to be reinforced.

Brett spent close to a million dollars on the project.

In LA residential above commercial has not been the norm, for many reasons, including pushback from single family neighborhoods. Residents have voted to limit development on their nearby arteries.

We are going to see more of it, however, in targeted areas near transit hubs as the city tries to incentivize construction of housing.

“If you look at all the cities across the world, they all have two, three, four stories on their main arterial streets. So I think it's just a matter of time,” Shaw said.

Laura Mitchell Wilde, holistic healing practitioner and resident at Runway at Playa Vista
Brett Shaw, architect and general contractor in LA
Scott Johnson, Johnson Fain Partners
Colette Brooks, founder and Chief Imagination Officer of Big Imagination Group (BIG), a Los Angeles-based integrated marketing firm

How Commercial Real Estate Is Changing Residential Housing
Living above a city store becoming trendy
Good Urban Design Requires Blending In
Cars soon will be unwelcome on Playa Vista's main drag. And a lot of people are happy about it

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