Inner-City Arts serves over 30,000 at-risk youth from Los Angeles public schools each year, providing a range of art facilities and services, and an oasis in an otherwise challenging urban environment.
Built in three phases over 15 years, the one acre campus was conceived as a contemporary open air village, an indoor/outdoor tradition perfectly suited to the Southern California climate.
I wanted to create a compressed urbanism….to craft an urban village with a series of indoor and outdoor spaces.
Located in a drab and borderline neighborhood, surrounded by derelict buildings, Maltzan made a bold statement painting the buildings white.
An urban community center and agent for change…a positive force in that neighborhood.
Phase I, in collaboration with Marmol Radziner, was completed in 1995. This first stage included the renovation of an old auto body shop into classrooms and studios as well as a new ceramics classroom (first tower).
The architects exposed the bow-string roof trusses, added roll-up doors, and opened the building to an outdoor plaza.
To serve the rapidly growing community, as well as make Inner-City Arts’ facilities available to teenagers, parents and their children, Phase II was completed in 2005, adding to the campus a larger studio space, kitchen, a wood shop, and animation studios.
Phase III, completed in the Fall of 2008, included a black box theater, an administration building, new ceramics studio (a second tower), a covered kiln yard, a wedge-shaped library/resource center, rooftop parking deck, gardens and gathering spaces. This doubled the capacity, enabling Inner-City Arts to serve over 16,000 students and 1,800 classroom teachers each year.
The buildings and classrooms are arranged around a landscaped central plaza. The “campus as village” fosters a way of living, working and relating that informs the larger city that surrounds the school.
This central gathering space is both a retreat from the street beyond as well as a functional working space for the facility, surrounded by a series of flexible adjacent studios.
Each child has his or her own work: performance, ceramics, dance, painting, sculpture, animation. But the group gathers as a community to interact in the public space of the central courtyard.
The new Ceramics Center, with its tall, sculptural tower and outdoor stair, is an important icon for the Center and a beacon within the surrounding neighborhood. The interior is colored bright orange.
The materials used by Maltzan are classic California, stucco, concrete, paint, and glass, connected by a landscape of palm trees, native plants and rocks.
“The materials are just as humble as those found on the street, it’s how you use them that counts.”
As is also true for the larger city, the way that students relate to each other and their surroundings at Inner-City Arts actually creates the campus. It is not simply that many individuals have gathered – it is the way those individuals interact. The entire campus is intended to create that sense of responsibility and interaction. Particularly with the expansion, the campus also has an important role in relation to the rest of the city.
Maltzan collaborated with landscape architect Nancy Goslee Power and the graphic-design firm Ph.D on all three phases. The team offered their services pro-bono in what has become a 15-year collaboration.