Frank Gehry created a “welcoming building” for the Children’s Institute of Los Angeles

Frank Gehry created a “welcoming building” for the Children’s Institute of Los Angeles

Architect Frank Gehry designed a tuition-free children’s institute in the Watts area of ​​Los Angeles, California, which would provide social services to the local community.

Gehry designed the structure to serve as the first-ever home for the Children’s Institute – a 116-year-old organization that helps families in the Los Angeles area.

Aerial shot of the Frank Gehry Children's Institute
Frank Gehry designed the Children’s Institute at Watts

The building, located in the Watts neighborhood of South Los Angeles, will contain offices for the institute’s 150 employees, as well as spaces for both the Watts Gang staff and the LAPD’s Community Safety Partnership.

“The campus will feature a range of free therapeutic programs and services for children and families, including individual and group counselling, parenting workshops, and Parenting Project sessions,” the Children’s Institute said.

The exterior of the Children's Institute is in corrugated metal
The exterior facade is made of corrugated metal and plaster

According to Studio Gehry, the building’s form was “segmented” so that it would not stand out from the single-family housing that defines the neighborhood. To do this, simple interlocking forms of plaster and corrugated metal were chosen for the façade.

“The priority was to create a welcoming building, scaled appropriately to fit into the surrounding neighborhood, and so that it felt friendly and usable to the community,” the architecture studio said.

Corrugated metal facade with perforated windows
Perforated windows feature the facade

Inside, the hallmarks of Gehry’s typical deconstructivism became more evident with the main building arranged around a full-height atrium surmounted by a clerestory window.

Surrounding the atrium are square shapes that define the different program areas of the building.

Inside the Children's Institute
Along the lobby corridor are offices and meeting spaces

Double-height spaces for community gatherings are placed on the ground floor while offices on the second floor open to the atrium.

Lots of windows were included in the design including large blocks of glass in the longest facades of the primary corrugated structure.

Atrium Space Children's Institute
The main structure has clerestory windows

Attached to the atrium on all sides are smaller volumes that will host smaller groups and therapy sessions.

The Watts Children’s Institute, designed pro bono by Studio Gehry, will open for business on June 25, 2022.

“The design of the building can tell the child, ‘We love you,'” Jerry said. “An upbeat building, which is open and friendly to the community, sends a strong message of support and care.”

He continued, “I hope that this building will serve and inspire children, families and this great organization for generations to come, and teach them that people care about them.”

Interior space in the children's institute
Treatment and smaller offices are off the main space

Frank Gehry was born in Canada and lives in Los Angeles where he heads his own studio, Gehry Partners. Jerry’s recent Dezeen series focused on deconstruction.

Jerry has completed a number of works in the Los Angeles area including the Walt Disney Concert Hall. This year Jerry also released plans for the Colburn School of Music in downtown Los Angeles.

Photography by Oltmans.


Project credits:

Design engineer: Gehry Partners LLP, Frank Gehry (Design Partner), Megan Lloyd (Partner, Chief of Staff), Lawrence Tighe (Project Partner), Sam Gehry (Project Designer), Thomas Kim (Project Architect),
Design Team: Precious Ayiluga, Aaron Ryan, Tyler McMartin, Jacques Bien
Engineer of record: Chait Corporation, Michael Chait (Director), Eric Link (Project Manager), Jonathan Brown (Project Engineer)
building: Oltmans Construction
Project management: Bottega Management Group, Leonard Madson
Structural Engineer: Action Point Engineering, Ben Varela, Ben John, Katie Schuh
Mechanical and plumbing: Schnackel Engineering, Jason Seymour
civil engineer: Mollenhauer Collection, Thomas Tran,
Lighting design: HLB Lighting, Till Brogden, Jay Smith, Michelle Murray
Landscape architecture: Elysian Landscapes, Jodi Camion, Dana Power
Acoustic design: Newson Brown Acoustics, Michael Brown, Ben Toys

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