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Gehry-designed Children’s Institute aims to foster community outreach in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood

Cultural Facilities

Gehry-designed Children’s Institute aims to foster community outreach in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood

The $25.8 million project offers the community meeting spaces, offices, indoor and outdoor gathering areas, and other spaces to help foster community outreach.

By Malcolm Crumbley, Associate Editor | June 15, 2022
Children's Institute Watts Campus ext
Photo by Oltmans. Courtesy Children's Institute.

The Children’s Institute (CII) in Los Angeles will open a 200,000-sf campus designed by Frank Gehry this summer. The new development will provide CII with its first purpose-built home in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood, and is designed to host programs and offer resources for this economically disadvantaged community.

CII has been a dedicated non-profit organization for 116 years, and has worked with the Watts Community since 2007. They have partnered with families, as well as other community organizations, to provide services like counseling and workshops. This campus at Success Avenue and East 102nd Street in South LA will centralize Children’s Institute’s operations in the area.

Gehry’s design aims to downplay the building’s mass, while showcasing the important community work happening inside. The facade is broken down to relate to the adjacent single-family residences using simple interlocking volumes made of plaster and corrugated metal cladding. The priority was to create a welcoming building, one that was scaled appropriately to the surrounding neighborhood and one that feels approachable.

The interior is full of natural light from the large windows and the many skylights throughout. Double-height public spaces are scaled to accommodate larger community gatherings, while office areas are open to the central atrium below on the second floor. A series of small group and individual therapy rooms are located off the atrium, each with large windows to fill the space with natural light.

Designed For the Community

The Watts campus was intentionally designed to make a connection between CII and the Watts community. The building operates both as a community center and a therapy center, and offers space for neighborhood meetings and events. The center will be home to a number of outreach programs that directly respond to the issues within the community, including the Watts Gang Task Force and the LAPD Community Safety Partnership. Programs include:

  • Toddler socialization
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Youth development
  • Parenting workshops
  • Workforce development/employment support
  • Project fatherhood sessions

“The new Watts campus is a beautiful symbol of Children’s Institute’s ongoing commitment to our city and this neighborhood in particular,” said Los Angeles Police Department Captain and Children’s Institute Trustee Emada Tingirides. “I know that my patrol officers that work in the community of Watts have a partner as we try to address some of the concerns, trauma and violence in the community. Children’s Institute continues to be an unwavering partner to Watts families year after year.”

The Children’s Institute has planned a Community Celebration on June 25 at the new Watts Campus to welcome families to enjoy a day of performances and activities.

Building Team:

Owner and developer: CII

Architect of Record: Chait & Company

Design architect: Gehry Partners, LLP

MEP engineer: Schnackel Engineers

Structural engineer: Workpoint Engineering

Landscape Architect: Elysian Landscapes

General contractor/construction manager: Oltmans Construction Co.

Children's Institute Watts Campus aerial
Photo by Oltmans. Courtesy Children's Institute. 
Children's Institute Watts Campus int
Photo by Oltmans. Courtesy Children's Institute. 


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