Children's Institute, Inc. (CII) Watts Campus
Children’s Institute, Inc. (CII) is a social impact organization dedicated to transforming the lives of children exposed to adversity and poverty in Los Angeles.
Designed pro bono by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the project is a 18,175-s.f., two-story, steel-framed, facility on a 40,946-s.f. site. Children’s Institute’s new campus will house therapeutic programs and a variety of free support for children and families, including individual and group counseling, parenting workshops, and Project Fatherhood sessions. The building will also be home to the Watts Gang Task Force which has brokered peace in the community for nearly 15 years, along with the LAPD Community Safety Partnership, a nationally-recognized model for relationship-based policing. The new community center will be complete with offices, conference rooms, and support spaces.
The Children’s Institute, Inc. Watts campus is an incredible accomplishment realized by a combination of private donations and partnerships with the Los Angeles Development Fund, Genesis LA, and Wells Fargo to secure New Markets Tax Credit funding for the project. The new facility stands as a significant landmark heralding in a renewed focus to the community of Watts and is expected to serve approximately 2,000 low-income individuals annually, with programs and services focused on mental health, early care and education, youth development, and family support services. Design services for the building were also provided pro bono by Gehry Partners, LLP.
Truly a space for the community, the construction of the Watts campus incorporated several considerations to ensure it reflected the needs of the neighborhood. The facility was designed as a multi-use space with the central atrium of the 2-level building acting as a congregation forum for large community meetings, and the raised outdoor seating doubles as a stage for community events. Throughout construction, a local hire program was implemented that incorporated local resources for construction activities (i.e., clean up, site security, and painting). Other unique features include an impact-resistant storefront system and landscaping that creates a visual buffer as well as a sense of arrival upon entering the facility.
The project team worked together to ensure that the project would be a welcome and integrated addition in the community. To achieve this, the team attended monthly community meetings to provide construction updates and respond to any concerns related to the project. Architecturally, BIM modeling was implemented to reduce visual overhead deterrents impeding the open high ceiling vision for the building’s design. Also constructed during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction team successfully managed all CDC, county, state, and OSHA-related health and safety standards including the implementation of an active airflow system with 6 negative air pressure machines placed throughout the building.