On the first day of the Los Angeles Design Festival last month, de LaB organized a tour of Heart of LA’s Lafayette Park community center, one of the most exciting new public buildings to be completed in LA. HOLA, in partnership with Kanner Architects and the city’s parks department, worked together to create a landmark for recreation and community in the neighborhood, but also to make it as green of a building as possible.
Our tour began across the street at the leafy patio of HOLA, where executive director Tony Brown introduced the program and the impact it has made in the neighborhood. In fact, HOLA runs an incredible program called “Send a HOLA Kid to Camp” which allows people to donate as little as $25 to send a child to a basketball clinic. Read more at HOLA’s website. Then Neil Drucker and Jerry Montero from the Department of Parks and Recreation and City Bureau of Engineering explained the unique public-private partnership which allowed the community center to be funded and built as the first LEED-certified city of LA structure.
With that, we set off on our walk around the community center, set as the cornerstone of a busy and well-used Lafayette Park. The center looked stunning in the evening summer light. Project manager Jaime Contreras explained how the beautiful barrel roof of the original building was preserved, and brought up to date with the concept that the community center should embrace the park. The challenge was to make local residents feel welcome at any time, but also to help them feel safe in a sometimes violent neighborhood. The designers had to incorporate unfortunate but necessary elements like anti-vandalism surfaces, paint colors that could easily cover graffiti, and bullet-proof glass.
Inside, the building was warm and surprisingly well-lit with natural light, even at sunset. Jimmy explains how the gymnasium was opened up to the park by adding windows that allowed people inside to get a glimpse of palm trees. Even over on the left-hand side, you can see how glass block elements bring in more light and break up the monolithic wall of padding. Along the ramp is a cool recycled metal curtain that’s almost like chain mail, which keeps stray balls from hitting pedestrians. And that floor? Yes, that’s a certified Lakers logo laid in a beautiful bamboo floor. We didn’t think we’d ever seen a bamboo basketball court.
Afterwards we headed into the heart of Koreatown to Beer Belly, designed by our good friends at MAKE Architecture. Owner Jimmy Han greeted us as we sampled over a dozen local beers on tap and even enjoyed beer-battered delicacies like fish and chips and artichokes.
Thanks to everyone who helped make the first night of the Los Angeles Design Festival a success!