Los Angeles is about to be gifted with a much-needed project that’s been a long time coming. The Los Angeles LGBT Center, which serves more than 42,000 clients each month, broke ground this past weekend on its new Anita May Rosenstein Campus, a 183,700-square-foot complex catered to the city’s LGBT and homeless communities.
The massive facility — all set for construction off McCadden Place and Santa Monica Boulevard — is designed by architecture firm Leong Leong, recent recipients of this year’s Emerging Voices Award from the Architectural League New York. Local firm Killefer Flammang will serve as the executive architect.
The building will include 140 units of affordable housing for adults and seniors, 100 beds for homeless youth, a new senior center, a youth center and on-site support services for younger tenants. It will also serve as an administrative headquarters, retail space and cultural events space, connecting with the center’s adjacent arts and educational facility, The Village at Ed Gould Plaza.
Architizer invited Dominic Leong, co-principal of the design team, to speak on the project last month as part of our “Rendering to Reality” lecture series, in which architects discuss the in-depth process behind their projects from design conception to the construction site.
Though the LGBT Center broke over the weekend, the nonprofit group first put out a call for proposals back in 2014. Leong Leong were chosen for the job and decided to create a compact structure designed around classic Hollywood courtyard cutouts. From an aerial perspective, the building blends into the city, and although it takes up an entire city block, its porous nature means that it remains open to surrounding developments.
According to Leong, the project serves a network of needs. “It represents the entire spectrum of the basic need of survival all the way to being an institutional face to the city,” he said. “In a lot of ways, it’s a sanctuary and a home for these people, but it’s also an institution. That kind of setup is a big question for architecture.”
In other words, the main challenge for the architects was to discover how all these different programs could co-exist in one structure. To do that, they had to redefine what it means to design for youth, gender and multigenerational living, among other variables.
“We asked ourselves: how can architecture create a voice for the LGBT community?” said Leong.
The LGBT Center’s current headquarters, which will turn into a health clinic once the new campus is complete, is significantly smaller and less welcoming than the proposed design. Leong said that at first, the clients simply wanted more rooms and windows incorporated into the new project.
“Our intention was to build an ambitious landmark building that was resourceful while challenging the assumptions of what a multi-generational campus could be," said Leong. "We tried to be an advocate for what architecture can do."
The architects were interested in the horizontal organization of the mat typology and saw a need to evolve it relative to the specific program and context of Hollywood. Their design for the center draws upon these design qualities to organize itself as a building that values both privacy and openness. The courtyards bring in daylight and serve as community gathering spaces as well as reflection spaces. The exterior design is built to attract community members as a second home or safe haven, while it also dually ensures maximum privacy throughout the program and gives off a feeling of invitation and transparency.
“Our scheme was so radically different from anyone else’s who designed for this project,” said Leong. “There’s no singular image to sum up the project because each side of the campus relates to a different street condition and scale. We thought about how this campus could create new relationships to the city that serve both the neighborhood and the LGBTQ community."
The LGBT Center’s Anita May Rosenstein Campus is slated for completion in 2019, just in time for the center’s 50th anniversary.
Images Courtesy of Leong Leong