Construction starts on Frank Gehry-designed performing arts center in LA

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California Construction News staff writer

Preliminary work has begun on a $335-million expansion of the Colburn School of performing arts designed by architect Frank Gehry, a 100,000 sq. ft. expansion adjacent to Colburn’s current campus in downtown Los Angeles.

“These state-of-the-art performance venues and learning spaces will support students in all units of the School and make the Colburn campus an even livelier hub of artistic activity. The expansion builds on our mission of education through performance and will provide future generations of students access to world-renowned performance and rehearsal spaces,” said Sel Kardan, Colburn School president and CEO.

Since the school opened on Grand Avenue 25 years ago, its number of students, faculty, visiting guest artists, and audiences has grown each year. The land for the new center was purchased in 2016, and the building project was announced two years later. In spring 2022, the architectural design by Frank Gehry was unveiled.

Construction is expected to be completed in 2027. Located next to two other projects designed by Gehry – the iconic Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Grand – it will create the largest concentration of Gehry-designed buildings in the world.

“With its Coburn Center expansion, the Colburn School is making a monumental investment in three key DTLA pillars—education, culture, and architecture—and helping to take the Grand Avenue cultural district on Bunker Hill to new heights,” said Suzanne Holley, President and CEO of the DTLA Alliance.

The building consists of an ensemble of interlocking volumes built into a terrain that slopes down from Olive Street to Hill Street and clad in a pink metallic finish, with a 1,000-seat hall where the audience will encircle the performance platform. Gehry and his longtime acoustical engineer, Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics, have incorporated concrete sound clouds suspended from the ceiling to not only inject an intriguing aesthetic but function as an acoustic enhancement. In keeping with this airy atmosphere, two skylights will bring daylight into the space.

“The main thing is that the engineering doesn’t overwhelm the personal thing, the human feeling,” Gehry stated last year during “A Conversation with Frank Gehry” event at Colburn.

The outdoor space around, and on top of the center will advance the greening of downtown with lush and abundant street-level garden that will showcase yet another performance space. A rooftop garden will be an idyllic setting for receptions as well as small performances.

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