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The Frank Gehry-designed Beckmen YOLA Center will open in September

Frankly Understated

The Frank Gehry-designed Beckmen YOLA Center will open in September

The Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center in Inglewood, California. Seen here is the Edgerton Foundation Performance Hall (JWPictures/©LA Phil)

Three years after first unveiling a design for a new music education complex designed by Frank Gehry and Gehry Partners, LLC, in Inglewood, California, the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) has announced that it is now scheduled to welcome students this September. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, famously housed within the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a Gehry-designed structure of its own, the Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center will provide performance space and teaching facilities for aspiring musicians in Inglewood and neighboring districts.

With a projected cost of $14.5 million, the Beckmen YOLA Center is one of only a small handful of adaptive reuse projects completed by the firm, transforming an existing 18,000-square-foot former bank building, designed in 1965 by Austin, Field & Fry, into a 25,000-square-foot complex. As a whole, the project recalls the earlier, more minimalist work of Gehry’s career, such as the Danzinger Studio or the Frances Howard Goldwyn Hollywood Regional Library. The building’s glassy exterior recalls the boxy silhouette of the bank that preceded it, while the decision to keep the original structure’s evenly spaced street-facing columns adds a sense of understatement and symmetry—rare qualities in the architect’s oeuvre indeed.

Though recently-released images of the Edgerton Foundation Performance Hall reveal a decidedly more humble interior than that of the Concert Hall, it is an equally joyous temple to music thanks to the copious natural lighting it receives from a raised portion of the roof (which Gehry calls the “lighthouse”) and an equally capable music space. Using a movable acoustic wall, the hall can be divided into two smaller rehearsal rooms, each large enough for a full YOLA orchestra, and boasts an impressive 45-foot ceiling made possible by excavating the basement of the original structure.

“The high ceiling also reflects sound with an even distribution of time delays to create excellent clarity to balance the richness,” according to the press release from Gehry Partners. “Heavy materials have been chosen for the interior construction to reflect sound energy at a wide range of frequencies, improving bass response and warmth. Angled walls and tilted ceiling panels help to prevent detrimental flutter echoes from occurring.”

This main space accommodates a sitting audience of 190, with seats that can collapse into the floor to provide more performance space, and a standing balcony on the second floor that holds an additional 70. Smaller rooms surround the performance hall, providing additional community services, including individual practice studios, a technology-enabled classroom, a family lounge, and the YOLA music library.

Once completed, the Beckman YOLA Center will be the newest cultural and architectural addition to the Inglewood Civic Center. The 29-acre brutalist campus was designed by Charles Luckman Associates in 1973 and includes Inglewood’s City Hall, Public Library, fire station, and public health complex.

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