El Centro Del Pueblo is a community-based nonprofit social service agency in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, serving at-risk youth, gang-involved youth, and court-referred offenders and their families. The project involved adapting a run-down office building for use as a 10,000-square-foot youth recreation center. Program elements include boxing and weights studio, studios for dance and martial arts, a youth drop-in center and lounge, a library/classroom/computer lab offices, and locker, shower, and bathroom facilities.
Using simple means and a small budget, the architects transformed a nondescript building with no sense of space or community into a facility for a wide range of users and a variety of activities. The original building had a largely solid façade on the street prohibiting natural light to any portion of the interior space. Thus, the existing façade was stripped to the structure (much of the existing wood siding and decorative structure was rotten) and windows were added at the upper level (it was important to not have too much visibility into the structure from the street to protect the youth from any potential gang activity). An opening between the first and second stories creates a two-story reception/entry space connecting the two levels visually and allowing light to penetrate into the hallways of both levels.
The materials throughout—gyp-board walls and ceilings, linoleum floors, and exposed insulation in the studios—were chosen for economy and durability. Different families of colors abound throughout the project. Cool colors grace the upper levels, where as warm colors are found on the lower levels. They reflect the vibrancy of the Latino community and the murals in the surrounding community.
Sarah Hays, Project Architect
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