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In Inglewood, Frank Gehry says his design for LA Philharmonic youth orchestra won’t be ‘precious’

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The architect is converting a 1960s bank building

A photo of a 3D model of the music center.
An exterior view of the Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood.
Courtesy of Gehry Partners LLP

An old bank building in Inglewood will get the Frank Gehry treatment—but it won’t be “precious,” the architect says.

Gehry is designing the building’s conversion into the new home of the LA Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, a free music education program that serves nearly 1,000 students across LA.

“It’s about creating culture within the community,” Gehry said Wednesday, as the design was unveiled to reporters.

Gehry famously designed the LA Philharmonic’s home base, the Disney Concert Hall in Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles. It opened in 2003, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable and iconic buildings in Los Angeles.

LA Phil conductor Gustavo Dudamel said that while the youth orchestra’s new home may not be flashy, it will be a top-quality facility for its purpose—music.

“This project is a message to the world,” he said. “It signifies dignity to our youth.”

The 18,000-square-foot former bank will be expanded and improved to become the 25,000-square-foot Judith and Thomas L. Beckmen YOLA Center at Inglewood. The $14.5 million center will hold a performance space, studios, music library, instrument storage, and rehearsal spaces.

The edifice, built in 1965, will retain much of its exterior. The existing glass, brick, metal, and tile will be reused in the new design. After the renovation, passersby will be able to peek into the space and the performance area.

A new, all-glass rooftop “pop-up” along LaBrea Avenue will bring in natural light. Interior finishes will be simple and durable to accommodate as many as 500 students in the program.

The building was never intended to be a concert hall, so it had its limitations, Gehry said. Major alterations to the building will be made to improve the way sound moves through it.

Gehry said the ceiling had to be raised and the floor dropped—at a “reasonable cost”—to get the ceiling height to 45 feet tall, which is ideal for the acoustics. (Nagata Acoustics, the company responsible for the acoustics at the Disney Concert Hall, will also work on this space.)

The convertible performance space could be set up to host concerts in one large space or in a way that creates two separate rehearsal spaces.

LA Phil chief executive officer Simon Woods said the refurbished structure would be “the beginning of what we hope will be a long and fruitful relationship” with Inglewood residents.

The benefits of this new space could potentially go beyond the youth orchestra.

YOLA is largely an after-school program, which creates the opportunity for the new music center building to be used in the day for other community uses, Woods said.

During construction over the next two years, LA Phil will work with residents to figure out how to use the building as a “community asset.”

Construction on the YOLA Center in Inglewood is slated to start in the spring.