James M. Wood Community Center

Los Angeles, CA

Client: SRO Housing Corp.

Cost & Scope: $1,200,000; 743 square meters

Key Personnel:

            Samir Ekmekji, Reiss Brown Ekmekji – Structural Engineer

            R.T. Frankian & Associates – Geotechnical Engineer

            Perfecto Arca, P.A. Arca Engineering – Civil Engineer

Mia Lehrer + Associates – Landscape Architect


Completion Date: December 2002

The James M. Wood Community Center is the first area facility designed specifically to meet the social, cultural and recreational needs of Skid Row senior citizens and persons in recovery.  The two-story building is highlighted by a 12.2 meter high civic colonnade and trellis with a base planter that transforms the intersection by becoming the new eastern edge of the existing park across the street.

This response to the site creates and envelops two important public spaces: the interior ground floor “community living room” and the exterior roof-top garden terrace and belvedere, which serves to re-center the intersection and provides a public promontory.  The ground floor’s dramatic 5.5 meter high ceiling and extensive natural daylighting creates a welcoming atmosphere of openness, which respects and extends an invitation to the homeless and low-income population, so often overlooked and under-served by traditionally drab civic institutions.

When the Architect, Owner, and Builder share a common vision, a successful facility can achieve these goals at a reasonable cost.  The community’s overwhelming response to this project reaffirms the notion that beauty is fundamental to human dignity, and it is no more acutely needed and felt than at the lowest end of the social ladder.

Grand Award, The American Institute of Architects California Council, Concrete Masonry Association of California and Nevada    2005
Business Week/Architectural Record Award, The American Institute of Architects    2004
Merit Award for Excellence in Design, The American Institute of Architects California Council    2003
Westside Prize, Westside Urban Forum    2003   
Gold Nugget Award of Merit for Excellence & Value for Best Public/Private Special Use Facility, PCBC    2003
Gold Nugget Special Award for Excellence and Value for Building Industry Community Spirit, PCBC    2003
Award of Excellence for “exceptional contribution” in the Institutional category, Los Angeles Business Council.      2003

2002    december.16    Los Angeles Times    Newspaper    Susan Freudenheim    On Skid Row, a Modernist
2002    december.23    LA Downtown News    Newspaper    Sam Hall Kaplan    A Gift of Social Architecture
2003    AIA Claifornia Council 21st Annual Awards    Award    N/A    AIACC Merit Award
2003    semptember.03    Architectural Record    Magazine    Jane F. Kolleeny    Giving vs. Getting Alturisim is alive and well in Architecture
2004    november.04    Architectural Record    Magazine    N/A    Business Week/ Architectural Record Awards
2006    The Storypole: Masonry Resource Guide    Magazine    Michael Lehrer    Kind and Tough
2007    Oct.    Interiors & Sources.com    website    N/A    Architect's Contributions to aid homeless honored James M. Wood, Drop-in Center, MBL
2008    April    Concrete Masonry Association of CA & NV    Newspaper    N/A    James M. Wood Community Center