Balfour Beatty delivered the new, state-of-the-art, Heart of LA (HOLA) Performing Arts Building and recreation center designed by Berliner Architects and located within Lafayette Park in downtown LA. HOLA is a non-profit organization that provides underserved youth with an equal chance to succeed through free programs in academics, arts, wellness programs, and athletics in a nurturing environment. Their success is founded on safe environments, nurtured by a no-wrong-door approach, amplified by world-renowned partners, and perpetuated by students who become productive, caring, and responsible citizens. HOLA currently serves more than 2,400 children and families and with more than 300 families still on HOLA’s waitlists quarterly, the new building allows HOLA to expand their capacity to serve the community by 74%.
Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) sought to create an environment for the underserved school children that live in the Ramparts, Westlake and Pico Union neighborhoods, which are overrun by poverty, crime and a feeling of hopelessness. These children have always had second best facilities and this endeavor to build a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Building allowed the children to not only have a fresh environment but the most innovative sustainable facilities around. The organization gives some of our city's most vulnerable youth a chance to succeed in life – through its programming, the youth (and their parents) are exposed to a wide array of experts including artists, executives, chefs, athletes, engineers and counselors who truly commit themselves to instruction and guidance of the highest quality.
The three-story 32,000 square foot facility consists of 50 modular units built from single-use shipping containers and converted to custom-designed activity rooms, community rooms, music rooms and creative lab spaces. Each space features full LED lighting, ductless HVAC systems and floor-to-ceiling windows. The new HOLA Facility also houses the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) with a new ensemble room opening up to the park for public performances.
The structure is comprised of 50 sea containers and four steel-frame modular units repurposed into a three-story structure. This innovative approach fascinates the attendee’s imagination while they participate in becoming our future. The artwork featured on the sea containers as well as the containers themselves are a unique representation of the community’s history. HOLA Visual Arts students re-imagined stories of recycled shipping containers with local artists as part of HOLA’s summer Public Art Residency program, supported by a grant from the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation.
Over the course of five weeks, local artists Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas worked with HOLA Visual Arts students to explore the journey of shipping containers through maritime traffic and the global economy before they came to reside in Lafayette Park. Shipping containers provide connections to political, economic, and environmental issues that resonate within the neighborhood to the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach and beyond. Stories of conservation, migration, sea mythologies, and more were shared in the students’ artwork. The final piece was a sculpture of interconnected miniature shipping containers and a banner with a special message for the community written in coded flags. The sea containers were completely built with finishes off-site and then shipped and installed. With the importance of these shipping containers in mind, Balfour Beatty readied the project site and and then assisted with the coordination of the sea containers’ safe arrival to the site.
Giving back to the community is an integral part of Balfour Beatty’s culture, therefore, the entire project team was not only dedicated to delivering this unique building but also passionate about the work they were doing towards the improvement of the community. The team’s dedication and passion are evident in their excellent management of this project that led to the team being trusted with additional scope. This was in no small part due to the constant flow of information between HOLA and the project team and the coordination with multiple local agencies throughout the life of the project.
The challenges posed on the site due to existing conditions and location were excellent opportunities for the team to come up with unique solutions, some of which had the added benefit of being environmentally friendly and cost-effective for the client. One such example was the placement of an underground 18,000-gallon storm drain cistern tank to collect and store rain runoff to be recycled for landscape watering.
On top of the unique solutions to these challenges, the project team demonstrated an exemplary dedication to safety, community, and environment. When it was found that there was naturally occurring methane in the soil, the project team created a passive methane system by use of cross ventilating fresh air vents and mitigation systems. This unique solution put the community, the environment, and the safety of all who use the building and future generations first.