Michael Maltzan’s Inner-City Arts project wins excellence award


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The Inner-City Arts project in downtown L.A. has received a top award in urban planning and architecture. The Rudy Bruner Foundation has chosen the arts education center from 87 applicants for its Gold Medal Award for Urban Excellence. The center was founded in 1989 and was designed by architect Michael Maltzan.

ICA, which sits on a 1-acre site in the skid row area of downtown, creates programs that allow professional artists to interact with students in a real studio environment. The center serves up to 16,000 at-risk students per year at no cost to the students or their families.


The Rudy Bruner award comes with a $50,000 prize that will go toward arts instruction programs for ICA students. In its citation, the selection committee commended the center for addressing homelessness and the challenges facing public schools. The committee also cited the positive impact of the ICA program on impoverished or transient children.

Maltzan, who started his involvement with ICA in 1993, told Culture Monster that the project

‘came about after the L.A. riots and I was looking for ways to engage more deeply with the issues confronting the city.’ The architect and his team recently completed the third phase of the campus, which includes a library and learning center, a 99-seat arts theater and additional administrative space.

The architect worked with landscape design firm Nancy Goslee Power and Associates, which oversaw the campus’ garden.

‘ICA is moving from a model of being primarily focused on education to really having the potential to be a collective space for the community,’ Maltzan said.

Other Rudy Bruner finalists were the Community Chalkboard and Podium in Charlottesville, Va; the Hunts Point Riverside Park in the Bronx; Millennium Park in Chicago; and St. Joseph Rebuild Center in New Orleans.

In his review, Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne wrote that ‘ICA’s decision to paint its entire campus white is part provocation, part stubborn declaration of hope. ... Whiteness equals constancy, and the brighter the better.’

You can view an architectural photo gallery of the ICA complex and read Hawthorne’s full review of the project here.

-- David Ng