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The Colburn School selects Frank Gehry to design campus expansion
The Colburn School will be expanding beyond its current campus between Grand Avenue and Olive Street. Frank Gehry will design the new facilities, along Second Street between Olive and Hill Streets.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- Sel Kardan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Colburn School, today announced that this leading institution for music and dance has selected Frank Gehry to design a campus expansion adjacent to its existing facilities in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Andrew Millstein, Chairman of the Colburn School, and Carol Colburn Grigor, Life Chairman Emeritus, joined Kardan in announcing the project, which will heighten the School’s presence in a cultural corridor that includes Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Music Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Broad, and will make this area of Downtown one of the largest concentrations in the world of performing and visual arts organizations.

Gehry, the world-renowned Founder and Principal of Gehry Partners, joins an all-star, all-LA team for the project, which will add three extraordinary performance venues and an outdoor performance area to Downtown, as well as classrooms, a dance rehearsal center, and student and guest artist housing. An 1100-seat concert hall—the Colburn School’s first venue for full-scale orchestra performances—along with a 700-seat flexible studio theater for dance and vocal performance, and a 100-seat cabaret-style space will provide unprecedented facilities in which students of the School can hone their artistry and perform. In these new venues, Colburn will continue its tradition of presenting programs at affordable prices or for free to ensure they are accessible to the public.

To ensure that the expansion contributes fully to the vibrant cultural and civic life of Downtown LA, Colburn will also make these exceptional new spaces available to meet the demand of a range of partner institutions and community stakeholders.

Collaborating with Gehry on the building, which is initially estimated to provide approximately 200,000 square feet of space, will be Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics (acoustician for projects including Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, and Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg) and Michael Ferguson, principal of TheatreDNA (formally of Theater Projects, where he consulted on Gehry’s New World Center in Miami Beach and Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College). Together with the Colburn School, this team will now begin the concept design phase of the project.

The new building will be constructed on a parcel of land between South Olive and Hill Streets that the Colburn School acquired in 2016, adjacent to its existing campus. The current facilities date back to 1998, when the School relocated Downtown to a new, 102,000-square-foot home at 200 South Grand Avenue, designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. In 2007, following the creation of its world-renowned Conservatory of Music, the Colburn School expanded, opening an adjoining 326,000-square-foot facility designed by Pfeiffer Partners Architects.

Sel Kardan said, “We are excited to announce a multi-dimensional project that not only will serve future generations of Colburn students but also will create a crossroads for the performing arts in LA for musicians and dancers, both established and aspiring. In selecting Frank Gehry for this ambitious project, we have chosen an architect with an extraordinary track record of designing educational and performance spaces, an unshakeable sense of public purpose, deep roots in Los Angeles, and a commitment to the young people of this region and young artists around the world.”

Frank Gehry said, “The expansion of the Colburn School fills an important addition to the long-held dream to create a cultural district in downtown Los Angeles. The school is already an incredible asset and major player, and the expansion is a great opportunity to add breadth to this dream. I am honored to be chosen for this task, and I feel that it is an opportunity to further increase the school’s relationship to other cultural venues like The Music Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Broad, and MOCA. The young musicians, dancers, and performing artists will add to the vitality and excitement of the existing cultural organizations. What we all dreamed about twenty years ago is now becoming within reach, and we will do our best to make it a proud addition.”

Andrew Millstein said, “The Board of the Colburn School is proud to be moving forward with this project, which will add immeasurably to Downtown, and indeed the entire Los Angeles community. Colburn is the only school in the U.S. that is fully and equally committed to teaching musicians and dancers at every level, from beginners to burgeoning professionals, and devotes extraordinary resources to ensuring that students of any age, from any economic background, can pursue their artistic passions. It works to develop both the performers of tomorrow and also the next generation of audiences, patrons, and teachers, who will sustain the performing arts around the world. We look forward to building a facility that will elevate all aspects of the Colburn School’s program, while serving the broadest possible public throughout LA.”

Carol Colburn Grigor said, “Music runs in our family, passed down to us from our father. I’m thrilled that this expansion will help the Colburn School bring music and dance more deeply into the lives of thousands of students of all ages and will welcome all members of the public. Walt Disney Concert Hall is one of the most breathtaking buildings ever created for music performance, so I know that Frank Gehry is the perfect architect to design our expansion. When I look down Grand Avenue from the Colburn School to other institutions that mean so much to all of us, such as the LA Phil and the LA Opera, I know this is the perfect place to realise our dream. I am grateful to Andrew and the Board, Sel, Frank, the rest of the design team, and everyone else who is making this happen.”

The expansion will further Colburn’s commitment to making the performing arts a part of young people’s lives. Through its community engagement program, the Colburn School is often the first place where a young person in Los Angeles will hear classical music. The Colburn School partners with 15 Los Angeles Unified School District schools to provide concerts and music instruction, reaching some 5,000 students a year through programs such as the Summer Encounter camp and Jumpstart, an after-school program that offers semi-private instruction in strings, and brass and woodwind instruments. Each season, the School presents more than 300 concerts and performances at its Downtown Los Angeles home and throughout Southern California.

The expansion of the Colburn School will be Frank Gehry’s third building project in the immediate area, along with the acclaimed Walt Disney Concert Hall and a mixed-use project he is designing on Grand Avenue for the Related Companies. The placement of the campus expansion within a constellation of Gehry-designed projects presents an opportunity for the Colburn School to resonate architecturally with the surrounding neighborhood in an unprecedented way and help shape the cultural life of the city.

The Colburn Orchestra, the School’s flagship ensemble comprising students from its Conservatory of Music, will have its first on-campus home in a new concert hall, designed to be a world class venue with 1100 seats. Large ensembles in Colburn’s Community School and Music Academy will also use the new hall, which will give Downtown LA the medium-size, professional-level concert venue that the city’s cultural corridor has lacked.

The 700-seat Studio Theater will support the Colburn School’s current dance program as well as a future vocal program, offering an extraordinarily flexible facility for opera, ballet, and contemporary dance performances, musical ensembles, and experimental work of all kinds. Envisioned as a hybrid courtyard-style theater, the venue will be able to accommodate multiple seating configurations and can also serve as a special events space with banquet seating for up to 500. The casual, intimate cabaret-style club space will seat as many as 100 people for small-ensemble performances of amplified and non-amplified music of all kinds.

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