The Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) has acquired its campus located in the Arts District on the eastern edge of downtown Los Angeles. At 1,250 feet (381 m) in length, the unique freight depot building is so long, that if it were upended, it would be as tall as the Empire State Building.
"SCI-Arc has been a vagabond school for almost forty years," said Director Eric Owen Moss. "We kept the game moving... SCI-Arc's light. SCI-Arc's quick. SCI-Arc's dexterous. We are, and building or not, we'll remain so. That's how we'll survive."
The campus purchase is a significant goal realized for SCI-Arc, as the depot will be the school's first permanent home in a 39-year history. For downtown Los Angeles, the sale of the land and the Santa Fe Freight Depot building to SCI-Arc is a key moment in the economic stability of an underdeveloped area of the city-the eastern edge of downtown. By owning its campus, SCI-Arc becomes a permanent player with a significant stake and role in the long-term revitalization of the area-the third major redevelopment zone in downtown Los Angeles along with LA Live and Grand Avenue.
"The Trustees together with the leadership have worked hard to achieve this important milestone for the school," said SCI-Arc Board of Trustees Chairman Jerry Neuman. "This acquisition guarantees the stability of SCI-Arc without compromising its forward-thinking nature."
SCI-Arc's commitment to putting permanent roots and expanding in the emergent Cleantech Corridor will be a key driver in the renewal of the Eastside of Downtown. The scale of the property, and the purpose of the school, offer an advantage for rethinking a city for the 21st century, using the best and brightest minds to reinvent economically sound and culturally relevant urban solutions.
Founded in 1972 by a group of seven faculty members and approximately 40 students who left Cal Poly Pomona to create a "college without walls," SCI-Arc has been a nomad school for almost 40 years, with previous locations in Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey. Since SCI-Arc started renting the Santa Fe freight depot in 2001-transforming its concrete shell into a school-its students, faculty and staff have helped define and give shape to the local community, and encouraged others to activate and locate to this area on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. During the past 10 years, SCI-Arc has taken root in the neighborhood, bringing hundreds of young people into the once-abandoned area. Today, with the campus purchase, the school becomes a permanent part of the educational and cultural evolution of LA's Arts District.
Designed by architect Harrison Albright, the depot was originally built in 1907 as two parallel 1,250-foot long twin structures stretching along Santa Fe Avenue. Albright used reinforced concrete for its turn-of-the-century design of the depot-its second use in Los Angeles. In the early 1990s, the western depot was demolished, leaving only one of the pair standing. The renovation of the remaining structure took about 9 months to complete between fall 2000 and summer 2001, and was designed by SCI-Arc alumnus and then faculty member Gary Paige of GPS Studio, in collaboration with SCI-Arc faculty, alumni and students. The first classes were held in the depot in September 2001.