California Institute of the Arts | Los Angeles Conservancy
California Institute of the Arts
Photo by Scott Groller, copyright CalArts 2006

California Institute of the Arts

In the early 1960s, Walt Disney decided to create a new kind of institution of higher learning, devoted entirely to the visual and performing arts with no boundaries between disciplines.

He merged the existing Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and incorporated the California Institute of the Arts in 1961, making it the nation's first degree-granting program tailored to the creative arts. Disney hired architects Thornton Ladd and John Kelsey to design an appropriate campus plan for the collaborative new institution. Ladd & Kelsey were best known for their designs for Busch Gardens in Van Nuys and the Pasadena Museum of Art (now the Norton Simon Museum). They aimed for total designs that integrated landscape, buildings, and interior spaces.

To facilitate open communication between all forms of creative arts, the architects designed a unified complex that they called a "mega-building."

Completed in 1971, the CalArts complex contained theatres, galleries, workshops, studios, and reconfigurable classrooms, all designed to, as Ladd put it, "keep the various arts associating easily in rhythmic and random order." The Late Modern-style complex nestles into a landscape of rolling green hills and mature eucalyptus trees, continuing to serve as the home for a visionary interdisciplinary experiment.

Belmont High School. Photo by Jessica Hodgdon/L.A. Conservancy

Belmont High School

Belmont High School garnered national attention for the role it, along with four other Los Angeles high schools, played in the East L.A. Chicano Student Walkouts (Blowouts) of March 1968. In the 1990s, Belmont High was one of the nation's largest schools with over 5,000 students.
Photo courtesy www.you-are-here.com

Braille Institute of America

To address the unique challenge of designing a building for people who would experience a building without ever seeing it, architects Yohannan and Miranda began their process by wearing blindfolds for two weeks.
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Warner Center

A 1.5 square-mil planned community first envisioned as a mass-transit oriented neighborhood with residences, shopping, park, hospital, Metro rail, and a small cluster of skyscrapers some call "the downtown of the valley."