How do you shove ten pounds of stuff into a five pound brutalist bag? A new Childcare Center on LA’s historic Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Campus proposes to do just that. Hudson Auditorium, built in 1973, is a poured-in-place concrete structure with a waffle slab roof. The building encloses 3,910 square feet. It feels heavy, dark and serious. In developing the program for a new Childcare center, it was determined that over 9,500 square feet of programmed space would be needed to meet the client’s requirements. In addition, the project needed to feel light, bright and playful. Given the historic nature of the existing building, the material beauty of its exposed concrete waffle slab roof, and constrained schedule and budget, the choice was made to avoid razing the existing building in order to build a brand-new, modern structure. Instead the project proposes to strip the building down to its core structure and tucks four new boxes of glassy, steel-framed program (area for Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers and Administration respectively) underneath the existing concrete roof slab.
These stop short of touching, leaving a trefoil canyon of circulation—an interstitial lobby and shared circulation area where visitors are left to confront the dramatic clash of the new building and the old, the new program and the old, the new system and the old. The architecture of the childcare center is designed to purposefully contrast with the ghost of the auditorium—soft, curvilinear and colorful part to reveal the unrelenting concrete coffers. This schism runs through to the North and East faces of the building creating glassy entrances, and the four boxes are delineated by color as four separate elements at the building’s exterior. Of course, the new windows employ dual glazing, the roof is re-clad with an efficient, “cool-roofing”, the landscaping specifies drought-tolerant species, and a highly-efficient VRF system have all been implemented, but the project proposes an alternative type of sustainability—one where old buildings are saved not in spite of themselves, but because of their underlying value—Adoptive Reuse instead of Adaptive Reuse.