An Outdoor Cultural Experience
Designed by international architecture and design firm Perkins and Will, Destination Crenshaw is an outdoor art and culture experience celebrating Black L.A. The project, stretching along Crenshaw Blvd. from Leimert Blvd. to 60th St. and running parallel to a section of Los Angeles Metro’s upcoming Crenshaw/LAX light rail line, is designed to facilitate economic security and entrepreneurship for residents while doubling as an open-air experience celebrating the energy and accomplishments of Black L.A. through arts and culture. “Destination Crenshaw has been entirely driven by the community itself, and honors not just the neighborhood as a creative hub, but also Black L.A.’s impact on popular culture and social change. Our role as architects is to translate, through design, the very real, very significant voices and energy of Black L.A,” says Zena Howard, the project’s lead architect and art curator. Howard, a principal and managing director at Perkins and Will, has earned international renown for her series of “Remembrance Projects,” which pay homage to black history and culture.
Destination Crenshaw will transform sidewalks, business facades, and public structures with permanent and rotating art installations, 10 pocket parks, and culturally-themed street and landscaping improvements, including hundreds of new trees and much-needed green space. This project documents and preserves over 200 years of history of Black people in L.A., celebrating the community’s cultural identity and kicking off a community-driven, counterbalancing force against gentrification. The project will also present construction career opportunities for residents, and is designed to support existing local businesses and provide artists from the area with a launchpad to start their careers.
“Our work on Destination Crenshaw has always centered on the theme ‘Grow Where You’re Planted,’ which is inspired by African giant star grass. Known to thrive in inhospitable environments, the grass reminds us of the history and resiliency of Black L.A., whose deep community roots have strengthened over the decades despite facing years of root shock,” says Gabrielle Bullock, the project’s managing principal. Bullock, who won the 2020 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award from the American Institute of Architects, is also the director of global diversity at Perkins and Will.
The 1.3-mile stretch includes four distinct nodes, serving as thematic design lenses to guide visitors throughout their experience as they walk along Crenshaw Blvd. “Improvisation” at W Slauson Ave. will focus on the community’s resourcefulness, “Firsts” at 54th Street will honor past and present African-American pioneers, “Dreams” at 50th Street will celebrate the community’s ability to create space for itself and “Togetherness” at West Vernon Ave. will highlight the area’s significant cultural infrastructure. The project culminates at Sankofa Park, an elevated outdoor plaza with views out onto Crenshaw Blvd and beyond, allowing visitors to reflect on their experience in the space.
Destination Crenshaw and Perkins and Will have been working for years with major figures in the Black L.A. community to ensure that community voices are incorporated into the project. Project team members include Larry Earl, owner of 1619 Exhibits and former executive director at the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum and the Houston Museum of African American Culture; Issa Rae; the internationally-renowned artist, gardener, and community activist Ron Finley; deputy director and chief curator of the California African American Museum, Naima Keith; and the late hip-hop entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle.
In addition to Howard and Bullock, team members from Perkins and Will include:
• Kenneth Luker – Lead Design Principal
• Yan Krymsky – Design Principal
• Drake Dillard – Project Manager
• Malcolm Davis – Exhibit and Art Curation Manager, Facilitator Support
• Martin Leitner – Urban Designer
• Jorge Mutis – Project Designer
• Foad Faizi – Project Designer
• Drake Hawthorne – Project Architect
Women and minority-owned firms working on the project include Studio MLA, AMPR Group, RAW International, Bridge Street, Terry A. Hayes and Associates, and Artemis Events Company.