March 27, 2000 - From the March, 2000 issue

California Science Center's Master Plan Is Coming To Life

Exposition Park's former Museum of Science & Industry has undergone a dramatic metamorphosis in the last two years. Now the California Science Center, it is the park's lead organization. Overseeing this transformation is Executive Director Jeff Rudolph, who's responsible for not only the Center's programming, but its capital programs as well. As both the Center and Exposition Park begin Phase Two of their Master Plan, TPR was pleased to speak with Jeff about current growth, their roles in the surrounding community-and the prospects for the long-touted Figueroa Corridor redevelopment.


Jeff Rudolph

Jeff, give our readers a synopsis of your mission and goals for the California Science Center. Who do you serve, and why should our readers follow your activities?

The Science Center's mission is to stimulate and nurture interest in science, math and technology. While we seek the broadest possible audience, our primary audience is families with children. Our goal is to get everyone-all ages and backgrounds-to develop an interest in science, understand science relates to their everyday lives, and discover that it's fun!

How many visitors does the Science Center receive, and what do these visitors find there?

We opened the Center in February ‘98. We had just over 2 million guests our first year and we've seen about three and a half million total to date.

What they find is a series of hands-on exhibits and programs designed to help them understand science and see the relationships between science and technology in everyday life. Hopefully, they leave here with wonderful, memorable experiences that will cause them to look at science differently-and perhaps pursue further learning about it.

The Science Center's expansion is moving to Phase Two planning. Give our readers a better sense of your current expansion plans and how the development process is proceeding.

Our initial concept for the Science Center was to present four thematic areas. We wanted people to both look at the scientific universe and understand our relationship with it.

For the first phase-which we're in now-we looked at the individual organism, understanding how all living things share common life processes. In the creative world, we're looking at how we as humans have used science and technology to change the world-to create buildings, infrastructure, communication, and transportation systems to support our needs.

For our second phase, we'll be looking at the world as an ecosystem and understanding the planet's ecology-how the Earth's physical systems support life, and how life in turn impacts our physical systems.

The California Science Center is part of Exposition Park, which has also begun its Phase Two expansion. How do your plans at the Science Center fit in with the Park's plans? What are the leveraging opportunities?

There are many. The Science Center, as a State Department, is the principal landowner in Exposition Park. So we developed the Master Plan with all the facilities in mind-both Exposition Park and what was then the Museum of Science and Industry, now the Science Center.

In the Park Master Plan, we recognized that Exposition Park, at the time, was not a great park. It has tremendous opportunity as a wonderful, large urban and regional park, but it also has many competing uses and needs. It serves major sporting events-like two Olympics as well as large football and soccer games. It has major regional educational attractions like the Science Center, the Museum of Natural History and the African American Museum, which focus on learning. Plus, it's one of the major parks for this community.

The Park Master Plan created a vision to serve all of these needs. There are, of course, compromises, but overall, the Plan will double the amount of green space in Exposition Park, create community recreational facilities, consolidate parking in fewer locations while maintaining the existing number of spaces, and create a park that not only serves the institutions in it but also benefits people in the local community and throughout the region.

You've also undertaken a joint project with LAUSD to open a K-5 school that would double as a professional development center for teachers to improve science education. Tell our readers about your experience working with LAUSD.

It's been both exciting and frustrating. The project is unlike most other LAUSD projects-in fact, unlike any in the country-in that it's a local elementary school, but will also serve as a model for how to improve science, math and technology education in all elementary schools. The Science Education Resource Center is designed to amplify the lessons learned in the school, the Science Center and the Park's other facilities throughout the region and the State. It will house professional development programs for teachers, education programs for parents, and programs for community youth leaders as well.

That's very different from a traditional school, especially because it will use historic buildings-the school project will rehabilitate and reuse the 1913 Armory Building as well as undertake new construction designed to work within the Park's constraints.

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This project is exciting-it's gotten interest from people in the architectural field as well as national interest because it's a really unique opportunity to improve science and math learning.

Who are the architects for both the Science Center expansion and the planned LAUSD school?

For the school, Morphosis' Thom Mayne is the architect, and he's done a great job creating a state of the art school within a historic structure. For the first phase of the Science Center and the Park Master Plan, the architect was Doss Mabe and Bob Frasca of Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership (ZGF). The architects for the second phase of the Science Center will be a team of ZGF and Esherick, Homsey, Dodge, and Davis (EHDD).

Let's touch on how this fits into the fabric of Los Angeles-from Exposition Park to Downtown. Exposition Park has been touted as one of the linchpins to the revitalization of the Figueroa Corridor, with visionaries seeing a Downtown L.A. that runs from Chinatown to Exposition Park. What's the Science Center's role in these revitalization plans, and what do you envision the future of the Figueroa Corridor will be?

We see Exposition Park as the southern edge of Downtown with really strong links between all the facilities along the Corridor-the Convention Center up to Chinatown, L.A. Trade Tech, the Hospital, etc. There's just a tremendous wealth of resources and opportunities.

The current phase of improvements along the Figueroa Corridor as well as development of the business improvement district are good indications of the Corridor's potential. We'd also like to see transportation alternatives developed that can serve the Corridor more effectively-and we're encouraging the study of public transit along the Exposition corridor.

From the point of view of the California Science Center, is there interaction and a level of cooperation between both the planning of Exposition Park and the Corridor?

We certainly participate in Figueroa Corridor planning and in the BID. In fact, we, along with all the institutions at Exposition Park, were strong supporters of establishing the BID and agreed to contribute to it, even though governmental agencies cannot be required to do so.

For the Exposition Park Master Plan, we've been committed to a process of including not just the Park institutions, but local residents as well as all the organizations working in and around the Figueroa Corridor.

Our whole process has been geared towards getting people to understand the tradeoffs involved in various uses of the Park and to reach consensus on a plan. As we start the second phase of Park improvements, we're planning to do another series of public workshops to get everyone at the table again.

Jeff, by what criteria would you like the Center's efforts to be measured in a year's time? What should be accomplished by then?

A year from now, construction of the Science Center School and Science Education Resource Center should be commencing, and we should be ready to begin construction on the next phase of improvements for Exposition Park. Our underground parking facility, which is part of the Plan, will begin construction about this time next year.

The Intergenerational Community Center will also be in construction by then. That's a $26 million project to rebuild the 1932 Olympic Swim Stadium and create a recreational facility, senior center, and childcare facility.

Also at that time, the second phase of the Science Center's planning and architectural work will be underway. We're in the early conceptual design phase right now, and it's hard to show people what it will look like. But a year from now, we'll be able to clearly articulate the vision for that second phase.

There are a lot of exciting things going on, and I think we'll see many projects moving towards design completion and into construction during the next year.

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© 2019 The Planning Report | David Abel, Publisher, ABL, Inc.