Budokan – Little Tokyo Service Center Recreation Center

Los Angeles, California

Located in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, the Project generally consists of a new 28,000 SF, one level above grade two court gymnasium with mezzanine/outdoor terrace, outdoor roof deck garden on top of one level below grade parking.

Development of the Concept for the Exterior Façade
Gruen Associates
February 26, 2020

Gruen Associates’ design for the Budokan has evolved over two decades; going through at least two different sites and three different design efforts. The latest by Gruen Associates’ Director of Design Craig Biggi, LEED AP BD+C is the culmination of a collaborative effort to develop a meaningful design directly related to the actual site, building usage and client.

While most gymnasium facilities have large massive blank exterior walls (think about your old high school gymnasium) the Budokan is articulated into undulating layers in order to increase the lightness of the design while maintaining the building’s strong street presence. Further, the walls were given a pattern in order to further decrease its mass. The choice of patterns was carefully conceived as well, based on Japanese influences. As a place where competitive sports were to be played, the idea of samurai swords and, specifically, interpreting the patterns created by the converging cloth binding (ito) on the hilt of a samurai sword, was first introduced by Michael A. Enomoto, FAIA, Gruen Associates’ Partner-in-Charge. The idea of linear, but flowing bands are a modern interpretation inspired by these ancient sword hilt patterns. Biggi’s design has further evolved to be married with, and reminiscent of, the linear patterns created by the Japanese craft art of Yakisugi-ita or burnt cedar planking, the lines mimicking the flowing patterns created by the burnt veins of the cedar planks. Either interpretation can be seen in the final design which is, at once, monumental and modern while harkening back to the culture of the community at the center of the building’s design vision.