The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy is housed in the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, which served as the initial headquarters of the Japanese American National Museum. Built by Japanese immigrants in 1925, the building was the first Buddhist Temple constructed in Los Angeles. The ornate structure incorporates elements of a temple in Kyoto, mixing Japanese and Middle Eastern influences in its striking facade. The Temple served a broad range of community needs as a house of worship, secular social hall and income-producing rental space. A hub of life in thriving Little Tokyo, the structure was later used to store the belongings of Japanese Americans illegally forced by the government to leave their homes and businesses to live in U.S. concentration camps during World War II.
Architect Brenda Levin, FAIA, has designed the state-of-the-art Democracy Forum, added to the north end of the Historic Building. This new 200-seat auditorium serves as the centerpiece for the National Center's commitment to discourse, dialogue and community engagement and is equipped with communication technology for live television, radio, and Internet broadcasts. In addition, the former exhibition gallery space has been transformed into the Hirasaki Democracy Hall, which features the experiential display Fighting for Democracy, based on the experiences of diverse individuals during World War II who sought equal rights for their families and communities. The former Legacy Center has become the Democracy Lab, a non-traditional interactive classroom.
National Center Design Team
For the past 20 years architect Brenda A. Levin, FAIA, has been instrumental in giving new life to some of Los Angeles’ most beloved and significant places, including the Bradbury, Oviatt, and Fine Arts buildings, Grand Central Market, and the Wiltern Theater. As a result of this work, she has been identified with, and become widely known as one of the urban revitalization pioneers of the 1980s, working to restore life to parts of the city that had been abandoned. Levin's current projects range from the restoration of the Griffith Park Observatory to work on the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings in Barnsdall Art Park.
C&G Partners, LLC (formerly Chermayeff & Geismar, Inc.), a New York design firm founded in 1960, is active in a wide range of design areas, especially in the areas of exhibit planning, graphic design, the creation of signage and the design of public spaces. C&G Partners created the exhibits at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, the National D-Day Museum, and the inaugural exhibit at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art (the Temporary Contemporary), entitled "The Automobile and Culture." C&G's signage clients include The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the National Park Service; and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC.
Turner Construction Company was founded in 1902 and is one of the nation's largest builders of education, cultural, commercial, sport, hotel, pharmaceutical, medical, institutional, multi-unit housing and industrial projects in the United States. Turner Construction Company is a privately held corporation with 42 offices nationwide as well as offices established overseas. Recent Southern California projects involving restoration and renovation are El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, Alex Theater in Glendale, and the Long Beach Museum of Art.
Orgel Construction Management has been retained to perform construction management services throughout the duration of the National Center's project. The Los Angeles based firm has earned an excellent reputation with their extensive knowledge and experience in the specialized area of commercial and institutional facilities construction management. Orgel CM provides a full range of construction management services to their clients, which have included the Sherwin Williams Company, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Century City Hospital, the Los Angeles County Unified School District and consulting services for numerous law firms. Orgel CM's construction management services span the course of complex construction from the planning and preconstruction phases, through the bid/award and construction phase, and culminating with the post-construction phase, ensuring a smooth, cost efficient, and successful construction project from inception to completion.