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Buddhists to Renovate Santa Monica Facility

Soka Gakkai is scheduled to complete World Culture Center project next year, with an estimated value of more than $6 million.

August 08, 2000|BOB HOWARD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Buddhist cultural organization Soka Gakkai International will redesign and renovate its facilities in Santa Monica as part of a construction project slated to be completed next year.

Soka Gakkai, also known as SGI, has named Santa Monica-based architectural firm WWCOT to design the improvements and renovations at the organization's World Culture Center in downtown Santa Monica. SGI is a worldwide educational and cultural organization based on Buddhist teachings.

The project, for which WWCOT is also administering construction, includes a 13,615-square-foot lobby and administrative support building and a 5,500-square-foot plaza facing Wilshire Boulevard that will be integrated with an existing 1,200-seat auditorium at 525 Wilshire Blvd. The auditorium is slated to be renovated as part of the project.

Soka Gakkai did not disclose the project's value, but Santa Monica city officials said the organization has obtained permits estimating the value of the renovations at more than $6 million.

The new design at the complex will emphasize the internationalism of Soka Gakkai while "simultaneously expressing its [Soka Gakkai's] commitment to Santa Monica," said Andrea Cohen Gehring, WWCOT principal in charge of design.

"The new complex will also relate visually to the existing SGI headquarters at 606 Wilshire Blvd.," Gehring said.

Due to be done in April 2001, the project required the demolition of a four-story, 45,000-square-foot office building and will include the relocation of the entrance to an underground parking structure on 6th Street.

General contractor for the project is Pozzo Construction Co. Consultants to WWCOT include structural engineers Brandow & Johnson; mechanical engineers J.L. Hengstler Associates; electrical engineers TMAD Engineers Inc.; civil engineers Mollenhauer Group; Joe Kaplan Architectural Lighting; Veneklasen & Associates acoustical consultants; and Mia Lehrer & Associates, landscape architect.

Soka Gakkai International-USA is "an American Buddhist organization whose mission is to contribute to peace, culture and education" based on the philosophy and ideals of the Buddhism of a 13th century Japanese priest named Nichiren, according to a statement by the organization.

Named for the Japanese words Soka (value creation) and Gakkai (society), the organization was founded in Japan in 1930 and includes members in more than 156 countries, according to spokesmen.

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