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The Watts Happening Cultural Center was designed by Black architects Robert Kennard and Arthur Silvers during their partnership. Silvers worked for Kennard from 1962 to 1964.


Kennard and Silvers were both from a generation of post-World War II architects whose work demonstrated a break from traditional European influence, in line with the revival of the Black Arts movement. Their architectural work was inspired by the modernism of Richard Neutra, Victor Gruen, and Paul R.Williams. Both graduated from the University of Southern California School of Architecture, Kennard (1949) a decade before Silvers (1959). Both were active leaders in the Civil Rights movement and made it their mission to encourage and mentor young people, especially underrepresented ethnicities, to pursue careers in architecture and urban planning. They made sure students were also aware of social justice issues as they themselves navigated inequalities as professionals.Silvers often spoke to students about the necessity for protests and civil disobedience. Both he and Kennard helped to draft civil rights legislation.

In addition to the Watts Happening Cultural Center, Silvers and Kennard also designed the Bank of America on Central Avenue near 103rd Street (the first bank built in Watts since 1917), 102nd Street Elementary School (across from the Cultural Center) renamed the Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School, and the Charles R. Drew Postgraduate Medical School in Willowbrook.

Robert Kennard (left) and Arthur Silvers (right). Photo Courtesy of the Kennard Estate.

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