The nonprofit group Spy Hop invites the voices of youth aged nine to 19 to be heard and valued as they tell their stories through film, music, audio and digital design. Beginning as an option for an after-school program that initially had 12 participants, now 18,000 participate in in-school, after-school and satellite programming.
The location is the Central 9th (C 9), the newly redeveloping neighborhood just southwest of downtown with easy access by TRAX and buses. Atlas Architects, Inc., designed the facility to meet the specific space demands of the program, and Okland Construction built the project.
With COVID restrictions, the new building can’t fully open to participants and most of the staff work remotely. It’s ready to come fully alive when they all return. The building has the look of an art center with its angles, concrete and the perforated metal “skin” on the second floor.
Spy Hop gets its name for the action of a dolphin rising in the water to take its bearings to navigate. The building roots itself in the urban neighborhood with visual connections providing a constant sense of place to its busy surroundings.
The main entry is at the corner of 200 West and Harvey Milk Boulevard (900 South). The concrete walls and glass soar, and the wood of the reception desk adds a warmth. Much of the ground floor is dedicated to audio studio space for performing and recording.
Also on the ground floor are workspaces and the cafeteria.
Moving up to the second floor is a large collaboration and group workspace with private work areas for projects and editing to the side that can be closed off with sliding glass doors.
A classroom is equipped for teaching digital design. On this floor is the boardroom and conference space, as well as offices.
At the top is an indoor/outdoor reception space with a large hangar door opening to connect the two spaces. Plans are to use the space for Spy Hop events like screening films (there is a drop-down screen) and performances, and perhaps to also allow other events to help financially support the non-profit. Past the double glass doors is a food preparation area. The patio could easily host a very large group.
Reflecting on photographing Spy Hop, it is a space designed to be the backdrop for energetic, noisy, creative activity. Because of COVID precautions and restrictions, these happy days are yet to come. The photos could be greatly improved with people playing instruments, pounding out stories on computers, scripting films and filling the rooms with their creative excitement. It’s yet another thing to look forward to when this epidemic is finally controlled.
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