A New LA Modern
Program Residential community with restaurant space
Type Rental housing
Status Competition proposal
Collaborators: Evan Farley, Cass Nakashima
There is perhaps no other city in the modern world that produces as much cultural export as Los Angeles. Its image is relentlessly broadcast thanks to the ubiquity of the Hollywood machine; the sun, the trees, and the seemingly endless summers have caught the imagination of many a would-be Angelino for decades. It is novelty; it is adventure; it is the wild west; it is California. It’s an idea that spurred a population boom that has been seemingly never-ending since the early 20th century.
This spirit of LA has in no small way shaped how our built environment has evolved. To paraphrase Reyner Banham, in a land where nothing officially exists, absolutely anything becomes thinkable. The expanse has given way to a crowded metropolis, however. The postcard image of LA now belies a culturally diverse, complex, and increasingly inequal society. Zeal has been replaced by drudgery for those most severely impacted by the acute housing shortage in LA. The desert has evolved, and so too must our approach to how we build on it.
Our goal with this proposal is to provide a roadmap to building beautiful inclusive housing communities that are firmly rooted in their distinct neighborhoods and bask unapologetically in the beauty of the LA outdoors. We take inspiration from the aspirations of the Case Study program, but look to modernize to LA’s current needs. We aim for a new LA Modern.
First, we address cost. Cost is, after all, a major concern to just about any Angelino. We approach this issue in a couple of ways: size and construction method.
Instead of appointing space by accepted formulae, we carefully considered how much area each unit actually needs. To defer to a trope, it is the quality, not the quantity of the space we choose to focus on. We do this to give each unit more “breathing” room which allows us to create a connection to the outdoors in every room of the project: all rooms can be easily passively ventilated and lit because all rooms have light on all four sides. The added benefit, of course, is that a smaller space costs less to build than a larger ones.
We also propose to build with Cross Laminated Timber (CLT). By centering the construction of our scheme around CLT panels—a renewable resource with low embodied carbon footprint—we look to minimize construction time and reduce construction waste. The panels are precisely cut in a controlled environment and assembled on site in a manner of days. This is weeks faster than traditional stick-framed building and translates to significant cost savings in labor and financing carrying costs. Expressing this construction within each unit, further lowers finishing costs and provides a healthier interior environment with the exposed wood.
Our approach is simple: we break down the dwelling unit into component living modules of a fixed size. These individual element modules (bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, etc.) are interchangeably connectable at their corners, allowing for myriad configurations that can adapt to specific program needs. Propagating this unit approach across the site creates a collection of intimate, shared outdoor spaces. The result is that each unit block has direct access to a variety of outdoor spaces: private roof decks, semi-private courtyards and collective outdoor areas, which can be programmed according to the needs of each specific community. These spaces are shaded by thoughtful landscaping and the building blocks themselves, which are near each other to benefit from self-shading and help keep outdoor spaces cool and usable, another concern brought up in the CLS videos. It is a spatial structure where the dwellings are related and courtyards and interior gardens blur the boundaries between individual apartments. The control of scale of the volumes and of the intermediate spaces between them creates a sense of both privacy and belonging.
Our scheme is adaptable to any number of LA communities. We believe the approach provides a roadmap for a new type of affordable housing in LA. By promoting a sense of community deeply rooted in local context and effortlessly connecting to comfortable outdoor living the design leads to a new manner in which to consider LA living; we build a new LA modern.