Los Angeles–based architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios (RCH Studios), Riley Architects, and Integrated Development recently debuted Habitat 6, a collection of six new single-family homes in Los Angeles’s Los Feliz neighborhood.
The project is made possible by L.A.’s “small-lot subdivision” ordinance, a special land use maneuver instituted back in 2005 aimed at increasing the availability—and density—of single family housing across the city’s existing neighborhoods by allowing developers to subdivide existing lots into multiple properties to build collections of detached single-family residences. More controversially, the project is also the result of a protracted preservation struggle that resulted in the demolition of the Oswald Bartlett House, designed in 1914 by visionary Los Angeles architect Albert C. Martin. Applications for cultural monument status for the home were denied in 2014, paving the way for its demolition and replacement with RCH Studio’s units.
Bob Hale, partner at RCH Studios, described the difference between the design of a traditional single-family residence and a small-lot subdivision project: “The main issue here is that we have a single-family unit that’s part of a multi-family community, so engendering a sense of community in the overall project while maintaining sense of privacy for each of the units was one of the main objectives.”
As with most small-lot subdivision projects, Habitat 6’s site is organized around a central driveway used to access each unit’s two-car garage. In a nod to the normative tract house, each home features a small ground-floor yard. The homes range in size from 1,954 to 2,106 square feet and feature a flexible room on the ground floor, combined living room, kitchen, and dining areas along the second floor and two bedrooms, each with en-suite bathrooms, on the floor above.
Each home sits on a Douglas Fir wood-clad parking plinth, while the buildings’ exteriors are clad in expanses of white stucco interrupted by vertical bands of floor-to-ceiling punched picture windows. Some of these openings wrap the corners, while others are contained within wood-clad recessed and pop-out volumes. The units’ apertures are positioned such that neighboring homes do not face into one another. Inside, living room areas are designed with 10-foot ceiling heights (generous by Los Angeles standards), and feature clean, white walls accented with raw wood planks. Other interior finishes include marble countertops and backsplashes in the kitchen, and tile and board-formed concrete wall surfaces.
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