LOHA in SoLA

Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects designs porous supportive housing in South Los Angeles

The staggered units of Isla de Los Angeles recall many utopian modular housing projects of architecture’s past. (Courtesy Clifford Beers Housing)

Though over 1,700 parcels owned by the city of Los Angeles were designated for affordable housing development in 2018, the vast majority of them remain empty to this day and without any plans in the foreseeable future. This may be due to the fact that many of these sites are “leftover spaces”—irregular geometries tucked in the margins of already-developed neighborhoods. Local firm Lorcan O’Herlihy (LOHA) is one of the first, however, to boldly make use of one of these compromising sites with their newest project, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo, a 54-unit housing project on a triangular lot near a freeway interchange in South Los Angeles.

Aerial diagram of a triangular housing complex

The project is arranged along the perimeter of the site to make for a “green lung” at its center. (Courtesy LOHA)

Renderings of the project recall both the staggered apartments of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 and the spatial porosity of Steven Holl’s Simmons Hall dormitory at MIT. Rather than appear as a single, monolithic building on its narrow parcel, the project is broken down into housing units placed within modular boxes then arranged into informal towers. The units would be assembled by welding together three 20-foot-by-8-foot shipping containers, each of which would provide roughly 480 square feet of living space in an open plan featuring a kitchen, bathroom, and a living room that doubles as a bedroom.

The units can be assembled offsite by half of the construction team while the other half prepares the grounds on-site, cutting the construction time from four years to two. They will be arranged along the perimeter of the site to make room for several green spaces in its center, which LOHA anticipates will serve as a “green lung,” helping to filter air pollution from the nearby freeway. “Our aim,” stated LOHA in a press release, “was to create something that was compartmental but solid, strong enough to withstand the demands of the project’s location but porous enough to engage the residents on a human scale with outdoor activities and places to work and socialize.”

Following MLK1101 in 2017, Isla De Los Angeles Supportive Housing and Annenberg Paseo is the second project LOHA has designed in collaboration with nonprofit developer Clifford Beers Housing in South Los Angeles.

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