Posts tagged with "Brooks + Scarpa":
- Roger Schluntz, FAIA (Chair), School of Architecture and Planning, University of Mexico
- Lisa Chronister, AIA, City of Oklahoma City Planning Department
- Suzanne DiGeronimo, FAIA, DiGeronimo Architects
- Tim Griffin, AIA, Minnesota Design Center
- Gerry Tierney, AIA, Perkins+Will.
The new 52-unit permanent supportive-housing project for formerly homeless individuals, many of them veterans, designed by Los Angeles firm Brooks + Scarpa, takes its name—The Six—from military slang for a person who “has your back.” The project is Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT)’s first outside Downtown Los Angeles, and it continues the organization’s very successful run developing functional, neighborhood-scale, and formally transformative housing.
From up the street, The Six immediately impresses; the nearly scale-less stark-white block and its oversized opening to the street reveal, as one gets closer, the human scale contained within. A main skeletal stair anchors the inside of a vast courtyard and draws the eye into the innards of the building. This attention to sequence, for Brooks + Scarpa principal Angela Brooks, is something her office imparts to each project, no matter the type or size. “Where’s the threshold between the neighborhood and your house?” Brooks asked. “If it’s just a single line, that’s too thin. We want it to be deep with a sense of public, semipublic, and then finally private [spaces] along the way.”
In a careful exercise of balancing transparency and security, Brooks + Scarpa’s design lives up to sentiment “I’ve got your back” by achieving a comfortable clarity in volumes that open up and lift residents above the street and neighborhood, simultaneously providing a sense of security and privacy.
When arriving at The Six, one cuts across the front yard—past planted, open areas set back from the street—landing under an expansive overhang that encloses a security entrance and a community- and computer-room cluster. Next, one transitions into a smaller space: a lobby that shares the floor with administrative offices, a conference room, a public computer lab, and parking. The second level, accessible by an elevator from the entry or via a concealed front stair, reveals the large public courtyard perched above the street.
From the courtyard level, the apartments and their circulation balconies stack up in a “U” formation four levels above, defining the supertall, breezy space within. Also on this level, a TV room with couches, laundry facilities, and a small kitchen fills out the public common areas. The building’s fundamental volumetric and formal gestures simultaneously work with its site orientation to maximize daylighting, exposure to prevailing winds, and natural ventilation.
The areas that can be seen from the outside are the most public of the common spaces offered to residents in the project, and their placement at the front—in the window seat—allows for a shared, privileged relationship to the street and suggests a powerful shift in dependence for the folks living at The Six.
Brooks said, “We made sure to construct a sequence of spaces that help you come into the site itself.… Once you get onto the second level, you see the street again in another way.” She added that by pulling the elevator and reception desk deep into the building, the designers allow “people to have some space and time through which to walk into something, to contemplate something, to think about something, to say hello to neighbors.”
It’s this simple and thoughtful implementation of careful and confident architecture that gives The Six its strong humanity of place. It’s a rare experience in Los Angeles, where the development process and its built manifestations typically find design opportunities in disposable surface treatments or hollow stylistic flourishes. With SRHT’s dedication to quality projects and real architecture, the organization will likely achieve more breakout projects in the near future thanks to the recent passage of initiatives, at the county and city level, that allocate resources toward preventing and ending homelessness.
If The Six can be a precedent moving forward, it’s likely SRHT will continue to provide L.A. more like-minded projects that are much more than a roof overhead.
The San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles has a reputation as a quintessentially suburban enclave. But, as the inner-city areas of Los Angeles have begun to embrace the hallmarks of traditional urbanism—increased housing density, fixed-transit infrastructure, and a dedication to pedestrian space—the valley has found itself parroting those same shifts in its own distinct way.
One area where this transformation is taking shape is housing, specifically, transitional and supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals.
According to the Los Angeles Homelessness Services Authority, the number of homeless people in the San Fernando Valley increased by 36 percent last year. Though the increase was significantly lower throughout L.A. County overall last year, one thing is clear: The number of people without homes in the areas around Los Angeles’s urban core area is growing. A similar trend is playing out across the country. Not only are urban homeless populations being increasingly displaced out toward the suburban areas by gentrification, but greater numbers of suburbanites themselves are becoming homeless, as well, due to a fraying social net and systematic income inequality.
Dire though the situation might be, Los Angeles—and the San Fernando Valley in particular—is currently poised to make strides in re-housing currently homeless individuals living in quasi-suburban environments by building a collection of new housing projects across the city. That’s because this November, 76 percent of L.A.’s voters supported Measure HHH, the city’s Homelessness Reduction and Prevention, Housing, and Facilities Bond. The initiative will raise $1.2 billion in bonds to pay for the construction of up to 10,000 units of housing for the homeless. The victory represents a shift in collective perspective that goes hand-in-hand with changing urban attitudes: As transit, density, and pedestrianism spread, so too has a visceral awareness that the city’s homeless population has been wholly abandoned by society and that action is overdue.
The passage of Measure HHH represents an opportunity for architects to assert themselves in civic and cultural discourse at an incredibly meaningful scale. And as much as the valley has begun to accept increased density, so too is it likely to see its fair share of new transitional and supportive housing as a result.
Already, the Skid Row Housing Trust (SRHT), a local affordable housing provider known for its focus on design quality, has begun to expand into neighborhoods beyond Skid Row. The organization opened a new set of apartments designed by Los Angeles–based architects Brooks + Scarpa this summer in the MacArthur Park neighborhood just west of Downtown Los Angeles. The project, called The Six, is the group’s first development with permanent supportive housing specifically for veterans. The name of the complex comes from the military shorthand, “got your six,” which means “I’ve got your back.”
The complex is designed around a central, planted courtyard and is expected to receive LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It features solar panels on the roof and ground-level supportive services for the residents, with a large public courtyard located on the second floor. Units rise up around the perimeter of the courtyard along a single-loaded corridor and are capped by a roof terrace and edible garden. The firm also calibrated the building’s architectural massing in order to respond to passive cooling and lighting strategies and features selectively glazed exposures as well as a courtyard layout that facilitates passive lighting and ventilation.
Another project under development by SRHT is Michael Maltzan Architecture’s (MMA) Crest Apartments in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. Crest Apartments will deliver 64 affordable housing units for formerly homeless veterans. The building is laid out as a long, stepped housing block raised on a series of piers above multifunctional hard- and soft-landscaped areas. The long and narrow site shapes the complex such that the building’s mass steps around in plan as it climbs in height, creating vertical bands of windows aimed toward the street and side yard in the process. The ground floor of the complex contains supportive service areas as well as a clinic and community garden. The building recently finished construction and residents are beginning to move in.
The future of housing efforts in the valley is also being tackled by students at University of Southern California (USC), where a studio funded by the nonprofit Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) is aiming to develop a rapid-re-housing prototype to be deployed across the valley. The studio, formally unrelated to Measure HHH, is led by Sofia Borges, acting director at MADWORKSHOP and R. Scott Mitchell, assistant professor of practice at USC. The professors tasked architecture students with studying the spatial implications of homelessness at the individual person’s scale.
Ultimately, the studio, with nondenominational ministry Hope of the Valley as its client, developed the beginnings of a single-occupancy housing prototype that could be mass-produced and temporarily deployed to selected vacant sites in as little as two weeks. The cohort spent the semester meeting with officials in the city government, including the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, to work on an actionable plan for implementing their prototype. The students built a full-scale mock-up of the 96-square-foot unit for their final review and detailed plans for how the unit might be aggregated into larger configurations as a sort of first-response to help people transition from living on the streets to occupying more formal dwellings like The Six or Crest Apartments.
Perforated steel and translucent glass balance privacy and pop.For their Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) in Monterrey, Mexico, Metalsa, a global manufacturing firm that specializes in automobile and truck chassis, did not want just another factory. Rather, the laboratory and testing facility, located in a state-sponsored research park adjacent to the Monterrey airport, was to be a "showpiece," explained Brooks + Scarpa Architects principal Lawrence Scarpa, "not just for their clients but from a work environment point of view, and a sustainability point of view." Despite the many challenges inherent to building across the United States-Mexico border, the Los Angeles architects succeeded in delivering a LEED Platinum design wrapped in a striking double skin of translucent glass and perforated steel panels. The facility's uneven sawtooth profile is the product of both historical and contextual references. "They are an industrial company, and I always loved the old warehouses with the north-facing clerestories, designed back when there was no electric lighting," recalled Scarpa. "That was what I was thinking about before I even went to the site." His first visit to Monterrey confirmed his instinct. "The mountains there are really sharp and jagged like that—it was an immediate concept for the building," said Scarpa. Like their 19th-century antecedents, moreover, the clerestories provide daylight and allow hot air to accumulate high above the inhabited spaces, thus reducing reliance on artificial lighting and cooling. The resulting form had one major drawback, however. "The issue we were faced with was that the primary way you enter the building is from the west, so we would have a broad face in the worst possible thermal position," said Scarpa. To solve the problem of solar gain without sacrificing the sawtooth roofline, Brooks + Scarpa implemented a double skin with an outer layer composed of perforated steel panels. With a wraparound sunscreen in place, explained Scarpa, "we could have a translucent skin behind it, but could modulate light and heat gain." Several factors influenced the perforation pattern on the outer skin. It began as an abstraction of Metalsa's corporate identity, said Scarpa, but evolved to respond to programmatic requirements. Perforations of different sizes and densities reflect the need for more or less privacy. Areas related to proprietary research and development are more opaque, while the office spaces cantilevered over the transparent northwest entrance benefit from the additional daylighting allowed by broader perforations. CMI's translucent inner skin of fluted glass refracts light, preventing glare from interfering with computer-based work. To prevent the occupants from feeling trapped in a windowless box, the architects carefully modulated the distance between the envelope's two layers. "When you're on the interior, it doesn't just look like a blank wall," said Scarpa. "When you're on the inside, you can't see through it, but you can see shadows move on the translucent surface." Designing for an out-of-country client is bound to produce hiccups, and the Metalsa project was no exception. For instance, Brooks + Scarpa had initially imagined that the auto giants would fabricate the perforated metal skin in-house, but turned to another supplier when disrupting the company's manufacturing flow proved cost-prohibitive. The architects nevertheless made the best of the situation, streamlining their vision to fit the situation at hand. "The technology that was available to us in Mexico is not overly sophisticated, so from the get-go we decided to take a more simplistic approach, utilizing a multi-layered skin," said Scarpa. "It was easy to construct, and it's not difficult to understand."