Posts tagged with "Supportive housing":
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.
Speaking with The Architect's Newspaper, Alexander Gorlin said that zoning was a "priority" for the project. To facilitate the number of units that he and Breaking Ground wanted to create, the building had to be stepped back from the street. Its "animated facade" features an array of colors set against gray brickwork.
Other amenities offered in the building include a roof terrace, computer lab, bike storage facilities, fitness room, garden, and an on-site laundry area. On the ground floor, an undulating array of fiberboard panels can be found on the ceiling, a nod to the schist rock which used to found in the area.
An aluminum rain screen and locally-sourced brick articulate a two-part program.The Brook, developed by Common Ground and designed by Alexander Gorlin Architects, is part of a new wave of affordable housing communities popping up all over the United States. Unlike the public housing projects of the mid-twentieth century, which focused exclusively on housing and tended to suffer from a lack of routine maintenance, The Brook, located in the Bronx, combines apartments and support services under one roof. This duality is manifested in the envelope’s contrasting material palette—dark grey brick for the residential spaces, raw aluminum over the community facilities. “The idea of the exterior was to symbolize, as well as reflect, the internal program of Common Ground as supportive housing,” said Alexander Gorlin. “It’s inspired in part by Le Corbusier and his idea of expressing the program on the facade, and expressing the public functions as a means of interrupting a repetitive facade." The Brook’s communal areas, which are clustered at the corner of the 92,000-square-foot, six-story building, are marked on the exterior by ES Tolga Dry Seal System aluminum panels from Allied Metal. In addition to articulating the change in program, the metal facade “represents coming together, creating a landmark for the neighborhood as well,” said Gorlin, who noted that Common Ground “liked from the beginning marking the corner as a special symbolic place.” The metal-clad corner also functions “urbanistically, to break the building into three parts, break down its scale,” he explained. A series of inset terraces interrupt the grey aluminum walls with splashes of red. “At one level it’s a bright color to be cheerful and optimistic,” said Gorlin. “In China, red is a symbol of good luck. It also symbolizes the heart of the program and the community.” The Brook’s 190 studio apartments are distributed to either side of the community facilities, along wings punctuated with square and rectangular windows. “We decided to vary the window placement so it would create a more lively asymmetrical pattern. It’s not just a simple grid,” said Gorlin. The designers clad the housing areas in locally sourced dark grey brick. “Brick is a very noble, ancient material,” observed Gorlin. As a good insulator, it also contributes to the building’s LEED Silver status. Other sustainability strategies include a green roof, a special boiler system, building management technology that turns off the lights when a room is not in use, and the use of recycled and non-offgassing materials. The Brook was erected on a vacant lot in a neighborhood once known for pervasive blight. Early in the design process, said Gorlin, the architects and developers discussed installing bars over the lower windows. “It was determined very consciously not to do it, even though there’s glass on the corner,” he explained. “We decided not to put bars up or make it look in any way prison-like. In fact, by not doing so it’s been maintained in perfect shape. People in the neighborhood think it’s a high-end condo.” Gorlin calls Common Ground “a miraculous kind of client in terms of what they do and the manner in which they deal with the community.” The Brook, he said, represents a new approach not just to affordable housing, but to homelessness. “To actually build permanent housing for homeless people” is a unique opportunity, he said. “It’s not just a shelter, but a place to start over in life.”