Formosa 1140: Density in LA

Although it's not a 'green' space specifically, the new Formosa 1140 building in West Hollywood, by Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects (LOHA), embraces community living and gives back some public green to the city around it.

Formosa 1140 Lorcan Oherlihy fullshot

As a multi-family building, the residential density Formosa 1140 facilitates is inherently more sustainable than almost any free-standing, single-family dwelling. In the February issue of Dwell, architect Tone Wheeler reinforced this idea, saying, "Building a freestanding prefab home is, in a sense, building a greener SUV: You're greening up the wrong thing." While Formosa 1140 is not prefab (though it does use a panelized exterior), it addresses issues of urban density and residential community-building—two topics often found in prefab discussions.

There's currently a strong focus in urban development on improving multi-family residential options as part of overall environmental goals. The sustainable aspects of the building itself are vital, but so is considering how and where the building is situated within the city. LOHA clearly took the broad view when they rethought the design of the 11-unit, 4-story building in West Hollywood, emphasizing shared open green space not only for the residents, but the community at large.

In Los Angeles, the presence of affluent residents, plenty of land, and nice weather have led to sprawl as single-family homes have blown up into McMansions through concentric rings of suburbs and exurbs. But with the recent boom of live/work lofts downtown and quite a few high rises popping up around the city, it seems Los Angeles might finally be catching up with more densely populated cities like San Francisco or Chicago.

The Formosa 1140 is a new version of multi-use building for LA. From the outside, the structure is striking with red outer skin panels overlapping in a Mondrian-esque collage of walls, balconies and windows. It's not just for show; the west facing panels serve to keep sun off the units and passively keep them cooler in the bright LA sun, helping cut down on A/C usage.

The units are light, modern, and airy, with simple interior color palettes that reflect daylight and add a spacious quality to the rooms. Outside, instead of creating eleven individual green spaces, the architects decided to concentrate the building on two-thirds of the property and create a park that could be a shared open space for the community.

Each unit is oriented for views onto the park (and each has a rooftop deck to better enjoy the vista), and thanks to an agreement between the architects, the City of West Hollywood, and the developer, The Habitat Group, the green space is being leased back to the city as part of a network of pocket parks throughout West Hollywood that they hope will change the way Los Angeles thinks about open space and offer an opportunity for more public gathering.

See more information and images on the Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects site.

 Photography by Lawrence Anderson/Esto.

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