A New Los Angeles Exhibition Explores Shelter

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By Erika Heet / Published by Dwell
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Shelter: Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles, the inaugural exhibition in the A+D Architecture and Design Museum’s new downtown location, highlights projects both existing and unbuilt that reflect housing solutions in an ever-changing metropolis.

Shelter: Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles features architects and designers’ creative new residential solutions that respond to the city’s increasing density, decreasing buildable land, new transit offerings, growing diversity, ballooning costs, and intense environmental challenges. The show offers speculative single or multi-family proposals along two sites: the Wilshire Corridor and the Los Angeles River. Invited firms for those sites include Los Angeles–based architecture and design practices Bureau Spectacular, LA Más, Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, MAD Architects, PAR, and wHY. The exhibition also highlights recent constructed or in progress housing solutions by Kevin Daly Architects, Michael Maltzan Architecture, Bestor Architecture, OMA, R&A, Koning Eizenberg, and more. Proposals—including large-scale models, drawings, images, and video—will demonstrate how new forms of shelter can respond to changes in both the cultural fabric and physical landscape of the city, better addressing its pressing issues. Shelter: Rethinking How We Live in Los Angeles is organized by A+D Architecture and Design Museum>Los Angeles and co-curated by Sam Lubell and Danielle Rago. Exhibition design by the AECOM Los Angeles Design Studio.

Bestor Architecture, Blackbirds, Echo Park, Los Angeles

Blackbirds is a development of eighteen houses embedded in the hills of Echo Park; a progressive solution for high-quality dense housing in a city with little available land. The homes range from 1,200 to 1,900 square feet and are built around a living street; a central courtyard that comprises both landscape and parking areas, and serves as a stage for larger community functions. The placement of the houses in the hills mimics the older wooden houses of the area and deploys a strategy of “stealth density,” combining several houses into a single house-shaped volume. For instance, two free-standing houses are connected by flashing and the roofline creates the illusion of one house mass. Three houses, whose separation is masked, creates the illusion of two houses. This conceals the density of units by maintaining the neighborhood shape and landscape across the site. The community is a blend of private, semi-private, and public space, and promotes a sense of neighborhood by encouraging interaction and exchange.

"Los Angeles is experiencing tectonic shifts, densifying and embracing the public realm in ways it has never done, and facing unprecedented challenges, from environmental crises to mushrooming housing costs," says Rago. "Yet much of its residential architecture does not respond to, or reflect, these changes. We hope Shelter’s teams inspire museum-goers and encourage designers, officials, and residents to update the city’s housing models, developing solutions that are more practical, innovative, and visionary."

LA-MÁS, Backyard Basics: An Alternative Story of the Granny Flat

LA-Más will propose a collective approach to housing in Elysian Valley. Our vision is to write an alternative history for the future of the neighborhood that will serve as a resident-led and resident-owned model for low-rise high-density housing. The project will critically engage lot-lines and speculative buildable space at the air-rights level to envision new territories for low-density development. By utilizing the neighborhood’s existing buildable space, we will propose an architectural strategy that realizes the needs of Elysian Valley through cooperative development, combined entitlements, consolidated services, re-consideration of permitted granny flats, and other various opportunities that are possible only through a collective community approach.

The show runs through November 6.

PAR, 6030 Wilshire

PAR proposes a new model of high-rise courtyard housing on the LACMA Tower site, integrated with mass transit, in the central cultural district of Los Angeles. The high rise tower is an important element within the contemporary metropolis. However, towers have come to be predominantly defined by their height and, as a type, have become anonymous. Typical residential towers, while successful in providing density, rarely provide living environments with individuality or access to nature, two qualities that are the essence of Los Angeles living. Our proposal acts against this endemic anonymity and repetitiveness of the recent past and puts forth a new model for the contemporary tower. Its aim is to achieve, despite its size, an individual and personal character comprised of a stack of individual houses in which each house is unique and identifiable with a direct connection to nature.

 

wHY, Unfolding Wilshire

wHY is examining a creative solution at the intersection of the physical, social, and regulatory space around ballooning costs and new transit offerings that will alleviate pressure on housing accessibility, diversity, and density. Using public space along the Metro Purple line as a site, this new infrastructure stands to become a landscape that inhabits the grey zone between regulation and disorder and challenges our expectations of domesticity in LA.

 

Koning Eizenberg, 500 Broadway, Santa Monica

Located on the corner of 5th Street and Broadway in Santa Monica, this mixed-use project is made up of four groupings of apartments stacked atop ground-level retail. The rhythmic facade varies in configuration to provide all units with views to the ocean. The firm wove open spaces through the development, connecting it to the streetscape rather than sealing it off. “We’re leveraging public space in a densifying city, bringing in more sky, more light, more street access and more public life,” said firm principal Nathan Bishop.

Established in response to the need for a space that would be devoted expressly to the exhibition of progressive architecture and design in Los Angeles, A+D Museum opened its doors in January 2001 in the Bradbury Building, one of downtown Los Angeles’ premiere landmark buildings.

Now located in downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District, A+D continues to be the only museum in Los Angeles where continuous exhibits of architecture and design are on view. Through exhibits, symposia, multidisciplinary projects, educational and community programming, A+D serves as a showcase for the work of important regional, national and international designers, providing a forum for contemporary issues in architecture, urbanism, and design that are helping to shape the city. Support from corporations, community businesses, foundations and individuals will ensure the continued vitality of what New York Times contributor Frances Anderton heralded as a “very real force in the city.”