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"First Sprouts of a Vertical Cityscape"

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  • Richard Risemberg
    ... From the Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/features/printedition/home/la-hm- mayor4may04,1,5019122,full.story ... -- Richard Risemberg
    Message 1 of 1 , May 5, 2006
      From the Los Angeles Times

      > First sprouts of a vertical cityscape
      > L.A.'s top architects say three- and four-story complexes could
      > provide the answer to the mayor's call for more housing.
      > By Janet Eastman
      > Times Staff Writer
      > May 4, 2006
      > ARCHITECT Lorcan O'Herlihy's custom touches were exactly what Sara
      > Beugen and Stephen Mabry wanted in their new home — a light-filled,
      > industrial modern in West Hollywood with polished concrete floors
      > and open-to-the-sky steel catwalks crossing the upper levels of the
      > condominium complex.
      > Over in South Pasadena, two other architects, Elizabeth Moule and
      > Stefanos Polyzoides, created a private retreat and communal
      > experience for Juan Posada, whose second-floor loft has soaring
      > ceilings and a terrace overlooking a courtyard where he and his
      > neighbors barbecue.
      > Yet none of the architects worked directly for, or even with, these
      > residents. O'Herlihy, Moule and Polyzoides adhered to the principle
      > that sharp design could entice people into a compact vertical
      > lifestyle. They, along with other progressive local architects, see
      > enormous creative opportunities in multifamily housing of fewer
      > than 50 units on an acre.
      > And the timing couldn't be better. The designs, which are more
      > about good use of space and light rather than square footage, could
      > help coax Angelenos out of single-family homes and a horizontal way
      > of life.
      > Adding new homes — a few dozen small ones at a time — to existing
      > neighborhoods is part of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's plan to
      > relieve L.A.'s housing shortage. If the new dwellings are close to
      > public transit, all the better. If they rid the neighborhood of an
      > eyesore, longtime residents win too.
      > Villaraigosa's newly appointed city planner S. Gail Goldberg, who
      > is credited with helping San Diego turn around its downtown with
      > multiunit housing, believes well-situated three- and four-story
      > buildings, not monolithic high-rise towers, are the way to re-
      > energize communities. San Diego's approach to density was to create
      > a city of villages. For Los Angeles' boulevards, Goldberg sees
      > shops, restaurants and people-watching spots. Down the side
      > streets, houses. Filling in between the existing shops and houses,
      > multifamily designer dream pads.
      > Even critics of the mayor's call for higher density see this as a
      > better way to grow.
      > "I don't think there is a desire for massive density but a low- and
      > midrise strategy makes a lot of sense," says Joel Kotkin, an urban
      > commentator and author of "The City: A Global History." He often
      > disagrees with Los Angeles politicians, developers and others who
      > "get on density jihads." That includes the mayor, he says.
      > If built in an underutilized area or if replacing "a crappy strip
      > mall," however, a small condo development is not a high price to
      > pay for a better district, says Kotkin, a longtime house owner in
      > Valley Village. "This is particularly attractive if it brings in
      > stores and other amenities that are in walking distance of single-
      > family homes."
      > With less open space for traditional single-family homes, housing
      > experts say that a portion of new development will be devoted to
      > urban, mid-size projects especially in existing neighborhoods. Good
      > design, architects and developers say, can make a big difference in
      > attracting residents doubtful about sharing walls with their
      > neighbors.
      > "There is a new language in housing, a new market for those who
      > want to live in urban areas and who have an appreciation of
      > design," says O'Herlihy, whose Culver City architectural firm
      > shifted from sleek contemporary houses with ocean or hillside views
      > to multifamily projects two years ago. His first project was the
      > condo complex in West Hollywood that Beugen and Mabry moved into in
      > January; the 10 units there sold out before construction was
      > completed. He now has nine mid-size projects under development or
      > construction in Los Angeles. "Our previous residential work was a
      > lab for these new projects."
      > Many of the new dwellings are 21st century twists on the classic
      > 1920s courtyard apartments designed by Irving Gill, Richard Neutra
      > and others who artfully interpreted living in close-quarters.
      > Besides creating a sun-filtering, roomy and indoor-outdoor
      > ambience, many of the new designs offer custom floor plans, private
      > terraces, generous storage areas and designer touches such as
      > translucent channel glass and stone shower stalls.
      > And unlike high-rises and economical apartment buildings of the
      > 1960s and '70s, in which budgets and construction restraints
      > dictated look-alike floor plans and tunnel-like hallways, these new
      > mid-rise buildings are designed not only for looks but also for
      > getting people out of cars — "feet on the street," as city planner
      > Goldberg puts it.
      > "We fell in love with this place," says Posada, 36, a photographer
      > who lives in his one-bedroom loft in South Pasadena with his wife
      > Sally McKissick, 39, and their 10-month-old daughter, Maria. They
      > wanted to buy a house with a yard but sticker shock brought them to
      > this rental near the Gold Line's Mission Station.
      > Although the three-story, brick-clad, Mission-style structure looks
      > like the century-old building next to it, generous windows wash his
      > rooms in sunlight. "There is lots of light, and it feels big with
      > 18-foot ceilings," Posada says.
      > Where he and his family live used to be a parking lot. Now parking
      > is underground for the block-long redevelopment, a mix of ground-
      > floor shops with courtyards, lofts, Craftsman-style duplexes and
      > single-family houses designed to blend with the 1920s single-family
      > bungalows across the street.
      > The courtyard approach is appearing in high-end and subsidized mid-
      > size housing. For the Crescent in Beverly Hills, where monthly
      > rents are as high at $7,000, architect Johannes Van Tilburg
      > designed the apartments to face a courtyard, while brownstone-style
      > town houses front the street. Brian Lane's award-winning
      > contemporary apartments on Harold Way in Hollywood where rents
      > don't exceed $700, is built around two courtyards where streamlined
      > stairways almost resemble sculptural installations.
      > Beugen and Mabry's high-design condo is across the street from an
      > auto shop and stucco apartment building — what architect O'Herlihy
      > refers to as "six pack," repetitive units stacked on top of each
      > other. An orderly line of single-family houses fills out the rest
      > of the block, with stores and restaurants around the corner.
      > Beugen, 32, a marketing and communications professional at Cresta
      > West, says her new neighbors are as design demanding as she and
      > Mabry. "We had an informal talk here about everyone using a similar
      > window treatment," says Beugen, who grew up in Chicago next door to
      > architect Walter Netsch in a contemporary house her father built.
      > "We took a deep breath when we saw that no one hung big drapes, but
      > simple off-white museum shades."
      > With so many restaurants so close, the couple is surprised that
      > since they moved here they have enjoyed more meals at home. "There
      > is more room in the kitchen than in our old place," says Mabry, 45,
      > an actor and photographer, "and we like to eat on our patio. We
      > have two chefs who live in the building, one, Albert Melera, is a
      > private chef for celebrities, and they come by and ask, 'What's for
      > dinner?' "
      > Janet Eastman can be reached at Janet.Eastman@...
      > *
      > *
      > HAROLD WAY: Private but public housing
      > "THERE are no hidden corners here," says Brian Lane, left, of
      > Koning Eizenberg Architecture in Santa Monica. He wrestled with a
      > tight budget, ignored the pitfall of designing bland affordable
      > housing and found ways to make 51 apartments near a busy
      > intersection off Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood feel safe and private.
      > As a built-in safety measure, the four-story buildings line up
      > around two interior courtyards. "All units are accessed from
      > exterior walkways so neighbors can see the activities," says Lane,
      > near one of the open stairways that make it easy to watch comings
      > and goings. Even the community laundry room in this stylish gated
      > complex has windows to the courtyard and playground.
      > For privacy, entrances to most of the three-bedroom town houses and
      > one- and two-bedroom apartments are set back 3 feet from public
      > walkways to create a porch-like setting. Apartments have their own
      > decks, patios or balconies. Trees and bamboo are strategically
      > placed to screen views for privacy. Bedroom windows are tucked away
      > from areas where people congregate.
      > Subsidized rents for the 500- to 1,200-square-foot apartments go
      > for $350 to $700. The complex built for the Hollywood Community
      > Housing Corp. received Residential Architect magazine's affordable
      > housing merit award in 2004.
      > Future project: Hancock Corner in West Hollywood with stores and
      > restaurants, 38 condos and affordable apartments.
      > — J.E.
      > *
      > MISSION MERIDIAN: Going for the Gold Line
      > "ALOT of people fear density because there are a lot of terrible,
      > overly dense projects in Los Angeles," says Elizabeth Moule of
      > Pasadena-based Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists. "Making
      > slightly denser places around transit lines is a way to accommodate
      > the growth to L.A. that also preserves single-family houses and
      > yards."
      > When Michael Dieden of Creative Housing Associates of Los Angeles
      > asked Moule and husband Stefanos Polyzoides to create housing and
      > shops on a block near a Metro Gold Line stop in South Pasadena, the
      > duo came up with a series of buildings with different heights and
      > façades, right, to blend into the Mission Street neighborhood. "We
      > wouldn't put a high-rise on a street like that," says Moule.
      > A brick-clad, three-story nearest the busy street has small shops
      > on the ground level — a bakery, florist, spinning gym and a gift
      > store; none is a chain store.
      > Above them are 14 lofts that make the most of their 845- to 1,120-
      > square-footage with a minimum of interior walls and two-story-high
      > windows. Two levels of parking underneath the building accommodate
      > residents' and train riders' cars.
      > Next to the flat-roof brick building are four duplexes built in the
      > Craftsman style. These green-shingled buildings with pitched roofs
      > begin to blend — in height and façade — with the new housing with
      > the street's original single-family houses.
      > Adjacent to the duplexes, at the end of the new development, are
      > three 2,400-square-foot single-family bungalows that fit in with
      > the 80-year-old ones across the wide street.
      > To encourage occupants to people-watch, architects designed porches
      > and large windows. "People like urbanity and being with one
      > another," says Moule, who co-founded with Polyzoides and others the
      > Congress for the New Urbanism, a national association of
      > architects, planners and environmentalists focused on improving
      > suburbs and urban centers.
      > Three courtyards in the center of the buildings also create a sense
      > of community, Moule says. Residents pass through courtyards to
      > reach their front doors. One night last year, the electricity went
      > out and neighbors took their dinner plates and candles to the
      > courtyards and ate together.
      > There are no security gates to block the courtyards from the
      > sidewalk, a decision the architects made so neighbors can have a
      > more positive experience when strolling by.
      > The 67 homes were completed in June and sold during construction
      > for $350,000 to $850,000. The development received a Tranny Award
      > from the California Transportation Foundation, and it will be
      > featured in the Urban Land Institute's annual book on outstanding
      > housing projects.
      > Future project: Granada Court in Old Town Pasadena with 31 flats
      > and town houses, private balconies, decks or patios, two internal
      > pedestrian courts and an auto court.
      > — Janet Eastman
      > *
      > THE CRESCENT: It's valet all the way
      > "THIS is all about livable cities with the focus on the street,
      > actually the sidewalk," says Johannes Van Tilburg, above, of Santa
      > Monica-based Van Tilburg, Banvard & Soderbergh, whose new complex
      > is the first apartment building constructed in Beverly Hills in 25
      > years.
      > In 2001, the architect looked at a parking lot with a chain-link
      > fence and a worn commercial building on Crescent Drive. Van Tilburg
      > knew he could upgrade this area near the famous Rodeo Drive with a
      > new type of luxury housing.
      > "Small lawns in front of live-work town houses and garden
      > apartments on top is a very European and urban lifestyle," says Van
      > Tilburg, who worked with Los Angeles developer J.H. Snyder Co.
      > Residents and their guests can enter the property through the motor
      > court, hand their keys to the valet, pass the concierge in the
      > atrium lobby and enter into one-, two- and three-bedroom
      > apartments, which rent for $4,000 to $7,000.
      > The 12 two-story town houses that front the street have the
      > silhouettes of traditional brownstones but with a California
      > contemporary twist. They have bay windows, Juliet balconies, stoop
      > entries, awnings and private gardens.
      > Exterior walls have alternating sand-colored plaster and red-brick
      > veneer to create the look of a streetscape that has evolved over time.
      > The town houses hide parking from street view, and there's also
      > subterranean spaces.
      > Overlooking a landscaped courtyard at the 1.7-acre site is a
      > building that houses 76 apartments. Amenities in the 815- to 1,810-
      > square-foot spaces include stone-finished showers, stainless steel
      > appliances and walnut-stained cabinets.
      > Future project: Granite Park in Pasadena with 71 live-work town
      > homes and flats sited around courtyards and an auto court.
      > — J.E.
      > *
      > GARDNER STREET: Lighten up
      > "LIGHT is an architectural material, equally important as others,"
      > says Lorcan O'Herlihy of Culver City-based Lorcan O'Herlihy
      > Architects, who designed a tight, but sun-catching cube of 10
      > contemporary condominiums on a side street off Santa Monica
      > Boulevard in West Hollywood.
      > The 1,300- to 1,700-square-foot condos are built around a U-shaped
      > central courtyard. Four units are on the first and second levels
      > and two penthouses on the third level. Each has windows or doors on
      > three sides with views of the sky; a courtyard water sculpture,
      > below; and, because this is an urban setting, alleys and nearby
      > buildings.
      > To capture as much sunlight as possible, O'Herlihy used light-
      > filtering materials. Steel catwalks that connect front doors on the
      > levels above the courtyard are perforated to allow streams of
      > sunlight into the complex and into the homes.
      > Translucent walls of industrial Profilit Channel Glass encase the
      > vertical stairwell at the front of the building.
      > At night, the lighted stairwell looks like a lantern. Next to it, a
      > cedar entrance gate veils residents from passersby on the sidewalk,
      > but inch gaps between the slats illuminate the courtyard.
      > The condos, which were developed by Richard Loring of Habitat Group
      > Los Angeles, sold on average for $670,000 before construction was
      > completed in December.
      > Future project: A 19-unit building adjacent to the Schindler House,
      > now the MAK Center, on Kings Road in West Hollywood will have a
      > courtyard, pedestrian-inviting setback with benches and light wells
      > on the top of the three levels that open up to the sky and bring
      > light into each unit.
      > — J.E.

      Richard Risemberg
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