"First Sprouts of a Vertical Cityscape"
>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
> "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@...
> (INFOBOX BELOW)
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.