DnA is currently exploring home in LA, from the tent to the gigamansion. We are examining the challenges surrounding the construction of housing, and asking if LA can still lay claim to being a world leader in innovative domestic architecture. Case study housing, bungalow courts and Spanish Colonial style homes defined the region last century. Are we creating house and housing archetypes that express LA in our time?
We’ve looked at tents, ADUs, boat-living and single family homes Lakewood, a “paradise of the ordinary,” according to writer and longtime resident DJ Waldie.
Each step of the way, we’ve met with residents of those different forms of LA shelter, and asked why they chose this particular type of home.
This week we explored the low-rise, multi-story residential projects that typically sit atop shops or parking, and are springing up along or near many arterials in LA. They are based on a construction type nicknamed “5 over 2” and can be generic, since “the building code dictates so much of this building that it leaves the designer with just tweaking the edges,” according to Alan Pullman of Studio One Eleven. “Eighty five percent is already done based on the code.”
However, a thoughtful designer can also tweak the formula to make a very liveable place that can offer its tenants a contemporary variant on the LA dream.
One example we looked at is Mariposa 1038, designed by architect Lorcan O’Herlihy on Mariposa near Olympic in Koreatown.
It was built by a first-time developer who told DnA she spent two days driving around LA looking at all the condo and apartment buildings and was struck by Lorcan’s work. She says she was prepared to spend the extra money and time to create a place that in her words, was not a “boring stucco box like you see unfortunately all over town.”
On of the big attractions is the rooftop garden. Lorcan O’Herlihy, who has built a string of distinctive-looking condo and rental apartment buildings that maximize liveable interior space, shared open areas and show no fear of color or expressive materials, says rooftops are “the fifth elevation of buildings. Why not activate it with tables and chairs and landscaping so people can come up here and actually hang out and enjoy it?”
The first residents came from within Koreatown. Families moved in. Then young designers and filmmakers found their way to the building, and now Mariposa 1038 is a star on the Instagram accounts of a group of young influencers.
Taj Stansberry, above, is a director, photographer and actor. He has worked on music videos for Rihanna, J Lo, Usher, John Legend and many other artists.
“Without having to talk, without even having to speak about it, to bring it up, or, you know, that we share the same sensibilities, you just feel it. And that brings a certain type of people together and which creates a comfortable environment and comparable community,” Stansberry said.
The owner supported Lorcan’s ideas for pushing in the four sides of Mariposa 1038 to make curving walls. She agreed to frame the windows with deep overhangs for shading, add balconies for plants and sharp black and white detailing.
And she supported the idea of carving out an oval central courtyard. That brought in light and ventilation from two sides, a contrast to the standard and cheaper bland block with a double-loaded corridor, meaning light comes in only from one side.
Jonathan Schkolnick, above, says it was this oval courtyard that was the big attraction to the building. He saw it first not in the flesh but in a video that was shot by a friend that was working in real estate.
“And the one day that he came here to show me the unit it was pouring rain. I mean I had never seen Los Angeles like that,” Schkolnick said.
His friend had panned the camera to the courtyard, “and I saw that there was water still coming all the way in straight through and I was like wow… I’m sold, before I even got to see the front of the building and the rest of the architecture.
“I think it was that sort of Stanley Kubrick feel that I got from it, I felt like I was going into a spaceship right through the phone. It was crazy, but it was great.”
Sophia Chang is an illustrator and designer who moved to LA from New York. After checking out the traditional “LA dream” living spaces like cottages in Echo Park, she determined multifamily living was comparable in cost and suited her.
“1038 feels like home. It makes you want to return, the design is very communal,” she said.
She works from home and says she enjoys details like the lighting coming from several sources and “one big thing I loved was the outlets in the island… it just feels like there’s been a lot of thought put it into placement of things and use of things.”
All of the special features added construction costs, and lengthy waits at the planning department for approvals. The market-rate apartments range from $2,600 to $3,600 for one or two bedrooms. The building is currently full.
At rents like this you might think buying a house would make financial sense. But houses, as we know, are in short supply in LA. The building owner says that even though her building is not under rent control, she does plan to keep the rents stable.
So, could an apartment in a cool multifamily building like this become a longterm home, instead of the single family home with back yard that was for so long the LA dream?
Certainly for now, says Jonathan Chia. The father and combat veteran of the second Iraq war now works as a photographer. He left a fun apartment building in downtown and then lived at the Chase Bank Building at 1100 Wilshire.
A place like Mariposa 1038 means “you don’t have to give it up now. You can stay in the city. We have an amazing backyard with amazing plants. It’s beautiful. I let my dog run around there. One side is for the dogs, one side for the kids,” Chia said.
Lorcan concludes: “We know that in the early years the patrons of architects were people living on hillsides and hiring architects to design these individual houses. Whereas I’m convinced that the new patrons… are intrigued about building multifamily or larger housing complexes in urban environments, infill projects which is all throughout Los Angeles.
“So this building represents that new culture of Los Angeles.”