Contributing Monkie G Monkie
Published on July 8, 2010
G Living started its life at a small desk tucked into the back corner of Sander Architects Venice California office. Starting our life inside the belly of an emerging green architecture firm, was very fulfilling and inspiring. I personally was able to see first hand, what a challenge it is to bring a building to life. Building anything in L.A. is difficult, now toss in innovative modern design ideas and green building materials and now you have something that will challenge even the best Architects.
So, when a special building like the Habitat 825 comes along it’s worth looking at in detail. This green leaning West L.A. Condo building was designed by LOHA Architects based in Culver City, just down the street from our current studio .
Habitat 825 draws inspiration from Schindler in developing new forms of contemporary lifestyle through the use of light, materials, color and common open space. This project provided an opportunity to address the critical issues of density, site and the cultural and social impacts that arise from building adjacent to a historical landmark. Attempting to “kick down the bamboo wall”, Habitat 825 and its expansive use of common open space creates an urban space without borders or property lines.
The Los Angeles Times called Habitat 825, which was completed in the fall, one of the most significant projects of 2007, and a rich symbol of “a city struggling to escape its adolescence and define its early adulthood.”
“I love the people,” said Emily Farache, 34, a former journalist and aspiring screenwriter who lives in a two-bedroom that she and her husband, a lawyer, paid $965,000 for. “It’s like moving into your college dorm and meeting people.”
Given the historic presence of the Schindler House, several measures were taken to preserve the house’s relationship to its surrounding landscape. To avoid casting shadows onto the adjacent property, the building was reduced to two stories on the north side adjacent to the Schindler House. In addition, the form in plan bends inwards away from the house to allow more breathing room and to draw attention towards the central open space.
Massing is composed of two “L” bars which create a central, common, open space. This composition also carefully weaves the buildings’ circulation into a spectrum of public space. Beginning on the new ground established on the sub-grade parking deck, a loose internal courtyard is scaled to the intersection of the two primary housing volumes, which in turn hinges toward the Schindler House. This centrally located space allows all units to have direct access from the exterior, while eliminating the need for mechanically climate controlled corridors.
In an effort to extend the street into the building, the front yard cuts into the building to promote a semi-public zone between the building and the street. Scattered benches along landscaped walkways create a small urban park at the street.
Adhering to the 19 unit requirement, the ground plane drops five feet below the street level, creating additional units at the west side of the building. Moving vertically, widened exterior walkways tactically serve as prompts for informal gatherings. In addition, private open spaces are set within the common area through landscaping elements rather than “hard” boundaries.
Internally, units are organized around light wells that filter light down into the dwelling units from roof gardens above. All units are single loaded allowing for cross-ventilation and light to enter from multiple sides.
The strategic use of black on the southern vertical volume grounds the building, rendering a heavy silhouette as an architectural proclamation. The choice of a lime green rhymes with nature and embodies both the horizontal and vertical landscape concepts of the Schindler House. The use of white bounces light into the central courtyard and subsequent lower units.
Materials are a combination of non-combustible cement board and Local forest managed dark stained Redwood siding. The utilization of a rain screen system promotes a long life-cycle reducing the need for maintenance and repair. In addition, given Los Angeles’ warm climate, the movement of air between the building and the cladding cools the inner face of the exterior and reduces the demand for cooling energy.