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Competition Seeks to Return L.A. Multifamily Housing to its Iconic Roots

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Competition Seeks to Return L.A. Multifamily Housing to its Iconic Roots

May 24, 2021
Los Angeles
Photo: nata_rass | stock.adobe.com

A competition run by the office of Los Angeles’ chief design officer seeks to return the city’s multifamily housing back to its roots while addressing the need for more units. The Village Green, formerly known as Baldwin Hills Village now designated as a National Historic Landmark, became an example for the rest of the country on how multifamily housing could be beautiful, surrounded in greenery, and offer plenty of living space. The city’s iconic bungalow courts are another example of effective dense housing. To combat the increase of mundane developments, the competition calls on designers to submit designs for dense housing with roots in classic L.A. architecture. Here are some of the submissions:

On Monday morning the city is scheduled to announce the winners in the competition’s four categories, with each first-place winner receiving a $10,000 award. (Winners and plans will be posted to the website, lowrise.la.) The challenge is a conversation starter and design exercise. It’s also a needed counter to commercial real estate developers, whose ideas of density tend to be based on a single principle — how many dollars they can squeeze out of every square foot — with little regard for green space or other community needs. (Case in point: those sad, blocky duplexes and triplexes jammed into islands of tree-less concrete.)

The winning designs for the “Low Rise” design challenge, however, offer a density L.A. can aspire to.

A first-place proposal for a fourplex by the L.A.-based studio Omgivning, created in collaboration with the landscape firm Studio-MLA (led by Mia Lehrer), takes a 7,500-square-foot single family lot and imagines it as the site of several two-story housing units arranged around private and public outdoor areas. Another, by New York-based designer Vonn Weisenberger, uses a pair of adjacent corner lots to accommodate at least three comfortably scaled bungalows and a corner store — all in an architectural style inspired by Cliff May, the 20th century California designer who helped pioneer the ranch house.

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