For all of its assets—cultural riches and temperate climate among them—the City of Angels has a darker side. The most notorious issues are homeless and housing costs and both are well-known to Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, specialists in sensitive affordable housing. According to the firm, Los Angeles County’s homeless population is around 58,000 and rising. LOHA’s MLK1101 Supportive Housing in South L.A. is helping to ameliorate the problem, at least a bit, with a 34,000-square-foot, 26-unit complex for formerly homeless veterans, low-income households, and chronically homeless folks. It’s a story that needs to be told.
Occupying a vacant lot, MLK1101 is particularly noteworthy for the ways in which it uses design strategies to address some of the social and psychological problems associated with housing issues, isolation chief among them. So, fostering a sense of community and prioritizing social equity, health, and well-being were paramount to the plan, which has also achieved LEED Gold certification. “We opened the building to the street and opted for an L-shaped typology,” O’Herlihy notes. “Every apartment receives sunlight and cross ventilation.” Units, identical on each floor, range from one to three bedrooms and are accessed by exterior stairs and walkways.
To take advantage of required on-site parking, LOHA created an elevated green patio that sits atop a street-level street parking unit, offering residents a place to relax and socialize away from the noise of surrounding traffic. Another gathering place comes in the form of a time-honored stoop. Here, it is a widened staircase connecting the street to communal spaces on the level above: an outdoor garden with grassy area and herb and vegetable planters, and an adjacent community room with kitchenette for group activities. Furthermore, two street-front retail units will not only generate funds to help support the housing but also provide work training to residents, helping them transition back to society.