Downtown Los Angeles is dense with low-income housing units, many needing updating. For a pair of 110-unit buildings, Skid Row Housing Trust tapped Brooks + Scarpa Architects for the renovations. “No design is entailed here,” principal Lawrence Scarpa recalls being told. “We thought: Yes there is.” So he and co-principal Angela Brooks came up with one concept to serve the two sites: beautifying under-used outside space for tenants to enjoy.
One building had a pair of narrow exterior spaces, but they were basically just alleys crammed with assorted detritus. Brooks + Scarpa transformed them with gravel and concrete planks and benches. Walls were freshly coated in white paint and hung with constellations of clay pots containing plants for tenants to nurture. Overhead, string lights contribute additional twinkle.
At the other building, Brooks + Scarpa improved an existing courtyard, making room for a required fire exit as well as inserting spalike ipe interventions. The wood forms a tall slatted screen that gives privacy to ground-floor apartments, a built-in bench, and chaise lounges from which tenants can gaze up at a salvaged Ficus tree.