The Courtyard at La Brea is a mixed-use affordable housing project for people living with disabilities, and special needs. Located on La Brea Ave., a main avenue and transportation corridor in the City of West Hollywood, the 5-story building maximizes density while allowing for ample outdoor space. 32 apartments are arranged around a shared exterior courtyard and connected to the Southwest corner, a spiral outdoor space, a beacon of social activity that houses the building’s main entrance, circulation and other shared social amenities for the residents in a series of stacked outdoor spaces. The ribbons reference the special contextual characteristics of La Brea as a street with iconic Art Deco and streamline modern buildings Commercial space fronts along La Brea Avenue to reinforce a pedestrian friendly sidewalk environment. Locating the project within the central urban fabric of the community ensures that residents have direct access to local, services and the mixed-use program brings higher density into the urban core of the city.
Site Characteristics Located in the Commercial Community zoning district of West Hollywood, the project directly addresses the intentions of this district by providing commercial opportunities to serve local community needs and by doing so as a mixed-use development. The site provides excellent views to the North toward the Hollywood Hills and to downtown Los Angeles to the East from the social outdoor spaces.
Zoning Incentives The La Brea Housing project takes advantage of the City of West Hollywood’s mixed-use development incentive and the State of California’s affordable housing initiative. Through these two programs the project realized a 0.5 increase in FAR (floor/area ratio) bringing the project maximum FAR to 2.5. These incentives also allowed an additional story with a corresponding fifteen foot height increase bringing the maximum building height to fifty feet and allowing for five stories.
Courtyard The Courtyard at La Brea is an iteration of the Architect’s current area of research; the exploration, thematic investigation and evolution of the courtyard. The climate of Southern California encourages the use of external spaces as an extension of and an integral part of architectural space. It alternatively serves as a unifier, a social generator, a place of protection, and an area that can provide for the needs of the users. The courtyard is then layered with social and physical issues. This continues the history so well established in West Los Angeles by Arthur and Nina Zwebell and recorded in the book, Courtyard Housing in Los Angeles. The courtyard’s north/south axis provides maximum access to the sun during the winter months.
Sustainable Features Integral to the Design The building also demonstrates one of the city’s core values of environmental responsibility. The design highlights the city’s commitment to green building and sustainable design by serving as the pilot project for the City of West Hollywood’s new Green Building Ordinance the requirements of which the building far exceeds. Rooftop photovoltaic cells provide for all the electricity needs with excess electricity being fed back into the City’s electrical grid. Solar-thermal collectors provide for all the hot water needs with a 3,000 gallon storage tank. A gray water system, centered on the laundry system with a 400 gallon filtration tank provides, together with a SUSMP rainwater collection system provides all the water for the landscaping.
Program The building contains 32 residential units organized around a central courtyard. Each unit has a full kitchen, bathroom. Studio, one bedroom and two bedroom units are offered. Three of the units are fully accessible and the remaining units are fully adaptable. Commercial / Retail space is located along La Brea Avenue at the ground level with 19 parking spaces behind.
The living units are oriented along the east west axis and each unit receives a large amount of natural daylight. An inner courtyard makes it possible for each unit to receive both natural light and ventilation from both the east and the west. This abundance of natural light minimizes energy requirements through reduced artificial lighting requirements. Each apartment has its own private outdoor space (80 sq ft) with designated storage room. Additional common outdoor social space is provided for the residents in the courtyard garden at the second level and at the fifth floor roof deck garden. The units are linked by exterior, open-air access balconies running adjacent to the interior bamboo garden (bamboo forest) courtyard. Indoor social areas include a large community room and common laundry room, both of which are located off of the courtyard on the second level. Mailboxes are located in the residential lobby to activate this area and strengthen the connection it to the sidewalk.
Building Systems The project is a Type V-1 hour wood construction over a concrete podium. The framing scheme responds to an open and thoughtful modular plan for the multi-unit complex. The concrete and wood frame building with stucco exterior provides for fire safety while affording a sustaining economical service life.
The landscape for the project was developed to beautify and enhance the outdoor experiences of the residence. A bamboo forest creates a cooling microclimate in the inner courtyard for residents. The rear garden is an urban farm maintained by the residents. A fifth floor roof deck takes advantage of the distant views.