Lorcan O’Herlihy, FAIA
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects
Mia Lehrer + Associates (Landscape Architect)
Phoenix Property Company
Following conversations with the client and community activists, LOHA developed a scheme that responds to the considerations of the established neighborhood, the client’s extensive program requirements, and the unique, wedge-shaped site. Inspired by the sloping landscape and students’ desires for communal meeting areas, LOHA saw an opportunity to continue the firm’s efforts to add green spaces into dense, urban developments. SL11024 incorporates landscaped roof terraces at various levels, creating inviting outdoor areas for students. By stepping back the form, LOHA created access from each floor level to either a roof deck or a courtyard space, providing vital gathering and community-building venues. This continuous terracing of communal space from the street level to the roof results in a powerful urban and architectural gesture that offers a multi-layered connection both within the building and out towards the surrounding community.
Sited opposite Richard Neutra’s Strathmore Apartments in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, this housing complex of 31 units and recreational amenities pays homage to its preeminent neighbor while providing the community with much-needed housing for students, faculty, and others on the border of UCLA’s campus. SL11024 additional common amenities, including a fitness center, yoga studio, business center, and student lounges, foster a sense of community within the building, and the mix of program types contribute to the project’s functionality and life. A difficult, wedge-shaped lot with a fifty-foot drop from one corner of the site to the other, the client owned the property for a number of years while a previous design failed to get through the community’s design review board. LOHA was then engaged to propose a solution that fulfills the client’s programmatic requirements and unit types, incorporates the sloped landscape, and sensitively considers the historical adjacencies while also garnering community support. LOHA embraced and resolved these demands through SL11024’s design, crafting a distinctive, singular building that elevates the surrounding built environment. By splitting the building into two volumes, LOHA was able to efficiently integrate the structure’s overall massing with the existing landscape, provide wind cross-ventilation to the apartments, and define a clear circulation path through the property. The building’s volumes shift downward along the street’s natural incline and reach their lowest height directly across from Neutra’s modernist landmark, thereby echoing and amplifying the enlightened site strategies of this high-profile neighbor.
This project is a part of LOHA’s ongoing commitment to address and elevate challenging urban conditions. Here, LOHA embraced the unique topography of a hillside site to craft a multi-faceted building that is an asset to the increasingly dense and dynamic urban fabric of Westwood. Since the project’s completion, many of the surrounding buildings have undergone renovations and improvements, raising the quality of the housing stock in the neighborhood. LOHA carefully considered various methods for integrating the building into the surrounding streetscape. In addition to the stepped massing, LOHA’s material choices for the building envelope of solid, perforated, and ribbed white metal panels project out the vibrancy embedded within the project’s form, programming, and functions. The cladding system blurs the boundary between the sidewalk and the building mass, creating an animated effect of rippling shadow and light that breaks up the scale of the wall surfaces. Cement board painted in eight green-hued layers creates a gradient effect that grounds the building’s base and lightens as the structure meets the sky. Through its materiality and form, LOHA’s design for SL11024, a housing complex on the border of UCLA’s campus, seamlessly engages its historically sensitive site and challenging hillside topography and creates a new model for urban development that enriches an academic community.