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2018 MCHAP

Crest Apartments

Michael Maltzan, FAIA

Van Nuys, CA, USA

July 2016


Michael Maltzan / Michael Maltzan Architecture


John Labib & Associates (Structural Engineer) Khalifeh & Associates (Mechanical & Plumbing Engineer) OMB Electrical Engineers (Electrical Engineer) Breen Engineering (Civil Engineer) SWA Group, Tina Chee Landscape Studio (Landscape Architect) Adkan Engineers (Survey) Newson Brown Acoustics (Acoustics) Exponent (Fire/Life Safety Code) Global Green (Green Rater) AWC West (Specifications) Egan Simon Architecture (Construction Manager) Morley Builders / Benchmark Contractors (General Contractor)


Skid Row Housing Trust


Iwan Baan


The building design focuses on an innovative and human-centered approach to architecture. 100% of the units in the building serve individuals who are homeless, have chronic medical or behavioral conditions, and as a result use disproportionately high levels of emergency care. Of the 63 units, 75% are reserved for formerly chronically homeless residents and 25% are reserved for residents who are both formerly homeless and disabled. 35% of units are set aside for qualifying veterans. Crest Apartments provides permanent homes to these individuals, which combined with supportive services on site, have proven highly effective in stabilizing residents and improving their overall health. The architectural design focuses on providing safe and inviting individual and community spaces within the building and the landscape. The highly transparent lobby and reception are positioned at the front of the development to welcome residents and visitors and activate the street presence of the building. Light-filled spaces are incorporated throughout the building to form a network of healthy community connections that support residents. The four upper residential floors of studio apartments include large windows and are connected by open-air corridors that introduce vibrant color, natural light, cross ventilation, and views of the city. An outdoor residents’ terrace on the fourth floor is positioned at the front of the building overlooking the entry and courtyard below. The sustainability features incorporated into the building and site improve health and wellness for residents as well as environmental stewardship within the community. The project is certified LEED for Homes Platinum.


The building is located in Van Nuys, California in the suburban San Fernando Valley north of downtown Los Angeles. The site is surrounded by a mix of neighboring commercial and lower-density residential areas. To the south, the building’s entry is located along a busy commercial thoroughfare near two freeways. To the north, the building’s community garden is adjacent to the backyards of single-family residential properties. The building’s arching form stretches the length of the east side of the lot, creating a sheltered courtyard with tiered terraces of apartments above. The building touches the ground at both the front and back of the site, creating a physical relationship to the smaller-scale single-family residences behind the property and the larger commercial facades running along the boulevard. This massing decision was made in part as a response to single-family neighbors’ request for privacy, unobstructed sun orientation, and planting locations. In between where the building touches down in the front and back of the site, the entire building is lifted off the ground, which creates an expansive landscape stretching across the site. This restores the ground plane as a native field supporting multiple outdoor uses, including car and bike parking, community gardens, and barbeque patio areas. It also creates a sheltered courtyard as well as a resourceful solution to fire lane, storm water, parking, and landscape requirements.


Crest Apartments has had a profoundly positive impact on residents by giving them their own home and a sense of community. Simple changes such as having a permanent address, a bed to sleep in, private bathroom, space to cook meals, and an overall sense of safety and security are significant improvements from living on the street. The combination of private and communal living spaces has proven essential to the successful provision of permanent supportive housing. The building’s communal spaces include laundry facilities, a computer lab, community kitchen, outdoor courtyards and a community garden that serve as social hubs. To address resident needs through design, the building incorporates individual offices for case management, social services, and property management where residents have access to a support system of case managers and services. The building adds increased density with the suburban neighborhood, taking full advantage of the long, narrow lot and its proximity to neighborhood amenities such as public transportation, medical centers, and grocery stores that are critical to the health and stability for residents. The integrated architectural and landscape design is a powerful example of the role thoughtful design can play to positively impact the lives its residents while also providing desperately need affordable housing in our cities.

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