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2024

MCHAP.emerge

Plymouth ADU

Vertebrae

Los Angeles, California, United States

March 2023

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Lisa Little (Principal/Founder)

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

CLIENT

Reginald Panaligan and Leslie-Anne Huff

PHOTOGRAPHER

Art Gray

OBJECTIVE

The clients approached us with an under-utilized carport in their backyard and the need for space to accommodate a growing family. The carport was used only for storage and left their clutter on display and open to the elements. We proposed a flexible building that will live multiple lives over the course of time: a home office; a guest house; additional living space for the family; a home for a relative; and a rental property.

Thoughtful maneuverability and architectural brevity are utilized to meet all program requirements and to achieve a serene, open design. The asymmetrical butterfly roof expands the perceived spatial condition of the main living area and provides for a sleeping loft on one end of the building and plentiful built-in storage on the other. The loft is accessed by a wall mounted ladder and is enclosed with wood slats that delineate space without dividing the overall volume. The small kitchen is immediately accessible yet contained. Large, glass bifold doors allow for a seamless connection to the outdoors and fill the interior with natural light. These formal moves maximize the efficiency and impact of this small space.

Due to the cooling dominated climate, we placed the majority of the glazing on the north elevation to minimize heat gain in the hot summer months and to provide ample natural daylighting. Orienting the fenestration towards the existing swimming pool further increased this effect by taking advantage of evaporative cooling. Hot days that would otherwise call for air conditioning are now spent open to the elements.

CONTEXT

In converting an unused carport in a central Los Angeles neighborhood to a 370 square foot accessory dwelling unit (ADU), this project proposes a less-than-urban solution to density in a more-than-suburban context. ADU’s, a relatively new typology to Los Angeles, offer a pseudo-urban-infill model for providing much needed housing dispersed throughout the city’s sprawling neighborhoods.

Sited in the backyard of a modest, existing single-family home, the project navigates and situates itself relative to the main single-story residence, existing pool, utility easements, and height restrictions. This architectural intervention organizes and activates the entire site. The ADU, existing single-family home, and two walls of bamboo enclose a courtyard containing a pool, outdoor living area, and outdoor kitchen. The large bi-fold opening allows programmatic flow to the interior, where all program needed to function as additional living space for a multi-generational family or as a standalone dwelling is found: a kitchen, full bath, built-in desk and storage, living space, and a sleeping loft.

ADU’s present an opportunity to positively impact the lives of those living on lots zoned for single-family residences while simultaneously densifying the city. Working with the clients, we were able to improve their outdoor living space, create a new home office, offer space to host family members, and provide a potential new rental unit for the city.

PERFORMANCE

Since its completion, Plymouth ADU has provided additional living space, opened new ways to host family members, and demonstrated how environmental analysis can produce comfortable interior environments. Immediately, the ADU provided space for work, exercise, and additional storage without adding clutter to the clients’ backyard. Beyond the immediate uses, the clients now see the ADU as an opportunity to host relatives long term. Plans include offering younger family members the chance to live in Los Angeles without the barrier of prohibitive housing costs.

The ADU, designed to open directly to the existing pool, benefits from an evaporative cooling effect. As a direct result of this design decision, the clients have not had to use air conditioning, even on hot summer days. Regardless of how the ADU is occupied, effort spent analyzing site conditions and carefully locating fenestration has meant more days spent with passive heating and cooling.

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