In wake of a rising global housing crisis, this project investigates design opportunities to introduce an affordable housing typology, advocating for density over dispersal; breathing vitality into a city’s urban core; and reenvisioning a more socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable community.
Los Angeles is a microcosm of diverse culture. Aside from being considered America’s leading cultural arts hub, it has one of the highest homeless populations in the country. This is a statistic which may actually contribute character to the city’s diverse culture over various mediums, but concurrently raises a core critical issue in of its own: a desperate need for affordable housing. What opportunities can architecture and design provide to improve the homeless and affordable housing crisis in Los Angeles? What solutions are there to ensure that this growing microcosm can better support and sustain itself, leading by example as just one of many other cities, globally? As architects, designers, and creatives, we take a closer look at LA’s Arts District to tackle this case study.
A New Community in the Heart of the Arts District
This project’s site is situated in the heart of LA’s Arts district with close proximity to Skid Row, a community notoriously known for having one of the country’s largest homeless populations. Both neighborhoods have undergone major transformations and deterioration overtime. Through studies and applications of co-living, this project aims to bridge two socioeconomic and urban contexts by challenging their inherited typologies of dwelling forms, with the goal to encourage a symbiosis of two personal, collective identities.
A dense 9-story building will provide affordable housing options for local self-employed artists through the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). The AATA is a non-profit professional and educational organization whose mission is to advocate for the expansion of access to professional art therapists, and lead by example of art therapy as a regulated mental health and human services profession.
Through its subsidized housing programs, artists and creative workers are encouraged to apply and bring their talents, values, and cultures, to communities where they can collaboratively and successfully live, work, learn, and teach. Artists are automatically enrolled in a training program offered by the AATA, and are obligated on a weekly-basis to commit to teaching art classes dedicated to homeless individuals suffering from mental and physical illnesses.
This project aims to empower artists and would-be artists who have fallen victim to homelessness, and mental and physical illnesses. The process of creating art through therapeutic classes is an opportunity to improve these difficult living conditions, fostered by a safe and educational environment.
Eight floors of co-living units are arranged in terraced, cubic volumes, meandering and stacking overtop the site’s existing building. A gradual transition apart from surrounding large-scale warehouses breaks down the overall mass of the building into more appropriately-scaled living units. The building’s 236 residents can be accommodated by one of four unit types, each with their own common kitchen and shared living spaces. From an adaptive reuse aspect, the facade of the existing building remains intact, while the interior spaces transform as a flexible, open gallery space.
Not only does the building mass lift itself from ground plane, but its strong directional movement is but one motion of a larger network of landscapes, previously sculpted by former railway tracks. An experience of displaying and appreciating the process of making art begins at the exterior, carving upwards with terraces, and onwards into each individual unit. Residents then take ownership of an interior wall, a substrate onto which various mediums can create art to be seen and celebrated.
ArtLifting is at the intersection of the pressing housing challenges the city of Los Angeles faces. It aims to become a catalyst in revitalizing the historic LA Arts district. With a social purpose deeply embedded in the broader health of its people and their urban fabric, ArtLifting symbolizes a new form of energy: architecture and design as an engine for change, built to heal.