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Low Rise - Housing Ideas for Los Angeles (competition)


Launched in late 2020, the Low-Rise design competition was an effort organized by the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office that sought to generate new ideas for multifamily housing in LA where single-family zoning and car-based development are dominant and where affordable housing is in short supply. The competition sought to promote housing affordability, promote new paths to homeownership, and spur new, innovative models of sustainable multi-family residential architecture. Our design work for the proposal began in 2020 and was submitted to the competition in early 2021.

This is our proposal.

Our design proposal is for an architecture of low-rise development that responds to a scenario of relaxed density controls in single-family zones, and the architecture is premised on the construction choice (and also structural choice) of a modular system of light wood-frame construction. This modular system is conceived of and sized to be manufactured as prefabricated elements. This would minimize construction time and waste. Also, modules, more quickly and efficiently than conventional on-site construction, can be arranged and sited to accommodate the shifting, fluid, and organically evolving needs of families and different relationship structures within families and outside of families over different time horizons. A modular architecture, modular structural system, and modular construction sequencing would also be more responsive to potential shifts (and especially relaxations to) to single-family zoning regulations that may relax (in a piecemeal way if the legislation comes out piecemeal) controls on density.  The 2-story, ~30’ architecture is scaled to fit unobtrusively into the existing single-family neighborhoods. While 4 dwelling units on the parcel are drawn and rendered in our proposal, the modular architectural and construction paradigm of our proposal imagines being able to accommodate as many as 8 studio dwelling units or as many as 12 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms to complement a range of lifestyles and ownership possibilities.

Our proposed project is on a 50’ x 150’ or 7,500 SF single-family zoned parcel that is either close to public transit or in a transition area between single-family residential and more intense land uses and greater multi-family density, and our proposal and its entire evolving lifespan relies on a zoning regime that allows greater density (and also greater density in exchange for rent affordability covenants) in these areas. The 2 buildings that are currently shown total a combined 3,500 SF of building area on the site.

The site plan is arranged to minimize the impacts of a multi-unit project on an established single-family neighborhood. Setbacks are reduced to support the added program, parking is provided at a reasonable rate of 1 per unit, with the traffic split between the alley and street. The pitched-roof architecture is a major motif, allowing the mass to be stepped back from the street, and the site is softened with mature trees, all intended to blend the design into the neighborhood vernacular with a subtle contemporary expression.

Grey water and rainwater storage tanks are located above rather than below ground; solar panels cover south-facing roofs and waste enclosures; sun louvers shade exposed elevations from the impacts of solar heat gain and provide indirect, reflected light. Bike parking is provided at a ratio of 2 spaces/unit. Electrical vehicle charging stations, fed by dedicated solar panels, are provided for all car parking spaces. Large, native and, where applicable, deciduous trees are provided and arranged to shade openings on the south sides. These openings that are aligned in plan to the prevailing breezes allow for air flow and cross ventilation. Solar panels, raised just above the tree canopy, power appliances and mechanical heat pumps. Energy is also collected and stored in batteries along the side yards of each of the building modules. Low water-use and drought-resilient landscape are specified, and the hardscape is permeable, mitigating runoff.


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Modular wood frame

3,500 SF




Single-family zones (competition brief)