14.10.2013 Florian Maier

28th Street Apartments in Los Angeles

The 28th Street Apartments is a project of a local not-for-profit organization that provides housing to the homeless, individuals transitioning from foster care and adults with mental illness. The project adds new residential units, upgrades existing units and revitalizes principal spaces and features of an historic YMCA.

Architect: Koning Eizenberg Architecture
Location: 28th Street, Los Angeles, USA
The project restores principal spaces and features of an historic YMCA (1926) designed by noted African American architect Paul R. William and inserts new housing on a small site in south Los Angeles. The Spanish Colonial revival masonry building was a focus of African American social life in the era of segregation and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is located in an ethnically mixed and chronically underserved neighborhood. Work was completed in 2012 for US$11,900,000 and is pending LEED gold. The original building (24,200sf) and addition (15,250sf) house two independent not-for-profit organizations: CRDC runs neighborhood youth training and employment programs in about 8000sf of the historic activity spaces and Clifford Beers Housing offers 49 apartments for youth exiting foster care, the mentally ill and the chronically homeless in the remaining space. Supportive services are offered on site and residents have access to a roof garden, laundry and lounge.
When the building was bought in 2007 the original residential program and pool had been abandoned and all spaces had fallen into disrepair. Ornament was missing inside and out and all building services and equipment needed to be replaced. Limited documentation was available in the form of some of the original drawings, historic photos and building fragments.

Restoration focused on stretching a limited budget to reinstate the exterior composition of the building and clarify interior principal spaces while adapting for the adjusted program use. An interstitial floor was added above the ground floor to hide new service runs thereby preserving the appearance of historic ceilings below and existing apartments on upper floors enlarged to meet current housing standards.

Outside, key ornaments were replicated and the rusticated base expressed. There were not sufficient funds, however, to fully reinstate the cast stone ashlar coursing. Needed new mechanical equipment is slung between two trusses and hung over the lightwell instead of being expediently located on the flat roof deck. This approach released the roof for use as an elevated garden to provide an anchoring social space to link old and new.
Twenty-five new residential units are added in a thin five story stucco-clad building that abuts the existing building at the rear of the lot. Solar hot water panels cover the roof and PV’s shade and generate power on the south façade leaving the historic building free of attachments and uncompromised. Lightweight perforated metal screens wrap the walkway and stairs of the addition facing the historic building to contrast with the original architecture and highlight its weight and solidity. The screens feather at the corners to reveal views of the city and some perforations are tabbed rather than punched through to create a secondary ephemeral pattern. The pattern, abstracted from reliefs on the historic building, appears and disappears depending on the angle of the light incorporating the historic ornament that the community clearly loved.
The judges said, ‘This project demonstrates architecture as an agent for social transformation. It shows a degree of care to both the physical restoration of an important community building and the quality of the new extension, helping to create a powerful identity. The architect was able to knit together historical continuity and something very new, something of high architectural value.’

260 shortlisted projects were considered for award in 30 different categories. This year, only 15 of the shortlisted projects were from the USA. Koning Eizenberg was the only US firm to receive an award.
The other winners at the 2013 World Architecture Festival
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