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Housing / 2013

Porous Housing 2050: Housing Typology for DTLA in 2050

Porous Housing 2050: Housing Typology for DTLA in 2050

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by UNITEDLAB

Over the past few years, the City of Los Angeles has been making ardent, varied attempts at revitalizing its Downtown district. For instance, contemporary cultural nuclei such as The Disney Concert Hall, The Broad Museum have been generating much public interest. Furthermore redevelopment of neighborhoods and renewed events in the Artists’ district has stirred more awareness so as to cajole the vivacity of the City of Angeles. These attempts assert an indirect impetus at restraining the issue of land-use but do not solve the fundamental problem. As the incumbent urban sprawl deters mobility in Los Angeles, most commercial and recreational infrastructure has moved to suburban areas due to the availability of affordable, expansive land, and easy access. This in turn coerces Angelinos to use their personal motor vehicles to access downtown and its satellite facilities which is all the more prominent on weekends. The Central Business District (CBD) Decline Phenomenon is becoming graver, as the Downtown is strictly utilized for business and commerce affairs but lacks much recreational activity thereafter. Fundamentally, it forces deficiency in pedestrian activity, causes traffic congestion, increased demand for parking spaces, lack of urban parks and public space which are inherently interrelated. Los Angeles is also the city with the largest homeless population with settlements in the Skid Row district bordering downtown. Unfortunately, the temperate climate and lack of assistance for the homeless has contributed to this precipitous growth of the Skid row district. Our research is based on a futuristic vision for urban collective housing with emphasis on use in Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA). Through our research we hope to envision L.A.’s housing requirements for the future and develop new housing typologies to address these very requisites. New typologies for urban collective housing demand an exhaustive study of contextual downtown parameters such as urbanism, architecture, landscape, ecology, and social culture. This paradigm is beset by the predominant terse or perhaps lack of, use of the district in non-business hours. The research would work as a catalyst in arousing passion for the futuristic urban housing for the new era, far from the maximum units stacked prevalent woven into the fabric of the district.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

In many instances, professional practice may have constraints that could be client driven or simply pertaining to ordinances and budgetary constraints. In my earnest efforts at overcoming such limitations by streamlining design operatives, I founded UNITEDLAB as a private practice in 2006. It strives to develop and refine said operatives by periodically participating in international competitions while engaging in theoretical and adaptive research. To that effect, chosen topics vary from architecture and landscape architecture to urban design and cross-disciplinary systems with locations in Asia, the United States, and Europe. Projects such as the Magok Waterfront and Busan River City are provocative urban scenarios which combine city planning with infrastructure, landscape, architecture, social policy, and development as urban expansion merges with green belts or farmland merges into cities. When working on these proposals it was important to understand that the city is not merely the sum of many objects but a kind of organism which relates to and is composed of those that are visible as well as numerous invisible variables. The Magok Waterfront Project was awarded by the American Institute of Architects (New York) and by the State of New York. In the Yongsan Park Masterplan, we proposed a project to ecologically regenerate an urban site that had been used as a military base for more than 100 years. Its location in central Seoul, as well as its proximity to Old Seoul eventually distorted its natural axis. The site needed to incorporate the historical situations of the Second World War, the Korean War, and the societal atmosphere which Korea was forced to face. Its solution demanded research about the ecology and sustainability inherent to the site. UNITEDLAB was fortunate enough to receive the ASLA Professional Award and an AIA LA Award for this project. More recently, I developed a research project called ‘Los Angeles Affordable Apartments,’ a multi-unit residential prototype based on traditional village housing schemes. I proposed unit prototypes for the low-income which compels pedestrian activity in DTLA. For a mobile city like Los Angeles, I believe this could be new typology that encourages such activity.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

We understand that such definitive research needs rich collaboration between disciplines to envision a worthy future for the city. It beseeches urban planners, designers, engineers, landscape architects, ecosystem specialists, sustainability scientists and most importantly city dwellers to engage and develop operatives to derive new typologies. Per the project agenda, we will let specialists conduct specific research separately about detailed themes or quantitative data to foster futuristic society. Yet, our methods will also require constant collaboration between theorists and practitioners to maintain a resolute course of action.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Predicting and evaluating the future of housing that positively influences the dynamism of a city should have an augmented forethought well beyond unscrambling present day challenges. The pivotal attribute being that such a proposal should first catalyze fulfilling implementation and set a precedent for further research and predictions.

We postulate that the evaluation for measurement of success will consist of three different scales: - Firstly, we will gauge its value and degree of realization as an urban sited housing typology. Such a proposed typology will also be tested for its contribution to urban development, regeneration and revitalization. We will also assess how it solves downtown related problems in terms of urban planning or design on a macro-scaled view point. Furthermore, we will also assess how the expansions of additional functions such as green and public spaces inter-relate with the housing program. These assessments will tie-in with the development of social donation and welfare. Secondly, the assessment will be a systematical research on a macro and micro-scale. Would this housing be planned for and be able to maintain or evolve with residents’ social participation for creating and vitalizing a community? How would the housing complex contribute or partake in the ecosystem and foster sustainability as well as self-reliance? Lastly, at the micro-scale level, we will infer if this housing functions well? Is this housing typology architecturally aesthetic? Were the residents and community satisfied with the outcome? How feasible was its development?

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Developing an affordable multi housing complex would contribute to revitalizing DTLA in various ways; provide housing opportunities for low income Angelinos, create work opportunities, give hope to skid row dwellers to find affordable housing, assist in restoring urban beauty, support pedestrian activity for downtown vibrancy, provide equal housing and equal opportunity by creating a homogenous community devoid of social class or ethnic schisms.
We feel that if a housing typology serves as more than just a place of residence and advocates itself as social housing, it promotes a sense of community thereby insinuating self-resilience and sustainability. This allows all residents to engage as active members of the community who can socialize without biases. This is particularly important because characteristically the homeless population and low income groups tend to be isolated from mainstream society. While executing this process, there is more possibility to develop on the expansive function of housing such as advanced correlations between housing and sustainability, landscapes, urban-scapes, infrastructure which would foster further evolved typologies. Beyond generic housing complex, developing a new typology connected with public space, urban green space, or mixed-use would also serve as a catalyst to solve problems DTLA faces as urban collective housing which presently echoes a sense of reclusion from one another.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

We feel that creating social housing typologies will create a more multi-dimensional transition between the different districts in DTLA. In present day context, there is a stark visible contrast demarcating various districts and this is all the more clear when it comes to the Skid Row and its surrounding streets. We have already seen how there is renewed interest in livening the use of space in downtown and we believe that our suggested research and its inference will generate more interest for pedestrian activity and use of spaces that will never be desolate at different times. The three dimensionality of such a project will invite dwellers to walk more, socialize more, take public transportation and actively engage with the community. Not declined by urban sprawl, public spaces, plazas, residential, businesses will all be more pedestrianized with interaction from people of all age groups, ethnicities devoid of social segregations. We feel that it will present a social reclamation of the two dimensional demarcation and inherent decline while generating close ties between elaborately interweaved DTLA districts building a strong sense of communities.