Rossmore + Weldon

Architecture Firm(s): Brooks + Scarpa

Owner:  Skid Row Housing Trust

Location: Los Angeles, California

Category: Up to $150,000 in construction cost (category one)

As part of the modernization of a 110-unit affordable housing project in downtown Los Angeles, two overlooked service courts have become important tenant social spaces. During the evaluation of the historic building, which required a slew of repairs and upgrades but no major alterations of the overall design, the team uncovered two spaces choked with bicycles and other debris that, with minimal cost, could be easily transformed to provide significant impact.

Upending a reclusive and isolating layout, the design team transformed these previously dingy spaces into community-oriented refuges that incorporate landscape, trees, and seating. Surrounded by tall buildings and dark tones, the two courts were devoid of life and often treated as oversized dumpsters. Now they are a pair of vital oases for the building.

Weldon, the more narrow of the two sites at 8 feet by 60 feet, is filled with plants reaching for sunlight in an interactive green wall that invites tenants to remove plants, care for them, and return them later. Its poured-in-place concrete seating and tables offer durable but inviting places for tenants to sit, eat, and converse. The green wall features custom steel pot holders that accommodate standard clay flower pots.

"This project really did make something out of nothing. In simple moves and with little budget, the architect transforms leftover, forgotten space to benefit a community and impact lives.” - Jury comment

Weldon’s trapezoidal counterpart, Rossmore, creates a buffer between the building and its parking lot and restores access to a fire exit. A planter featuring vines that grow upward along steel cables discretely protects the property’s boundary. The planter serves double duty as the back of a bench that, along with three rolling counterparts, provide significant flexibility. The wooden fence that wraps the courtyard adds an additional layer of privacy, while its functional sections serve as emergency exits.

“Pockets of beauty can improve mental health of housing residents. Using a small budget, this extremely effective design intervention changes under-utilized, abandoned, and cluttered courtyards to well-designed shared social spaces, providing not just space, but dignity to residents.” - Jury comment

Additional information

Architect - Lead Designer: Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA

Architect - Principal in Charge and Project Architect: Angela Brooks, FAIA

Project Design Team: Emily Hodgdon, Diane Thepkhounphithack, Eleftheria Stavridi, Arthur Vartanyan, Fui Srivikorn, Micaela Danko, Iliya Muzychuck, Jennifer Doublet, Yang Li, Yimin Wu

Interior Designer: Brooks + Scarpa

Mechanical Engineer: IEG Innovative Engineering Group

Structural Engineer: John A. Martin & Associates

Electrical Engineer: IEG Innovative Engineering Group

Construction Manager: AMJ Construction Management

General Contractor: Snyder Langston

Landscape Architect: Brooks + Scarpa with SQLA

Lighting Designer: Brooks + Scarpa

Furniture: Office 42


Melissa Harlan, AIA (Jury Chair), Christner Inc., St. Louis, MO

Meryati Blackwell, AIA, ASID, LEED, Marlon Blackwell Architects, Fayetteville, AR

Upali Nanda, PhD, HKS Research | Faculty Taubman U Mich., Ann Arbor, MI

Brian Korte, AIA, Clayton & Little, San Antonio, TX

Mark English, AIA, Mark English Architects, San Francisco, CA

Image credits

Rossmore & Weldon

Tara Wujcik

Rossmore & Weldon

Tara Wujcik

Rossmore & Weldon

Tara Wujcik

Rossmore & Weldon

Tara Wujcik

Rossmore & Weldon

Tara Wujcik