Flor 401 Lofts
Category: Specialized Housing
Permanent supportive housing, like this project in Los Angeles, serves the recently unhoused and those living with mental illness, two populations most impacted by a lack of access to care and climate change. Flor 401 Lofts is distinguished by its design, which optimizes architecture’s potential to support health and well-being for these populations in a rare garden setting on the edge of the city’s Skid Row.
"This project addresses a huge need and does so with a modest palette of materials, simple color, and well-composed form and in a way that is respectful, dignified, inviting, and very L.A." - Jury comment
In this LEED Platinum-certified building, completed in late 2020 for a nonprofit housing provider, design stretches beyond the “architecture of survival.” Residents of Flor 401 Lofts are welcomed home by a tree-canopied courtyard through a gate and trellis that quietly disguises necessary security. Directly off the courtyard sit on-site social services and a generous stair that leads to activity spaces on the second floor. On the top floor, a vegetable garden awaits as another activity to promote healing.
Life safety egress, generally accomplished through hidden exit stairs, is achieved by replacing some stairs with cost-equivalent bridges. The bridges contribute to the highly visible circulation path throughout the building, encouraging informal exercise and social interaction as a corollary. The studio apartments surrounding the courtyard are modest, but they feature ample daylight, kitchens, and private bathrooms.
“This project addresses a huge need and does so with a modest palette of materials, simple color, and well-composed form and in a way that is respectful, dignified, inviting, and very L.A.,” noted the jury. “Simple, practical circulation encourages community and a connection to the surrounding urban context.”
"Simple, practical circulation encourages community and a connection to the surrounding urban context." - Jury comment
The team was challenged to rethink the role of open space as a means to promote health and sustainability and demonstrate what could be achieved on a budget and within regulatory overlays that hamper experimentation. Flor 401 Lofts’ massing allows it to capture summer breezes and frames the cascading garden that anchors daily life there. By reframing the idea of open space from a residual benefit to a generator of design, the team provided a transformative triple-line benefit in a climate zone where outdoor space can be enjoyed throughout the year.
This project is clearly a benefit to those who call it home, but it also benefits the city at large, which continues to struggle to deliver much-needed permanent housing to many in the population. Flor 401 Lofts will be preserved as affordable housing in perpetuity, and its garden and durable construction will extend its value well into the future.