Leimert Park Community Fridge
Architecture Firm: Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
Owner: Los Angeles Community Fridges
Location: Los Angeles
Category: up to $250,000 in construction cost
This project evolves the notion of a community fridge and is a volunteer project initiated by a group of 10 young practitioners to better serve the Leimert Park community in Los Angeles. Supported by firm partners after forming a Design Justice Committee during the COVID-19 pandemic, the team’s design solution improves the life expectancy of the neighborhood’s existing community fridge and is a model that can be easily adopted at other locations.
Working closely with organizers from the Leimert Park Chapter of Los Angeles Community Fridges, a nonprofit whose mission is to distribute free food at outdoor locations across the city, the team devised a structure that expands storage and protects the appliance from the elements. The design comprises three modules with 85 square feet of storage space and housing for the refrigerator. Both are tied together under a simple roof of rain-proof corrugated plastic.
"The project is a thoughtfully designed modular system for the sharing, display, and distribution of surplus grocery items, but perhaps its greatest strength is that it provides the perfect participatory ‘blank canvas’ or framework for the community to engage, adapt and customize." - Jury comment
The first two modules are identical in size and feature open, flexible shelving that accommodates a variety of products. The third module, the smallest, serves as an endcap for the structure and takes advantage of storage space that would be otherwise unused. Running across the top is a series of wood members connecting the modules and forming a secondary structure for the roof. Overall, the modular design allows for flexible arrangement and easy replication.
“The project is a thoughtfully designed modular system for the sharing, display, and distribution of surplus grocery items, but perhaps its greatest strength is that it provides the perfect participatory ‘blank canvas’ or framework for the community to engage, adapt and customize,” noted the jury.
The project was completed at little cost, and the firm donated nearly $1,700 in materials and 70 hours of paid staff time. In addition, the team provided an additional 174 unbilled hours of work on weekends during fabrication. The new fridge, painted rainbow colors by community members, has been a hit, and it regularly overflows with fresh produce and other staples. El Sereno, a neighborhood 13 miles to the east, has reproduced the design for its fridge.