Architect: Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects [LOHA]
Owner: Leeor Maciborski
Location: Los Angeles
Category: Multifamily Housing
Project site: Previously developed
Building program type: Residential - multi-family, 5 or more units
When it was adopted by Los Angeles in 2005, the city’s Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance was envisioned by smart growth proponents as a viable solution to the city’s extraordinarily tight housing market. Situated just south of LA’s Beachwood Canyon community, Canyon Drive is an exemplar of the new typology spurred by such ordinances whose homes are shaped by light and air.
Adding density by constructing faceless apartment complexes with little consideration for their context can sometimes alter a neighborhood’s character. This project boosts density while retaining the community’s values and identity.
Beginning with the maximum allowable envelope, Canyon Drive’s single mass is divided by a series of tilting exterior walls that define the five individual homes and offer opportunities for solar exposure and natural ventilation. Expanding from their initial A-frame shapes, the center of each homes’ volume maximizes square footage while maintaining the angular end facades. This tactic helps reinforce a sense of individuality missing in other small-lot subdivision developments.
Each of the homes’ ruled exterior facades, which appear somewhat nautical, were achieved through an innovative but simple framing strategy that relies on angle wall studs and strategic wood shear walls. Inside, the expressive wood framing ensures the overall geometry remains legible throughout the home. On the first floor, which contains two-car garages, cedar cladding contrasts with the aluminum panels and storefront glazing above. The team’s material choices help filter natural light into the living spaces while maintaining privacy, an essential strategy when building so close to other properties.
“This project fits well into an established neighborhood but is fresh at the same time." - Jury comment
Increasing density in a car-centric city like Los Angeles raises concerns about adding even more cars to the street and a loss of parking. Each of Canyon Drive’s homes includes two standard parking spaces, consistent with single-family home requirements, though one is designated as a flexible guest space to minimize overflow parking in the neighborhood. For residents who are reconsidering their dependency on cars, the project is located within walking distance of two Metro stations.
“Fitting five homes and still maintaining a sense of privacy on a single-family lot is great for Los Angeles.” - Jury comment
The project represents the first step in a long process for the city as it considers densifying former single-family plots in other neighborhoods. As life during COVID-19 revealed, there remains a need for both personal space and community, and projects like Canyon Drive offer both.