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Low Rise LA: How to Build Our Own Living Structures

A winning entry in the Low-Rise LA competition, How to Build* Our Own Living Structures is a proposal for missing middle housing, re-imagined from the ground up. The design envisions what housing could be like if land-use and zoning decisions were oriented towards kinship building instead of reinforcing engrained power structures.

Project Year: 2021

1+1+ Team Members: De Peter Yi, Laura Peterson, Matthew Crilley

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1. Re-zoning Rooms

Questioning logics that a unit type must be defined for a generalized inhabitant type, the design turns typical dwelling units into zoned configurations of flexible rooms. Every unit is connected on both ends through Linked Rooms : spaces that can belong to either unit it touches based on the needs of inhabitants as they change over time. The common party wall becomes a “changing” room: to accommodate a new baby on the way, an aging parent moving in, or a student returning from college.

Two housing units with a shared en-suite in between.
An inside corner opens up to make the courtyard feel like a corner of the room.

1. Re-zoning Courtyards

In one of the competition listening sessions, we heard “Who speaks for the trees?” We thought about how zoning for outdoor space can benefit both human and non-human beings. In our re-zoned site, each resident has a courtyard, and each courtyard has a tree (or it works the other way around.) And in lieu of side setbacks, Green Patches empower neighbors to agree on preserving patches of open space along the property line based on access to views and natural light while densifying building in other areas. 

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Courtyard View

3. Re-zoning Lots

Density is a unique challenge in L.A. that cannot be addressed by simply building taller, but rather by first questioning the way we make claim to and share the use of land. The line in zoning is codified to create separation rather than opportunity, and prioritizes the dominance of commercial instruments such as streets and property values. Our design transforms the site perimeter from a line of division to a tool that can be shaped towards mutually beneficial relationships – between residents, between neighbors, and between community members. This idea scales up from our immediate site into the neighborhood at large. New types of spatial use occur at these redefined thresholds, which we have named Park Parks, Accessory Community Spaces, and Green Patches.

Low Rise LA Site Axon