Here at Inhabitat we often focus on the environmental side of sustainable architecture -- after all, solar panels, green roofs, and brand new technologies tend to attract lots of attention. However the New Carver Apartments in Los Angeles caught our eye because good design is not just about green design -- good design should also take care of society and foster social sustainability. Situated on a challenging site next to the 10 freeway, this beautiful social housing complex harnesses good design to create a sheltering citadel that offers solace to its residents.
Los Angeles’ New Carver Apartments are situated in a 97 unit 57,000 square feet building that provides housing to formerly homeless elderly and disabled residents. The apartment building was designed by Michael Maltzan architects for the Skid Row Housing Trust and is located right next to the 10 freeway at Hope and 17th streets.
This location posed a significant challenge since the noisy highway makes it almost impossible to build a comfortable and quiet residential apartment. The solution to this problem came partly through the complex’ iconic shape — the circular design minimizes the transmission of traffic noise into the building. Once the noise problem was solved, the architects explored ways to best utilize the highway. Their solution was to situate a community room next to the freeway, giving the project’s residents an enjoyable view over the urban structure.
Photo by Iwan Baan
The main shape of the building is that of a drum, and it’s exterior is broken up by a number of saw-tooth vertical ridges. The internal atria provides a long and beautiful cylindrical stair. By closing the facade and keeping the horizontal and vertical windows as narrow and small as possible, noise and exhaust fumes from the nearby freeway can be minimized.
One of the main goals of the project is to drive communication between the building’s residents. The whole design of the building is geared towards providing a comforting space that will bring with it a sense of security and comfort. The project incorporates communal spaces, kitchen, dining areas, gathering spaces and gardens. It also includes medical and social services.
A well designed building can become a vehicle for putting people’s lives together. The New Carver Apartments exemplify what good design is capable of achieving.
Photos: Iwan Baan