As part of its project to update a 110-unit affordable housing project on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, California architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa has revitalized a couple of unloved service courtyards and a debris-filled alley into beautiful outdoor gathering spaces. Completed on a minimal budget, the Rossmore + Weldon Courtyards will provide a major positive impact on the quality of living for the tenants, who were formerly homeless. Low-cost design strategies were used to transform the neglected spaces into contemporary and welcoming areas.

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courtyard with tree and wood benches

Completed for a cost of $140,000, the Rossmore + Weldon Courtyards include three small spaces measuring 7 feet by 50 feet, 10 feet by 12 feet and 15 feet by 20 feet for a total combined area of less than 850 square feet. These outdoor spaces had been poorly utilized and typically cluttered with debris and tenant bicycles. When the architects discovered these spaces, they convinced the client of their transformation potential on a minimal budget. To keep costs low, most materials were reused, recycled or purchased from a local hardware store.

Related: Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles

wood lounge chairs and tree in courtyard
white wall covered in potted plants

At Weldon, the architects turned a southern courtyard and an alley on the west side into attractive outdoor living spaces. To brighten up the areas, the architects used white paint and an “interactive green wall” of custom steel pot holders attached to a white CMU wall that holds potted plants, for which the tenants can provide care. Poured-in-place concrete seats and tables provide space to gather and rest, while white gravel and concrete pavers create visual interest and complete the light-toned color palette.

indoor area with wood floors and white tables
ficus tree covered in string lights in a courtyard

In contrast, the Rossmore courtyard features a predominately timber palette. Designed around an existing ficus tree, the updated space features rolling wood-slatted benches mounted on steel-angle track as well as new planters. Bicycle storage has been integrated in all of the courtyard designs. 

+ Brooks + Scarpa

Images via Brooks + Scarpa