Filed under "community," Michael Maltzan's recent project, the Carver Apartments, is included in the latest National Design Triennial that opened on May 14. I have yet to tour the exhibition, but I wrote about Maltazan's building in the current issue of Architect magazine. Designed for Los Angeles' Skid Row Housing Trust, the project raises provocative questions about the visibility of needy population. Both Maltzan and Molly Rysman, the Trust’s director of special projects and external affairs, argue for architecture that isn't subsumed by its context, but rather stands out and makes a statement while serving a community. It's a fine line to tread: a misstep can lead into architectural boosterism and back slapping while the client and neighborhood remain under served.
....The New Carver Apartments is farther afield, sited in South Park, a rapidly developing neighborhood near L.A. Live and the Staples Center.
The location is strategic on two levels. It houses residents in an area with access to transit and grocery stores, and it is a statement to Los Angeles: Affordable housing is not a blight that needs to be hidden away.
“It is a controversial concept. When we first showed [Maltzan’s design] to the investors, they wondered why we were making such a dramatic building,” says Molly Rysman, the Trust’s director of special projects and external affairs. “We had to convince them that it doesn’t need to be bland. Affordable housing improves the neighborhood and creates an anchor in the community. It’s not about blending in, but about having an impact.”...
However, it takes a lounge and laundry room on the third floor to see Maltzan’s design at its most polemic. A window looks out over the freeway, and L.A. drivers can see through the thick, acoustic glass into the all-yellow space where the formerly homeless fold laundry, check e-mail, and watch TV. “The excruciating irony of the homeless is that because they are so much in the public view, they are shut off from the world. The building creates opportunities for public interactions, and gives them a chance to re-emerge,” explains Maltzan. “It is important that people see that [the residents] are part of the greater community—it’s not to put them on display, but to see them as real.” It’s a charged, eye-to-eye situation, a risky attempt to humanize an outcast group.
Read the entire piece here.