Award-winning architects discuss the benefits during Santa Barbara talk
Two award-winning architects recently delivered a presentation at Santa Barbara City College that showcased their work and shared their knowledge of designing affordable, high-density housing in hard-to-build areas such as Southern California.
Angela Brooks and Lawrence Scarpa, the husband-and-wife duo who head up the architecture and urban design firm Brooks+Scarpa and recently received the 2022 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, emphasized that their work was driven by a recognition of the benefits of affordable housing.
The pair spent much of their presentation showcasing their projects in Los Angeles and other areas of Southern California — an array of modern multi-unit dwellings often outfitted with attractive facades, and that put an emphasis on achieving harmony with the street and surrounding neighborhood.
The firm also stresses the availability of outdoor courtyard spaces, which the owners believe is essential to the success of high-density housing.
“When you build something that’s (high) density, you really need to create space as well for people to be,” Mrs. Brooks explained during Friday’s talk. “So you’ll see all of our buildings that are six stories and below have courtyards. (They’re) really the lungs of the buildings.”
This emphasis on design carries out throughout the portfolio that was displayed, whether the building was purposed for affordable residential units or housing for homeless populations, another factor that Brooks and Scrappa believe are required to improve neighborhood reception to such projects
In addition to their direct involvement in designing and developing affordable housing, the pair emphasized their commitment to helping other organizations contribute to the mission of increasing the stock of affordable housing.
One such contribution they’ve made is creating a tool kit to help developers, including Brooks+Scrappa, create affordable high-density housing that passes regulatory muster throughout Los Angeles County.
“There’s 27 cities in L.A. County — they all have their own codes, everything is different,” Mr. Scrappa said. “But what they have in common are three (lot) sizes; 80% of them (fall into three different lot sizes and configurations). So we took all the codes. We distilled everything down to what was common and came up with a building area and a strategy that would fit within all of those cities’ codes.”
“And we came up with the tool kit that you could configure based on prefabricated components that you could just select them and they will fit on any of those sites in L.A. County,” he continued.
Throughout the presentation, the pair repeatedly emphasized their belief in the importance of affordable housing for cities — and hoped to showcase through their work that, with proper and mindful design, high-density building can be a viable option in providing it.
“What we are basically trying to do is to show that affordable housing can make cities richer,” Mr. Scarpa told the audience. “And we’re not just doing that to try and advocate for affordable housing — we really believe that diverse communities are more sustainable, more rich and better places to live.”