One of my gripes about the New Urbanism is that the architects who promote it are long on social mission and short on actual, well, design. There are an awful lot of Calthorpe developments that are very well-intended but in another 10 years are going to wind up looking like rather a shabby and cookie-cutter set of multi-family units, painted in pastels, around what will be a nice streetscape of then-mature trees.
However, the paradigm-shifting nature of the New Urbanism has led those with more edge and gusto to thinking about density–which brings me to Formosa 1140 by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects. Take some time to play around their website–it’s very nice. You’ll maybe remember Lorcan O’Herlily as the architect who built this structure next to Schindler’s iconic house in WeHo.
1140 Formosa has gotten a lot of ink. It’s in Dwell this month, for example.
This is four stories with 11 units of lofts than run about 1,500 square feet. There is a park provided on the property, and the exoskeleton of red metal is meant to absorb heat. Behind that are walkways meant into increase social interaction.
Some writeups and descriptions:
The architect suggested it was “like living in a dorm.”
What do you all think? Lovely? Heinous? They almost had me until the dorm comment. Did other people enjoy living in dorms? I live in a very expensive building now, and we smell pot way too much from the trust fund kids down the hall. And then there was the time Andy encountered a loud fight between the pot-smoking trust funder (I think his dad was an NFL player) and his girlfriend about whether he wanted to allow her to video them…you know… what Paris Hilton got famous for videotaping. I repeat: this argument occurred in the hallway. Isn’t that a discussion one has inside? Like in hoarse, outraged whispers so the neighbors don’t hear you? (To the young man’s credit, he was the one saying ‘no’ to the exercise; but I think we can say this is the sort of thing one doesn’t necessarily want one’s pudgy, middle-aged professor neighbors knowing about one, right? Right?)
However, as I said to a group of real estate developers last week, density and infill are here to stay in LA, which caused a loud round of complaints about how government needs to use eminent domain to assemble property for them; I strongly suspect they would rapidly grow uncomfortable under such a loose property rights regime because it would eventually affect what they could sell for, at the very least. Governments that do not respect private property tend not to be ones that behave all that well; there are a few examples of good middle ground between individually held and collectively held rights. The major questions to me seem how do you make design something we can afford in housing, given that something like Formosa 1140 goes for luxury prices already, and given that we do have problems with land assembly.