Formosa 1140

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:

arch daily

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.

2 thoughts on “Formosa 1140

  1. I am not sure why we always ask this question about housing. We don’t expect a cake from Ralph’s to taste the same and have the same level of decoration as a cake from Sweet Lady Jane, a suit from The Men’s Wearhouse to have the same style, fit and quality material as a suit from Barney’s, or a Yaris to have the same style and finish as a Lexus. Having said that, it does seem reasonable to expect housing that a Target store would sell–a reasonable tradeoff of price and design.
    The cookie cutter boxes get built because they are easy to get entitled. Here is my suggestion: hold a design competition for various sizes of multi-family housing projects, in which affordability is a scoring element. Then change the zoning and planning laws so that the best-designed projects become by-right projects that get permits over-the-counter, and so that the poorly designed projects require lengthy and expensive discretionary approval processes. I believe that the City of Santa Cruz has done something in this vein regarding Accessory Dwelling Units, or granny flats.
    For example, in my neighborhood, a developer wanted to use the small-lot ordinance to built some really well-designed townhomes. But, because the parking for one unit required backing into the street (he had the nerve to want some landscaping and trees instead of a lot-wide driveway) he had to pursue a lengthy variance process that ultimately was unsuccessful, despite the fact that almost all of the existing houses and dingbat apartments on that street have parking that requires backing into the street. So we will probably end up with a stucco box.

  2. I think we ask this question of housing because we do have an inclusionary desire in this case? So, if you get an a ugly cheap cake because you have no money, well, that kind of sucks to be you. The same of the suit. But slapping up bad multi-family housing gives constituent publics reasons to fight multi-family housing in general, driving affordable units out, which then has consequences for commutes. You hit it with the Target allusion: no, low-income units might not have the vaunted ceilings or custom-built light fixtures, but does the construction have to poor? I don’t think so, and neither do you, obviously.

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