November 23, 2010
by Murrye Bernard Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: Homeless Housing: LA and NY
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.12.10
Speakers: Michael Maltzan, FAIA — Principal, Michael Maltzan Architecture; Jonathan Kirschenfeld — Principal, Jonathan Kirschenfeld Architect; Rosanne Haggerty — President, Common Ground
Introduction: Andres Lepik — Curator, MoMA Department of Architecture and Design
Moderator: Michael Bell — Director, Housing Studios, Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, & Michael Bell Architecture
Organizer: Museum of Modern Art; Center for Architecture


Carver Apartments by Michael Maltzan Architecture.

Image ©Iwan Baan

New York and Los Angeles both face high rates of homelessness. To address this issue, several architects and non-profits in the two cities have created new housing models. In conjunction with the “Small Scale, Big Change” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, a panel — comprised of architects Michael Maltzan, FAIA, and Jonathan Kirschenfeld, along with Rosanne Haggerty, founder and president of Common Ground — discussed their housing projects.

Maltzan approaches homeless housing as “architecture from a therapeutic standpoint.” His first project for the Skidrow Housing Trust in downtown LA was the 89-unit Rainbow Apartments. The façade features sunshades lined with cheerful red paint, and the building’s U-shaped configuration defines a safe and secure central courtyard. He approached the 97-unit Carver Apartments in a similar way. The round volume with sharp serrations allows the building to capture light and views of downtown while blocking sound from the nearby freeway and creating a secure environment. The form encapsulates a central courtyard, which is the “social heart of the building,” according to Maltzan.

Kirschenfeld designed The Domenech in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a new 72-unit supportive housing complex for Common Ground (see OCULUS Fall 2010, “Common Sense”). Kirschenfeld articulated the exterior of the LEED-Silver building with inexpensive shading devices to lower energy consumption, and incorporated tile donated from Daltile at the base. The building’s narrow courtyard functions as an “outdoor room,” and its walls are lined with energy-efficient Kalwal that diffuses light into the units.

Rosanne Haggerty believes that “supportive housing works,” citing other successful Common Ground projects such as The Schermerhorn by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership Architects), adjacent to a range of other building types and includes attractive common spaces. She also cited the expansion of The Andrews on the Bowery by OCV Architects, which follows the model of the traditional lodging house. Haggerty pointed out that supportive housing costs less than prisons, shelters, and hospitals, and though she admitted that, “we can’t build our way out of homelessness,” she feels that “these projects fire the imagination.”

Murrye Bernard, LEED AP, is a freelance architectural writer and a contributing editor to e-Oculus.