This text is an accompaniment to our contribution to the UCLA citylab DEMO_DEMO exhibition (October 2021).
Todd Lynch and Mohamed Sharif with
Arthur Dos Santos
Lithe and Agile Living Formats for Los Angeles Today:
Towards Renewed Communitarian Urban Fabric
Our exhibition images and accompanying model demonstrate spatially and formally plastic alternatives to the inevitable space-starved and space-starving stacks and masses of generic duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes soon to emerge on R1 lots in the wake of Senate Bill Number 9. Indeed, we contend that the freestanding house and garden's image, substance, and benefits need not be entirely outmoded. Instead, these characteristics could be reanimated by shrinking and choreographing the resulting small, spry buildings to form a new consensual urban ground: a communitarian plane freed of property line partitions.
6-Plex (on the wall-mounted panels in the exhibition) is our entry in the 'Fourplex' category of the recent 'Low-Rise: Housing Ideas for Los Angeles' competition. Its precedent is a tall and narrow 2-story/1,200 SF ADU/Dingbat-like prototype (the physical model in the exhibition) which we designed before the competition, and that is currently under construction.
Both projects reflect our practice's interest in contextually and morphologically responsive urban buildings that willingly embrace strict dimensional, volumetric, and rhetorical constraints. In both cases, we employed slender and compact figures with T-shaped sections and small first-floor footprints. We established a punctuative network of figure-ground sequences, a porous ground with a generous range of qualitative in-between spaces.
Through simultaneous compression, subdivision, and multiplication of single-family residential fabric, 6-Plex demonstrates a vision of a prototypical micro-scaled cooperative environment in which neighbors cohere into convivial units around open space and outdoor rooms. As a one-lot standalone, the prototype is a miniature model of a city within a city. If doubled across an alley, it extends the pattern of informally structured sociability across varied urban grounds. Multiplied as an entire block and beyond, it is a model for progressive, empathic urbanism: a checkerboard full of opportunities for cooperation and correlations, a score for what Alison and Peter Smithson called 'active socioplastics.'
Filtering laconic modernist functionalism through familiar Angeleno vernacular building profiles, 6-Plex demonstrates that compact, compressed forms can make much-needed rooms while making more room in the city. Lithe and agile figures, 6-Plex's constituent parts are molded and distributed to create an urban architecture alive with literal and phenomenal movement and transparency. Giving equal importance to space as form animates urban sections and silhouettes into a vital assemblage, a shape-shifting shimmying troupe.
As its name implies, Slender Slip-in is a narrow building that slides into a highly constrained space. In this case, it is also the last available one on a multi-building residential site, a mere inch away from the adjacent 1920s bungalow, just under five feet away from a 1990s duplex, and four feet away from the property line and apartment building to the south.
A micro-scaled, single-lot/six-unit urban-dwelling prototype, 6-Plex comprises two offset, slender parallel bars on either side of a passage with forecourts at the road and alley ends. At ground level, at the heart of the typical 7,500 SF Los Angeles lot, each bar houses a partially covered court, trees, and lightwells. Here, all inhabitants interact daily near their front doors and at the landscape extensions of their living rooms for four of the six units.