Mixed Use Development in Koreatown
UCLA | AUD | Instr. Roger Sherman

I am interested in a systematic program of how to live in a world we don’t understand very well –in other words, while most human thought (particularly since the enlightenment) has focused us on how to turn knowledge into decisions, I focus on how to turn lack of information, lack of understanding, and lack of “knowledge” into decisions –how not to be a “turkey”.
-Nassim Taleb

Hipsters don’t want IKEA kitchens, and bankers may or may not want classical dressing rooms. Glass curtain wall condominium towers throughout Manhattan suffer from piecemeal interior modifications to their undifferentiated transparency. Meanwhile, condominium contracts have recently begun to include modification to building exteriors to allow for terraces and balconies not in the building’s original design. Currently, these contingencies work at cross purposes to the persistent renaissance notion that a building’s envelope is the provenance of its architecture, as well as to a developer’s bottom line, who is kept guessing as to what fit outs will sell. The project proposed here seeks to code these ad hoc behaviors into its architecture, using them as a visual strength rather than a weakness. The way the building looks thus depends on forces outside of the architect’s ability to anticipate or control, and therefore what constitutes its architecture is other than how it looks.

Multifamily housing in Los Angeles suffers from adherence to the sad typology of the private, shared courtyard that sits neglected, with its tepid swimming pool and potted ficus. In a city where the most convincing facsimiles of public space are those that are artificially produced for retail malls, urban public space per se has become a rare good. Rather than locked courtyards for tenant-only use, a network of public piazzi that provide circulation within and through the development are proposed. These courtyards take on individual programs and decorative characteristics that give them identity and influence their relative characters. Space adjacent to the palm court inevitably attracts different tenants than space adjacent to the topiary garden.

The project is initially developed and designed as a grid of twelve 70 by 70 foot piazzi, separated by a 22 foot-wide, 60 foot-tall, 3-story concrete moment frame with 10-foot-on-center columniation. Each intersection of the building contains vertical circulation elements as well as utilities. On the ground floor, 80% of the built area is sub-developed by a tech firm incubator that subleases space to technology startups who have access to shared conference and lab facilities. The remaining 20% can be leased by other tenants; for example, restaurants, gyms, or retail. However, the building is not optimized towards use as a tech firm incubator. Above grade, consistent with condominium convention, approximately 80% of the residential units above are expected to be pre-sold, and are fit out by architects and interior designers picked by their buyers. Facades can be reconfigured according to interior needs, 20 feet-high or with a mezzanine, with or without balconies or dog runs, highly opaque or highly transparent. Fit-outs need only conform in their cladding to whatever courtyards they face onto. Unsold units on the ground floor provide circulation between piazzi, while unsold units above are visually consistent with outdoor spaces in other units. This flexibility ensures that the site remains adaptable to future programming and use, whether as a school or museum, residences, light manufacturing or office.