An architectural competition imagines density — done in an L.A. way

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    An architectural competition imagines density — done in an L.A. way

    A design proposal from Louisa Van Leer Architecture and the Green Alley Housing Team imagines transforming L.A.’s barren alleyways into active sites for living. (Louisa Van Leer Architecture)

    In Panorama City, there is a condo complex near the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard and Nordhoff Street that you won’t ever find featured on fancy architecture websites. The development’s 18 units are clad in stucco and painted an unsympathetic shade of butterscotch. Each unit’s most prominent feature is the garage door. The aesthetics are somewhere on the continuum between homely and anonymous.

    Yet I will argue that the design — by an architect whose name has long been lost to the planning department — is a prime example of density done intelligently and humanely. Each unit comes with a small enclosed patio for intimate family gatherings, while a shared lawn in the middle of the complex provides a green space and play area. Clusters of two-story units share walls and roofs, minimizing the architectural footprint and, therefore, sprawl. In addition, the development’s protected lanes are the perfect place for a kid to ride a bicycle away from speeding cars.

    I should know: This is where I learned to ride my bike. My family lived in this plain Jane development back in the late ’70s. The complex, located just off of Wakefield Avenue, was completed in 1973.

    Los Angeles might be known as a city of sprawl, but it’s also a place that can do density remarkably well — and has done so…

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