Skid Row Housing | Rainbow Apartments | Michael Maltzan Architecture

Tonight, as I was browsing the Net for more information for my research on the Image, Identity and Integration in the Los Angeles housing development, I found these two videos about the Rainbow Apartments; a significant project, designed by Michael Maltzan Architecture, for the homeless community in Los Angeles. According to the Institute for the Study of Homelessness, an estimated 254,000 men, women and children experience homelessness in Los Angeles County.


As you will see here, this building goes well beyond the kind of project that would be developed for this kind of community – the homeless. With this project Michael Maltzan breaks the traditional paradigm of what affordable houses are and changes its dynamic. “The Rainbow apartments set up a new model not only for a building, but for an entire combination of social enterprises, and not only produces a new paradigms just for Los Angeles, but the possibility of creating a new national model,” says Maltzan. Besides, the project addresses how to counteract the insularity and hermetic nature of the inhabitants’ daily lives and concerns over safety and security, introducing openness, social spaces, and enabling a reintegration of their lives into public life as a whole. Arranged in a partially open U-shaped configuration, five floors of residential units cradle a central courtyard on top of a socle of parking and administrative functions on the ground floor. A chain of public spaces and exterior gathering areas are carved out or extruded from the mass to erode the building’s apparent solidity, creating varying depths of connection and views between the internal life of the courtyard and the world outside.


~ by Open Form Architecture on December 23, 2007.

One Response to “Skid Row Housing | Rainbow Apartments | Michael Maltzan Architecture”

  1. I am happy to see how the residents took over. I visited the building right after completion and still empty; even at such a point you still can’t know what it’s gonna be like once it’s occupied (you can only imagine). So it looks like it’s working, especially the outdoor spaces (a subject worth to be looked at in regards to housing in LA!). What you can’t see in the film is the tremendous amount of work, efforts, discussions, commitment, time, patience, negotiations etc. to make it possible. Unfortunately most architects can’t or don’t want to afford to do a project like that. Design excellence is one part, the other one almost more important is how you struggle with very limited possibilities given the low budget and compared e.g. to most private residences. I think that’s one of the main reason why this project stays as an outstanding example for social housing. In the end, like in this movie, everybody is very happy about the final building, congratulations and compliments all around. But it is so hard to accomplish, it takes so much of staying power, negotiating skills, persuasiveness, time…and nobody pays for it. Respect for every architect who is able to built navigating design intents in a reasonable way through all uncontrollable factors constantly jeopardizing them. Respect which can’t be valued high enough. Look around you and you know.

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