Before Santa Monica Boulevard was an exit off the 405 freeway, it was once part of the famed Route 66, a near perfect microcosm of America Culture that connected Chicago to Los Angeles by automobile. Within Southern California, the wide stretch of roadway linked the hubs of Pasadena, Downtown LA, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Joining the neighborhoods that sprang up in-between, were long stretches of commercial corridors lined with strip malls, restaurants, and auto dealerships – an archetype of mid-20th century urban planning. Along one such stretch is a district that came to be known as West LA, an enclave now synonymous with the near-constant traffic from the adjacent 405 freeway.
Project Name: Westgate1515
Studio Name: LORCAN O’HERLIHY ARCHITECTS
Size: 335,000 SF with 22,800 SF of Open Space
Status: Completed 2019
Location: Los Angeles, California
Photography: Paul Vu
In an effort to create an urban anchor and village-like presence in this fast-paced neighborhood, we designed our Westgate1515 project to break down the scale of a typical housing project and to incorporate residential, community green spaces, and an enhanced public plaza. The 335,000 SF project that encompasses an entire city block, once the site of a former car dealership, now serves as a model for denser, mixed-use developments that combine essential housing with a larger civic purpose.
The building’s façade is designed to be porous and inviting, opening up and folding down to the bustle of Santa Monica Blvd., while remaining private and enclosed along its residential corridors. This strategy applies to both outward and inward- facing elevations, providing a formal and material consistency from the public streets to the inner courtyard. Westgate1515’s varied roof heights and common outdoor spaces at all levels, break up the 300-foot long Santa Monica Blvd façade. Additionally, the placement of strategic voids throughout help to insert public space into the private development, and carve out zones for pedestrian activity along the retail and commercial ground floor.
Furthering LOHA’s commitment to create space for civic engagement in urban developments, the resulting “urban village” strives to engage the public on a stretch of roadway better known for fast vehicular traffic than a lively pedestrian streetscape. This project aims to change the conversation of what this neighborhood can be.