The Chandler Boulevard Bridge Home Village, designed by Lehrer Architects and the Bureau of Engineering for the City of Los Angeles opens to its first residents this week. This innovative community project offers an aggressive, appropriately experimental and timely template for improving Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis by transforming a forgotten, oddly shaped infill lot into a 39 one-or-two-person/unit facility for unhoused Angelenos using prefabricated “pallet shelters”. Lehrer Architects was tasked by the Bureau of Engineering to take their design blueprint and create a humane and welcoming environment for the home’s residents. In projects like these design matters, both to uplift residents and to respectfully complete and enhance the neighborhood serving to inspire pride for these projects in a local community. Working in conjunction with multiple city agencies led directly by the Bureau of Engineering, Department of Public Works, and Ford Construction, Lehrer Architects LA designed a plan of spatial character, colorful details, and logistical efficiency to create a model community space with a level of design sensibility and beauty not often seen in these types of projects.
Designed and built in record time, just 13 weeks, this project is one of the centerpieces of the City’s emergency response to getting people into safe and healthy “bridge” shelter en route to permanent housing. This is a beta project for Los Angeles, meaning it is new to the City and its unique requirements. It has already taught many lessons to expedite and reduce the costs of subsequent projects, as it embodies the City’s commitment to restoring houseless people’s lives by providing them with housing, as quickly and meaningfully as possible. The Chandler Boulevard Bridge Home was constructed on an awkwardly shaped, leftover infill site that could have been easily looked over if it weren’t for hawkeyed City officials looking to find land to create bridge homes. This particular solution, using pallet shelters instead of large trailers, opens up a flurry of sites across the city previously deemed unviable for development as their size allows for them to be configured into a variety of different shapes. These 8×8’ Pallet Homes are swift to assemble, provide private, autonomous conditioned space for the people who live in them, and, like pixels fitting an odd shape, they add real value to a heretofore underused property. The team had to implement essential infrastructure to prepare the lot for use:
“The biggest cost contributors were the new 550’ long sewer line extension, protective barriers for pedestrians, leveling the street for ADA due to lack of sidewalks and adding a fire lane throughout the entire site, but this upfront investment means that the site is now developed in perpetuity, so will continue to serve the city after it has completed serving the houseless residents,” says Nerin Kadribegovic, Partner at Lehrer Architects.
This village of homes and support enhances its immediate neighborhood as it borders the Orange Line busway and is close to an important North Hollywood park. Given there is often neighborly opposition to such projects, having a place of significance that blends with and enhances the neighborhood serves to combat preconceived notions about homeless housing in the community. The architects brought the functional space to life with low-cost design details like modernist paint highlights to create ample visual variety, delight, and a sense of community. Color is used on the ground areas to enhance the individuality of the trailers while creating a coherent sense of a village and the visually stimulating and uplifting effect of a three-dimensional painting. Chain link fence, extensively required throughout, was enlisted to create graphic patterns while providing appropriate privacy and visual separation from the Orange Line. The project presented a streamlined and efficient arrangement of prefabricated modular units to create collective dining and gathering space, a pet play area, showers, restrooms, laundry, pest control, secure storage, and assistance with accessing city services. The use of state pre-approved modular and even “mobile” buildings, not only simplified permitting but also allows for rapid deployment due to off-site fabrication and specialized excavation free foundations. Looking towards a day when the housing crisis is solved, these pallet homes and modular buildings can be quickly removed from the site for future projects.
Michael B. Lehrer FAIA, Founding Partner of Lehrer Architects says, “For us, projects like this are exhilarating. Political, time, and cost constraints were severe—demanding extreme design discipline and chops. Our focus was to honor, nurture and restore a modicum of wholeness and delight to our fellow citizens without homes. Every move is conceived to add significant value and be cost-neutral: in that vein, color is used extensively to create a sense of community and places of respect, dignity, and joy.
Projects for people at all levels of the social ladder, but particularly those near the bottom, remind us again and again that beauty is a rudiment of human dignity”.
Chandler Boulevard Bridge Home Village, represents a lightning-quick, highly collaborative, inventive, efficient, and beautiful solution to the LA homelessness crisis. Lehrer Architects believes that creating a home for someone – for anyone and everyone – is about providing human dignity, safety, love, and respect, and Chandler is a model of how to enhance a community by caring for its most vulnerable residents with dignity through design.
Award for Excellence in Design, The American Institute of Architects Los Angeles 2021
Honor Award, Los Angeles Business Council 2021
11478 Chandler Boulevard, Los Angeles, Ca
Lehrer Architects LA, Inc
Barbara Hall & Associates, PE