December 12, 2012

Photo Essay: Elevated Architecture Down on Skid Row

I always like the chance to see how other people live - no matter where they live.

So I've jumped at the chance to visit any variety of historic homes around the LA area, from the architecturally significant works of modernist design, to the urban farms of Compton.

Skid Row was going to be no exception.

The Carver Apartments at 17th and Hope is a special project that provides long-term, permanent housing for qualifying members of the homeless community, as developed by the Skid Row Housing Trust (a non-profit), and designed by architect Michael Maltazan.

As Maltazan depicts it, the Carver Apartments is only one in a series of projects devoted to alleviating LA's homeless problem, fitting in alongside the Rainbow Apartments and the in-progress Star Apartments.

Carver is perhaps best-known architecturally for its spiralled central courtyard, lined with identical pie-shaped single occupancy apartments, but as you climb upstairs...

...through the bright yellow stairwell... also note the building's proximity to the 10 Freeway, which at one point is at eye level.

The apartments themselves aren't much: they're essentially sleeping quarters...

...some with a nice view of the community garden...

...but their genius is in their simplicity, forcing the residents outside of their living quarters down to the communal kitchen, and up to the sixth floor patio...

...for yoga classes and uninterrupted city skyline views.

The Carver Apartments is a significant housing project not only in its need-based, weighted admissions process (which has created a long waitlist), but also in its attempt to bring beautiful design and architectural significance to affordable housing.

The building also features a medical clinic, psychological services, and personal case managers...

...who try to ensure the success of their residents.

Light streams in from every window...

...and the bright colors lift the spirits of even a visitor like me, thinking how close I've come to qualifying for residency at a place like this, and how plausible it might be for me sometime in the future.

It's nice to know that for some, who may have taken a few wrong turns and been dealt a few bad hands, there is the opportunity to live somewhere beautiful and have the opportunity to rehabilitate from whatever ails them.

Not everyone gets that chance.

Not enough people get that chance.

But organizations like the housing trust are working on it.

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  1. I happen to live in this building and I'm very thankful for a place to live. However please don't paint the trust as this huge caring organization because they are not. Peel back the layers and you will discover there are plenty of problems here and the same is true with all of their buildings. We are treated like animals or criminals. I've not been able to have my emotional support pet, even after my doctor has said it would help me with my depression. It's been six months since I put in the request, but each time I ask, I'm told this is not possible. Even though the fair housing act and the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it possible. The trust has also simply taken keys from people and thrown them back on the streets. Living here at times is far worse than being on the streets.

    1. Hi there - thanks for your comment, I'm glad you posted another side to this story. I myself am an artist - a writer, a photographer, a lover of design and architecture - so I'm coming at this from a very different angle. I'm not myself homeless and I'm not a professional advocate. So I cannot deny that I thought the building was beautiful, and was glad to see affordable housing be provided in something more aesthetically pleasing other than a tenement (or one of those horrible towers you see in Queens or in the Bronx). But quality of life certainly goes way beyond beauty, and that's an important point you make.

  2. SRHT’s policy is to comply with all local, state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities in housing including , but not limited to the federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, American with Disabilities Act and the and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. All persons requesting a Reasonable Accommodation should notify the Resident Manger of their request.

    The Trust