For veterans, more than 3,000 of whom are homeless in Los Angeles County, the struggle to return to civilian life is both physical and mental. “They often carry with them the trauma of war, and so integrating them back into society is one of the main goals of Skid Row Housing Trust,” says Lawrence Scarpa of the L.A.-based practice Brooks + Scarpa. Funded by a combination of public and private grants, the firm completed the local nonprofit’s newest, $10 million housing project, THE SIX, in mid-2016.
Located in the city’s MacArthur Park neighborhood, the 40,000-square-foot, 52-unit community was designed specifically for the rehabilition of disabled veterans. All floors are wheelchair accessible, and additional features, including braille signs and light-equipped alarm systems, add access for the visually and hearing impaired. The central feature is the elevated courtyard on the second floor, which is seen through a large opening on the front-facing facade. Because the courtyard is raised, it doesn’t open to street level—a detail that, along with the open corridors and staircases that line the perimeter of this atrium, aims to strike a balance between a sense of openness and security.
To combat reclusiveness, says Scarpa, “We tried to create spaces where residents can take part if they like, or they can sit on the sidelines and feel comfortable.” The firm also minimized energy use by orienting the building so that prevailing winds provide natural ventilation, designing windows for maximum daylighting, and implementing a stormwater-management system in which runoff flows down through the planters on the bottom level.