Star Apartments: The First Mixed-use, Prefabricated, Affordable Housing Project in Los Angeles for Homeless Individuals

Michael Maltzan Architecture

Architects: Michael Maltzan Architecture
Location: Los Angeles, USA
Year: 2014
Photography: Iwan Baan, Michael Maltzan

Star Apartments is a mixed-use prefabricated building that provides 102 stable homes and permanent supportive affordable housing to homeless individuals within Los Angeles’ downtown core.

For Star Apartments, an existing single-floor commercial building was converted into a six-story, 95,000 square feet building, organised around three principal spatial zones stacked one upon the other: health services and offices at street level; a second level for community programmes; and four terraced floors of residences. The building consists of prefabricated modular elements, which makes it the first mixed-use, affordable housing project in Los Angeles to employ this construction method.

The building design facilitates a recovery process for its former homeless residents based on positive skill-building, healthy interpersonal relations, and wellness. With multiple terraces for communal and rehabilitative activities, the building is designed to maximise natural air and light and encourage a safe social life, juxtaposed against the density and urban regeneration of downtown Los Angeles. The client and design team led numerous community design sessions with residents, as well as property management and resident services staff, to attain feedback that directly impacted the design. Beyond improving the quality of life for residents, Star Apartments inspire a sense of pride, independence, and dignity.

Sports Court on Second Floor Community Level

The welcoming ground floor includes the new headquarters of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ (DHS) Housing for Health Division and a medical clinic with five examination rooms operated by the DHS. Offices for supportive services and the property manager are situated on this floor along with 25 indoor parking spaces. Wrap-around storefront glazing brings in natural light to the ground floor spaces. The first-floor Health and Wellness Center features numerous common spaces including a community kitchen, meeting room, art room, and library, as well as recreational spaces such as an exercise room, running/ walking track, and a pickleball court. Residents are able to enjoy generous outdoor patio spaces and approximately 2,000 square feet of edible community gardens. Individual studio apartments include an eat-in kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom.

Second Level Classroom & Community Room

– Adaptive reuse of existing building
– Prefabricated modular construction
– Edible gardens are planted and harvested by residents
– Building design promotes re-socialization and community relationships
– LEED Platinum and exceeds local environmental standards by 28.8 percent

Existing building