2023 AIA Housing Awards: MLK1101 Supportive Housing by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects

MLK1101 Supportive Housing

Architect: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects [LOHA]

Owner:  Holos Communities (formerly Clifford Beers Housing) 

Location: Los Angeles 

Category:  Excellence in Affordable Housing

Project site:  Not Previously developed

Building program type: Residential – Multifamily, 5 or more units

Just a short jaunt from Los Angeles’ famed Coliseum and the University of Southern California, the LEED Gold-certified MLK1101 Supportive Housing shapes an environment that nurtures health and community. Accommodating families and individuals through 26 one- to three-bedroom units, the project has transformed a vacant lot and improved an aesthetically impoverished block. 

The project is a part of a wider strategic plan by the city to address homelessness, an effort championed by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, which aims to tackle poverty by focusing on housing as a primary solution. MLK1101 Supportive Housing supports the city’s goals by offering a safe and healthy community with services tailored to residents’ individual needs. 

The new building’s California contemporary style complements the surrounding neighborhood and is filled with open and functional spaces for residents to enjoy. The design reflects the local context, and its careful massing does not overwhelm the surroundings and allows for a generous mix of indoor and outdoor community spaces. To prioritize social equity and the well-being of residents, the team opted for an L-shaped typology that offers every unit daylight and cross-ventilation, which eases the burden of providing heating, cooling, and artificial light. 

“This project takes standard building methods and makes a unique environment and building form.” – Jury comment

Sitting along the bustling and wide Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the building’s required on-site parking is at street level with an elevated community garden and social hub above it. To bolster its street presence, the team tucked the parking behind a storefront space and wide staircase that connects to the community spaces on the second level. The resulting stoop is both a gathering space and a public gesture that encourages resident and neighborhood interactions not often found in supportive housing projects. Additionally, two retail units on the street level generate income that helps subsidize the housing costs while also providing workforce training for residents. 

“It makes the most of a tight site and the four-story configuration while responding to the site. Its landscape and community outdoor space also create a neighborhood within.” – Jury comment 

Each of the units includes its own bathroom, kitchen, and living spaces. Residents are encouraged to access amenities in the community room, which has a shared kitchen that hosts cooking classes, potlucks, and group therapy sessions. The outdoor garden, which is filled with drought-tolerant plants and raised beds designed for edible gardens, connects to the community room and living spaces, encouraging residents to socialize and relax. 

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2019

Gross conditioned floor area: 17003 sq. ft.

Project team

Principal-in-Charge: Lorcan O’Herlihy 

Project Director: Brian Adolph, Nick Hopson 

Project Lead: Dana Lydon, Santiago Tolosa 

Project Team: Chris Gassaway, Ghazal Khezri

Project attributes: 34,000 SF with 4,000 SF Park Space

Photography: Here and Now Agency


Catherine Baker, FAIA, Chair, Nowhere Collaborative, Chicago

John DeForest, AIA, DeForest Architects, Seattle

Brian Lane, FAIA, Koning Eizenberg, Santa Monica, Calif.

Amit Price Patel, AIA, DIALOG, Vancouver, British Columbia

Michael D. Robinson, AIA, Robi4 Architecture & Planning, San Diego

AIA Framework for Design Excellence

The AIA Framework for Design Excellence represents the defining principles of good design in the 21st century. Comprised of 10 principles and accompanied by searching questions, the Framework seeks to inform progress toward a zero-carbon, equitable, resilient, and healthy built environment.

Framework for Design Excellence / MLK1101 Supportive Housing

Design for Integration

Was there a design charrette?  Yes

Design for Ecosystems

Site area that supported vegetation (landscape or green roof) pre-development:  Unknown

Site area that supports vegetation post-development: 43%

Site area covered by native plants supporting native or migratory species and pollinators: 10%

Strategies used to promote Design for Ecosystems:  Biodiversity

Design for Water

Is potable water used for irrigation?  Yes

Is potable water used for cooling? No

Is grey/blackwater reused on-site? Yes

Is rainwater collected on-site? Yes

Stormwater managed on-site:  100%

Design for Energy

2030 Commitment baseline EUI:  11 kBtu/sf/yr

Predicted net EUI including on-site renewables:  44.05 kBtu/sf/yr

Reduction from the benchmark: 70%

Is the project all-electric? No

Design for Well-being

Level of air filters installed:  Unknown

Was a “chemicals of concern” list used to inform material selection? Yes

Do greater than 90% of occupied spaces have a direct view to the outdoors? Yes

Design for Resources

Were embodied carbon emissions estimated for this project? No

Design for Change

Estimated service life: 60 Years

Floor area, if any, representing adapting existing buildings:  0%

Ability to survive without utility power: Passive survivability

Which of the following risk assessment and resilience services were provided? None of the above

Design for Discovery

Has a post-occupancy evaluation been conducted? No, but a POE will be conducted

Building performance transparency steps taken:

  • Present the design, outcomes, and/or lessons learned to the office
  • Present the design, outcomes, and/or lessons learned to the profession
  • Present the design, outcomes, and/or lessons learned to the public
  • Publish post-occupancy data from the project
  • Publish lessons learned from design, construction, and/or occupancy


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