“We decided to make a community. Instead of making typical blocks we proposed a vertical village,” said architect Ma Yansong, principle of MAD Architects, when he sat down with AN’s Sam Lubell last month. The firm just unveiled its first project in the United States: 8600 Wilshire, an 18-unit residential complex on Wilshire Boulevard.
The hillside village scheme is a typological mash-up: a courtyard apartment building on top of a mountain-like commercial box. Or, in a West Coast vernacular: Melrose Place meets Fred Segal, the eclectic retailer known for its ivy-covered storefront. The 48,000-square foot design for Palisades Capital Partners includes three townhouses, five villas, two studios, and eight condominiums.
“[We took] single family houses like you see in Beverly Hills and we stacked them together,” said Yansong. “We have different roof heights, because in the village everyone built their own house.”
The firm, which has offices in China and California, brought the lessons of density and verticality from Beijing to LA. While only the pitched roofs are visible from the street, the residential courtyard is shared garden space, with more private exterior balconies given to each unit.
“People are emotional, they realize some meaning behind those green, living elements,” said Yansong of the need to make natural spaces full of plants, even in a drought. Addressing the California water shortage, the exterior living wall will be water-efficient and planted with native, drought-tolerant succulents and vines. MAD worked with landscape architects at Gruen Associates, the local firm is also the executive architect on the project.
8600 Wilshire was recently honored with a design concept prize at the 45th Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards, hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council, and expected to break ground in October.Daytime view of commercial storefront topped by residential units. (Courtesy MAD Architects)