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PROGRAM: Fabrication shop and office for design/build architecture practice, with a caretaker’s residence

SIZE: 4,300 sq. ft.

COMPLETION: January 2007

NOTES: CMU bearing and glass curtain walls with sliding doors on lower level; steel-framed structure with corrugated metal cladding on end trucks and crane rails above. Steel beams, wood joists and decking for the roof and mezzanine structure in the office/shop.

PROJECT TEXT: On a small parcel of vacant land at the corner of S. Alameda and Jackson in Carson, a new two-level structure will be built to house a small ornamental iron and cabinetry fabrication shop for the design/build architecture practice of Jones, Partners: Architecture. Also included will be a caretaker’s residence in two modules, located on end trucks rolling along light gauge crane rails on the roof of the office/shop structure. The office/shop will be constructed of 8” CMU bearing walls along Alameda and the alley that parallels it behind the lot, with glass curtain wall and sliding doors interspersed on the Alameda façade and Jackson Street facades, while the caretakers residence is a steel frame structure with corrugated metal cladding. The roof and mezzanine level structure in the office/shop will be steel beams with wood joists and decking. Materials will remain exposed where possible. Drought-resistant landscaping (xeriscape) is planned for a planting area along Alameda and Jackson. The property-line walls along Alameda and Jackson have been pulled into the site 18” to leave a strip for planting anti-graffiti vines. Nine parking spaces will be provided for the shop, one of which will be handicap-van-sized, and one for the caretaker’s residence.

The unusual proportions of the site, as well as its small size, present several problems for development within the strict guidelines of the planning code. The design has attempted, however, to minimize the number of exceptions to the code—within the bounds of economic feasibility—while following the spirit of its interest in mitigating the impact of the industrial activities on the adjacent residential area. The present design has been developed through many meetings with the Planning Department staff.

The sole code exception exhibited in the present design requiring a variance is the solid 6’ high wall along Alameda and Jackson within the required yard setbacks. This wall is necessary to mitigate the noise and distraction from the Alameda Corridor, which is anticipated to support a higher volume of truck traffic in the future. Such a wall would be fully in keeping with the present established character of all the properties along Alameda that were affected by the recent street widening and improvements. All the existing buildings in the affected area enjoy a zero lot line placement or a wall in excess of 6’ along the sidewalk (see photos). As architects we feel that such a wall is also appropriate given the urban industrial character of this area—this portion of the Corridor has none of the suburban quality envisioned by the planning codes, nor the space to achieve it. Such a defensive measure as is common in this area would not compromise the project’s friendliness or functionality; beyond this specific issue, we believe the design conforms to the letter and spirit of the code.

Measures the design takes to lighten the impact of the industrial activities on the adjacent residential areas include the use of CMU for its sound attenuation capability along the wall adjacent to the alley and residential area, the location of the caretaker’s residence on the roof, and yard in the northeast corner of the lot, to continue the setbacks established for the neighborhood and act as a buffer to the industrial activities. Additionally, the architectural character of the project will be much finer than that typically associated with manufacturing facilities. While borrowing a material palette and honest expression of function from the industrial vernacular, the project is seen as a demonstration example of the work of Jones, Partners: Architecture (an internationally acclaimed practice) and as such will raise the bar significantly for future development in the area.