LOHA Architects adapted the concept of a classic courtyard rental building into a modern, sustainable haven.

san vicente window

[Photo: Paul Vu Photography]

PROJECT: San Vicente935 
LOCATION: West Hollywood 
SIZE: 9,200 square feet 
LEAD ARCHITECT: Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects 
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: LINK Landscape Architecture

Great design and meaningful sustainability should go hand in hand. That’s something Lorcan O’Herlihy, principal-in-charge at LOHA Architects, has always felt strongly about.

O’Herlihy and his team recently used that mindset to update the classic idea of a courtyard rental building. The result is San Vicente 935, a striking residential building that balances high-density living with openness and efficiency. Designed around a dramatic cross-sectional cut, or “strategic void,” the building connects residents to the courtyard and eliminates the need for climate controlled corridors, all while decreasing the visual impact of a heavy box on an already crowded street. “It’s much more open by virtue of having this big cut in the front,” he says. “We kind of weaved the building around these outdoor textures.” In the process, they brought natural light, cross ventilation, and passive cooling to every unit.

san vicente street view

[Photo: Paul Vu]

Sunlight streams into the living spaces from at least three exposures, and air conditioning is rarely used. “You can open one window in the courtyard and one window on the other side, and you don’t need mechanical units; you don’t need AC. You can simply use a breeze,” O’Herlihy says. All units are designed to be open, allowing the sun and air to reach as much of the living space as possible. Sliding doors allow bedrooms to flow into the larger living space while also providing privacy when necessary.

Residents are encouraged to get out of their personal units and interact in common outdoor spaces. “The geometry is really about flowing people up into the courtyard and then going vertically to encourage them to use the stairs,” which residents can follow up to a rooftop hangout. Or they can take advantage of the dappled light in the main courtyard to relax and connect with one another. “All of our work is interested in this idea of social and civic activity, so within the building itself it has opportunities for people to see each other and engage each other,” O’Herlihy says.

san vicente view from underneath stairs

[Photo: Paul Vu Photography]

Stairs to the Roof

“Sometimes stairs are not really architecturally inventive,” O’Herlihy says. The stairs in San Vicente 935 serve the courtyard as a visual anchor and invitation—not only to walk up to a unit instead of taking the elevator, but also to keep going to the roof, where residents can connect and relax amid stunning views of the city.

san vicente person walking by window

[Photo: Paul Vu Photography]

Maximizing Light

The team at LOHA Architects strategically folded back hard edges on both sides of the courtyard to fill it with as much sunlight as possible over the course of a day. “Where possible we manipulated the geometry to bring in light,” O’Herlihy says. “And that was really nice to think that the form of these wood slats was predicated by the sun and bringing light into the courtyard.”

san vicente interior kitchen living room

[Photo: Paul Vu Photography]

Social Connection

In a climate where creating shade is important, the exterior wooden screen serves to tone down the sun’s rays in the walkways. But residents aren’t isolated as they walk to their units or up to the common-use roof—cutouts in the wooden slats provide small moments for residents to connect as they move through the space. “It’s kind of like a peak-a-boo opportunity,” O’Herlihy says.

san vicente two people walking inside

[Photo: Paul Vu Photography]

Multiple Functions

The sleek curved entryway serves to invite people from the street into the courtyard and, conversely, to funnel people from the courtyard out into the city. It also hides mechanical units that would otherwise be on the roof. The materials serve many purposes too—local forest managed wood and powder coated fiber cement board are sustainable, inviting, and visually interesting.

Site Plan

san vicente floor plan diagram

[Drawings: Courtesy of LOHA Drawings]