A series of paintings by British artist Patrick Hughes inspired the design of Cherokee Mixed-Use Lofts, an urban infill, mixed-use, market-rate housing project in Los Angeles. The paintings are called “Prospectivity” and the images appear to change and move while being viewed. Art and inspiration become reality on the exterior of Cherokee Lofts. The multifamily development features an operable double-façade system with both aesthetic and performance applications and helped earn the project top prizes in both the Building Green and Residential categories of the 2011 Metalmag Architectural Awards competition.
The building’s perforated, anodized-aluminum panels create an ever-changing screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night. The screens also serve many practical purposes for the residents inside. They shade the interior spaces, reduce noise, and provide privacy, yet still allow for natural light, views, and ventilation from breezes coming from the nearby Pacific Ocean. Because the screens are controlled by the residents and move around throughout the day, they offer a customized interior environment to occupants while enhancing the geometric texture of the structure.
“This dynamic and sustainable project uses standard metal screening materials in a way that allows the exterior of the building to be transformed by the occupants and engaging all those who pass by,” says awards judge Jason Wright, associate with Hickok Cole Architects in Washington, D.C. “This playful skin also acts as a sunshade and a privacy screen to the glass wall behind.”
Cherokee Lofts is a five-story building that contains 12 market-rate lofts and 2,800 square feet of retail space. There is one level of underground parking, ground-floor parking, and retail on the first floor, and lofts on the remaining floors. A rooftop deck and vegetated roof top the building.
“The building achieves a rare feat: It becomes a dynamic artwork at an urban scale,” explains Raffi Tomassian, designer with DNK Architects in Cincinnati and a member of this year’s Metalmag Architectural Awards jury. “The formal simplicity of the [concept] is illusory: The boxy geometry is the canvas, where an ever-changing monumental scale sculpture is generated. This crowd-sourced process is driven by the needs, wishes, or whims of the inhabitants, who are capable of customizing their own portions of the building exterior. Familiar materials and assembly techniques have been recombined for a novel, four-dimensional, cinematographic effect. With a lot of buzz lately focused on performative architecture, this building establishes an effortless interface between its own behavior and that of its inhabitants.”
Sustainable and Livable
The unique moveable double façade is only one of many sustainable attributes this building possesses. Its ambitious green strategies impressed not only the awards jury, but also the Washington, D.C.–based U.S. Green Building Council, who awarded Cherokee Lofts a LEED Platinum rating. Passive solar, combined with proper building siting, and natural ventilation are part of an overall energy strategy that is 40 percent more efficient than California’s Title 24 energy code, the most ambitious energy code in the U.S. A 30-kW solar photovoltaic installation powers all the building’s common areas and supplies approximately 11.5 percent of the building’s heating and hot-water needs.
Water conservation is achieved with dual-flush toilets, water-efficient plumbing fixtures, hot water circulators, and drought-tolerant landscaping. Stormwater runoff is collected in an underground retention basin. A vegetated roof further reduces stormwater runoff and provides additional insulation to the building while providing an enjoyable green space to occupants. The interior uses no-VOC paints and finishes, recycled-content materials, and wood certified by the Minneapolis-based Forest Stewardship Council.
The building’s high level of sustainable design, combined with the comfortable livability of the space greatly impressed the judges and made this project stand out. “The use of perforated anodized aluminum panels to create a façade that is continually changing was a very powerful aspect of this project. It is as if the skin of the building is alive,” says awards judge Tim Wurtele, architect with HDR in Omaha, Neb. “There was quite a bit of discussion [among the jury] about this project. The simple yet very creative, bold move with the metal panels on the exterior, as well as the energy and environmental consciousness made this an easy choice.”