|Located at the eastern edge of Downtown Los Angeles, the Arts District is a thriving and creative community that inhabits the largely self-sufficient area along with independent restaurants, bars, shops and galleries.
The vibrant area began as the agricultural hub of Los Angeles in the 1800s, filled with citrus groves and vineyards. Because of its proximity to the Los Angeles River, merchants were able to both water their crops and distribute produce. In the late 1800s railroads linking Los Angeles to Chicago emerged and fueled an industrial boom. Warehouses and factories replaced orchards and vineyards, and by the early 1900s the area was a manufacturing and distribution powerhouse.
It emerged as The Arts District with the introduction of the Artist in Residence Ordinance in 1981. Artists and urban pioneers moved back into the city’s core and created homes and studios in vacant and underutilized warehouses and industrial buildings, forming what is now considered the city’s creative and cultural incubator.
The warehouse building at 940 East 2nd St was built by industrialists John and Adolph Spreckels, The Spreckels Brothers, in 1906 to store sugar beets. Un-maintained and underutilized itself for many decades, in 2003 a new ownership group envisioned adding back to the social fabric of the emerging Arts District. Fate of the nearly century old structure was in the hands of the design and development team who decided to salvage the existing URM brick building, rather than demolish it. The resulting design effort preserves the historic façade while re-imagining the interior as 38 live+work townhome lofts.
The existing roof structure remained as a series of steel trusses spanning over 90 feet in length. Spaced approximately 17 feet apart, they establish the rhythm of the three-level townhome-style lofts that occupy the space in-between. Most units are one truss bay in width, while four units are two. Toward the south end of the building, a fire in the 1960s destroyed the roof and steel truss system, which was later replaced by an alternate wood infill. This difference presented an opportunity to create a unique cluster of four-level units, giving the south 3rd St facing façade its own unique character.
Taking clues from the circulation patterns of horse-drawn carriages transferring goods from road to rail through the historic warehouse of 1906, the renovation unexpectedly offers a unique parking solution, incorporating an interior street inserted through the center of the building. From this point occupants can safely and directly access their lofts. Being live+work, ground level entry from the adjacent east and west surface lots was important as well. By design, clients or patrons can enter the unit from the outdoor patios, which are in-fact the train platforms of the old Spreckels depot, cleverly reconditioned.
The existing building clerestory was restored during the renovation to include operable windows, which when coupled with new ground level openings offers an effective means to naturally ventilate the entire three-level volume. Likewise, newly added skylights provide plentiful natural daylight to the interiors, further reducing the need for artificial light and resulting in an overall reduction in building energy consumption.