SAN DIEGO — Thanks to a happy marriage between two rising young San Diego architects and a design-conscious developer, Escondido is about to hatch a pair of innovative, affordable housing projects.
In March, developer Amy Rowland and her nonprofit North County Housing Foundation will break ground on a pair of small, intimate apartment developments designed by architects Rene Davids and Christine Killory.
Both designs draw on earlier Southern California courtyard housing schemes by architects such as Irving Gill and Rudolf Schindler, with fresh results. Both consist of modest stucco buildings, ingeniously arranged around courtyards. Both provide residents with plenty of light and fresh air and a variety of private, semi-public and public spaces, within tightly constricted sites.
Already, the projects have earned critical raves. Progressive Architecture, a leading design journal, gave an award to one in its annual design awards program last year, and gave a second award to the other this year. The current winner can be seen in the January issue of the magazine.
In addition, the projects have been honored by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, receiving Citations of Recognition during awards programs in 1990 and '91.
Such national and local honors for designs that rely on social solutions instead of flashy, superficial imagery may be a sign that the architectural profession is gaining a conscience.
The gems are called Daybreak Grove and Sunrise Place. Daybreak Grove will consist of 13 two- and three-bedroom apartments on Washington Avenue in Escondido. Sunrise Place will include eight similar-size units on a second lot on Grand Avenue.
Vastly different sites generated different but related designs.
Daybreak Grove utilizes a larger, square lot. The apartments are arranged in a U shape around a central courtyard, with the opening facing away from the street. Units fronting Washington Avenue all have front porches, the project's contribution to increased pedestrian activity along its street. Parking is behind the complex, reached by a side driveway--a hospitable device to keep cars out of the way of people.
Sunrise Place's long, narrow lot provoked a scheme of identical parallel blocks of four apartments each, flanking a compact courtyard shaded by fabric awnings.
Both developments are expected to be occupied, in large part, by low-income families, many of them headed by single parents. Davids and Killory designed accordingly.
Kitchens look out on the courtyards--safe places for kids to play under the easy supervision of their parents. Davids and Killory see the courtyards as intermediate social zones, midway between the frenzied, larger world outside and the cozy privacy of the homes.
Inside, floor plans were designed to give a sense of maximum space within these 800- to 900-square-foot apartments while affording varying degrees of privacy.
Apartments at both projects will feature double-height living room ceilings. Daybreak Grove's homes will have second-level loft-bedrooms, which provide privacy as well as a lookout for children below.
Davids and Killory kept construction costs down by making each project a collection of virtually identical living units. Windows, doors and wood framing pieces are repeated throughout.
The total cost of the two projects, which are being funded together by six different agencies, is $2.8 million. Killory said the construction cost works out to about $45 to $50 a square foot--comparable to other multifamily projects. The savings Rowland passes on to tenants comes from the cut-rate, affordable housing financing she has pulled together. Rents will start at $275 for a two-bedroom apartment and depend on a family's income.
Rowland was referred to Davids and Killory, a husband-and-wife team, by a UCLA professor who knew Killory, who also attended UCLA.
Almost immediately, developer and architects agreed on the courtyard scheme as a point of departure.
Davids and Killory are fanatics for courtyard housing. Last week, Killory was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts grant for a book she plans to write on affordable housing, primarily Southern California bungalow courts.
During an interview at the award-winning Burlingame home she and Davids designed shortly after moving to San Diego from England in 1987, the pair brought out a book and showed plans of an 18th-Century European monastery they are especially fond of. These and other monastic compounds are the precursors of 20th-Century California bungalow courts.
Affordable housing has had a tough time in San Diego County. Newspaper headlines in recent months have documented the spread of the NIMBY syndrome--it seems everyone wants more affordable housing, but not in their back yards.
Rowland set out to effect a change soon after she earned her master's in planning from UCLA in 1987.